Generations at the Age of Twelve

I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?
~ Stand by Me, movie based on Stephen King’s novella The Body

Nothing that happens after we are twelve matters very much.
~ J.M. Barrie, Margaret Ogilvy

Twelve is the magical dividing line, we all know that. I don’t care what grown-ups say, but that’s when your childhood comes to an end.
~ Peter Pohl, Johnny, My Friend

“Well,” you will tell yourself, “it lasted until he was twelve; they grow up and resent our care for them, they form their own ideas, and think ours old-fashioned. It is natural. But oh, to have that little boy again, whom I used to throw up to the sky, his face laughing down into mine.”
~ A.A. Milne, Its Too Late Now

Let me continue with my thoughts about generational change and conflict which was itself a continuation of my thoughts about the Ku Klux Klan and the Lost Generation. This is one of those topics that gets caught in my craw.

I had two basic thoughts in response to what I’ve already written.

First, I was considering what it is that forms a generation’s worldview. It is a confluence of events. There are cycles that seem to endlessly repeat (or, if not precise cycles, history does rhyme to an impressive degree). Still, no generation is ever the same as what came before. There is a unique moment in time, an era of childhood, a beginning point that forever shapes the collective mindset of an entire cohort (at least within a single country and, increasingly so, within the larger world during this new era of globalized mass media).

Second, I was considering the present older generation and why it is so easy to see them as stalling progress. The situation we find ourselves in is somewhere between a stalemate and outright dysfunction. As a society, we can’t seem to resolve the simplest of issues, much less move forward in a productive fashion. This becomes increasingly relevant as my generation and the next takes on the reigns of power.

The first thought leads into the second.

So, about the first thought.

As I explained with the KKK post, it isn’t as if the members of the KKK (the ‘Klansmen’) were evil incarnate. Most of them were normal people doing normal things. The Second KKK in the 1920s was mostly a civic organization. Yes, it was a racist civic organization, but so were many others. Back then, especially among older whites, you would have been outside the norm to not have been racist.

Klansmen probably wouldn’t even have thought of themselves as racists. Most people don’t define themselves in terms of negatives. Racism was just the cultural background they were born into. It was the world of their childhood.

Childhood is that time of key formative experiences. It creates what we consider normal and acceptable. It is what we look back upon often with fondness and sometimes with righteousness. Even if our childhoods were bad, it is easy for people to not understand why younger generations should have easier childhoods that will make them soft and weak. Whatever the case, we don’t tend to be very objective and neutral about our childhoods.

I just finished listening to the audiobook version of Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine:

“a 1957 novel by Ray Bradbury, taking place in the summer of 1928 in the fictional town of Green Town, Illinois, based upon Bradbury’s childhood home of Waukegan, Illinois. [ . . . ] The main character of the story is Douglas Spaulding, a 12-year-old boy loosely patterned after Bradbury. Most of the book is focused upon the routines of small-town America, and the simple joys of yesterday.”

Bradbury would only have been 8 years old in 1928, but the fictionalized boy was 12. That is a mythical number of a complete cycle such as 12 months (hence, 12 disciples of Jesus, 12 days of Christmas, and such). In the child’s world, life revolves around summer. The end of summer in the novel is symbolic of the end of childhood with the last moment of childhood at age twelve. That last moment of childhood is the end of one period of life and the beginning of another, the ending of elementary school and the halfway point of primary education, an approximate halfway point on the way to full adulthood (the brain stops developing around the mid-to-late twenties).

Many stories focus on this magical time of life, this point of transition. Stand by Me begins with the voiceover, “I was 12 going on 13 the first time I saw a dead human being.” In another story by Stephen King, It, the group of kids are all between 11 and 12 years old. Like Dandelion Wine, these are stories about the ending of childhood and the emergence of adult awareness which is most poignantly made known through death. The movie 12 and Holding is yet another story about the dual themes of age 12 and death. Then there are television shows like The Wonder Years that begins with the protagonist at age 12 and follows him over the years.

The examples are near endless.

Maybe one can tell a lot about an individual or a generation in considering what the world was like when they were twelve.

For example, Reagan was twelve in 1923. That is that same quiet period as the setting of Dandelion Wine. It was the early 1920s, a carefree time following the end of WWI and before the beginning of the Great Depression at the end of that decade. I’m sure Bradbury used 1928 as signifying that innocent moment prior to 1929. The whole country was innocent. WWI would have seemed like an anomaly and anyway it was a war far away that never had much directly to do with the United States, especially for a child who would have had no memory of it at all (although there were many traumatized, alcoholic, drug-addicted, and homeless veterans that mainstream society was trying to forget and pretend didn’t exist). WWII and the Cold War were a long way off in the future.

Both Reagan and Bradbury remember childhoods during the 1920s in small towns in Illinois. Reagan considered that to be a formative period of his life. His home at age twelve supposedly is the only house he mentions in any of his books. The 1920s was a time of peace and optimism. Magnified by the memories of a pleasant childhood, Reagan carried that sensibility into his adulthood. And it was that sunny optimism that made him so popular.

Reagan spent his childhood going to school. Many of the Lost Generation, instead of schooling, spent their childhoods working whatever jobs they could find. Unlike Reagan and his cohort, the Lost Generation had less of a childhood to reminisce about. Spending age twelve in a factory or a mine would give you a different worldview for the rest of your life. The Lost Generation was unique in this way. Even the generation before them didn’t have this experience for, in their childhoods, they didn’t know mass urbanization and mass industrialization. So, neither the generation before nor the generation following could understand what the Lost Generation had lived.

Similarly, although to less extremes, Generation X had a relatively difficult childhood and young adulthood.

At age 12, the Cold War was still going on and the oppressive Cold War culture (e.g., comic book codes). As I’ve often pointed out, GenXers childhood was unique in many ways. We were the most aborted generation ever and so a small generation between two large generations. In childhood going on into young adulthood, my generation experienced high rates of poverty, child abuse, homicide, suicide and unemployment (comparable to the Great Depression). When we were young, society stopped being oriented toward and accommodating of children. Restaurants became less welcoming of young families and less tolerant of the antics of children. Very little entertainment was made for kids and plenty of entertainment was made about evil and possessed children, rebellious and violent teens, and nihilistic and self-destructive young adults.

When most Americans were experiencing economic good times, there were two specific demographics that were hit hard in the last decades of the 20th century: GenXers and blacks. Both demographics experienced high rates of unemployment, poverty, homelessness, and incarceration. If you were a GenX black, it would have felt like the whole world was against you for everyone would have seen you as nothing but a gangsta and a drug dealer or else a welfare queen, while your prospects were next to nil. Young blacks were the ultimate scapegoat of our society.

At age 12, GenXers saw a cynical age of greed, oppression and ignorance that followed in the wake of calamatous ’60s and ’70s: Vietnam War, protests, etc; not to mention the ongoing militarized war on drugs, rising mass incarceration, and the new zero-tolerance policies that created the school-to-prison pipeline. That is what many in my generation came to expect as normal, just the way the world is. As a small generation, it didn’t feel like there was much we could do about it. Many of my generation embraced this worldview and so we became the generation with the highest support of Reagan.

Cynical realpolitik and Wall Street greed seemed to be the name of the game and so many of us played it, even if few of us ended up among the winners. We put a very different spin on Reagan’s optimism, though, for we were better able to see through bullshit. Optimism simply meant survival of the fittest and fuck the downtrodden. A not very nice ideal, but nice ideals were for wimpy flower children of the ’60s. That is what we learned from Alex P. Keaton from Family Ties.

That is the sad result of my generation. We played the game that was presented to us, but not all of us wanted to play that game. The only other choice was to drop out entirely or at least psychologically, the reason why we came to be thought of as a second Lost Generation. The advantage my generation has had is that many of us always knew it was bullshit. We never swallowed the lies to as great an extent as the older generation. Reagan actually believed what he said, an actor who became the role he played: first a cowboy, then a corporate spokesperson, and then a politician. His optimism was self-delusion. My generation at least had the sense to realize that there were alternative viewpoints.

Still, it will require a more demanding vision of the generation following mine to have a chance in hell of challenging the 20th century status quo that now bleeds into this new century.  GenXers are too mired in the Boomer worldview that has dominated our entire lives, especially for older GenXers. We are more a generation of doomsaying prophets than inspiring visionaries. The main thing my generation can do is to starkly portray and grimly explain the reasons we got here. I’m part of a generation of clowns for only clowns can speak the truth, not that speaking the truth is a requirement of being a clown.

In my second to last post (of which this post is a continuation), I somewhat simplistically implied that it was Boomers were mucking up the work. To be fair, as explained above, older GenXers are also to blame. Some would even see older GenXers as part of the older generation now ruling politics, rather than as being of the same generation as younger GenXers:

“If Mannheim’s Germans constituted a political generation because in their plastic years they experienced the Napoleonic Wars, the men and women who today dominate American politics constitute a political generation because during their plastic years they experienced some part of the Reagan-Clinton era. That era lasted a long time. If you are in your late 50s, you are probably too young to remember the high tide of Kennedy-Johnson big government liberalism. You came of age during its collapse, a collapse that culminated with the defeat of Jimmy Carter. Then you watched Reagan rewrite America’s political rules. If you are in your early 40s, you may have caught the tail end of Reagan. But even if you didn’t, you were shaped by Clinton, who maneuvered within the constraints Reagan had built. To pollsters, a late 50-something is a Baby Boomer and an early 40-something is a Gen-Xer. But in Mannheim’s terms, they constitute a single generation because no great disruption in American politics divides them. They came of age as Reagan defined a new political era and Clinton ratified it. And as a rule, they play out their political struggles between the ideological poles that Reagan and Clinton set out.”

That fits some of my experience. All of history is continuous. Disruptions are perceived which depends on the experience of those perceiving. If generations exist, it is because they share a common perception of historical events. Simply sharing the same historical period would not be enough.

However you dice the generations, the older demographic dominating politics has been creating dysfunction. I think we can all agree on that much.

So, why are the older folk mucking up the works?

It’s not just that there was a baby boom. No doubt we are experiencing the slow digestion of the elephant in the python, but there is more to it. An elephant, of course, is a difficult thing for a python to digest. More importantly, why does the elephant keep struggling so much in the process? The elephant in question obviously doesn’t want to be digested and is far from giving up the ghost.

This older generation isn’t simply in the way of progress. More specifically, this older generation is resisting progress and reacting to it, fighting it tooth and nail. They’d rather shut down the government than have an honest discussion about our collective problems. It isn’t even as if they are genuinely against government as government grew bigger under their watch than ever before.

There is a lot going on with that generation. They were a more monocultural and whiter demographic. As I’ve pointed out before, they were born at the lowest point of immigration in the 20th century and I’m not sure when it had last been that low. The conflict they grew up with wasn’t between natives and immigrants but between American whites and American blacks, especially between whites from the Northern states and blacks from the Southern states. Still, even between whites and blacks, there was a sense that the country was progressing to some extent, even though less quickly for blacks.

This generation couldn’t understand what followed nor sympathize with those who were negatively impacted. This is why many older blacks also came to support tough on crime laws and the War on Drugs, despite the fact that blacks were being harmed by it and black communities were being destroyed because of it. These older people remembered a world that no longer was and they couldn’t understand why it couldn’t remain that way. They had to blame someone. The young were one useful target, young blacks being one of the best targets of all. This is why someone like Bill Cosby can say idiotic things about poor black people and be taken seriously.

It’s also a class thing. The economic divide didn’t just grow between whites and blacks. It also grew within the races. The middle and upper class blacks found themselves disconnected from the experience of most blacks. You would think not being accepted into mainstream white society would make older and well off blacks sympathetic to the plight of young blacks struggling in poverty, but apparently that often isn’t the case. The power of a generational worldview can be even greater than the solidarity of race, especially for blacks who never were the exemplaries of cultural solidarity as were the Germans, Irish and Italians.

The younger generation in general and minorities in particular, who have been hit hardest by mass incarceration, don’t receive much sympathy. Their lives have been destroyed. In response, their families and communities offer them nothing but shame. The Civil Rights movement was never good about helping the worst off among blacks.

As mass incarceration continues, a new generation is growing up either incarcerated or with the fear of incarceration. Even if not incarceration, society is offering them little to hope for. GenXers were at that magical age of twelve when all this began. Millennials at age twelve saw it continuing. Now a new generation will be coming to that age in a few years and likely it isn’t going to end anytime soon. The event of 9/11 was simply used as justification for more of the same and worse still. We will have several generations who knew nothing but a police state ever increasing in its oppression.

When will a new generation come along who will be able to fondly remember the age of 12 as a time of peace and optimism?

Dandelion Wine
by Ray Bradbury

It was a quiet morning, the town covered over with darkness and at ease in bed. Summer gathered in the weather, the wind had the proper touch, the breathing of the world was long and warm and slow. You had only to rise, lean from your window, and know that this indeed was the first real time of freedom and living, this was the first morning of summer.

Douglas Spaulding, twelve, freshly wakened, let summer idle him on its early-morning stream. Lying in his third-story cupola bedroom, he felt the tall power it gave him, riding high in the June wind, the grandest tower in town. At nigh, when the trees washed together, he flashed his gaze like a beacon from this lighthouse in all directions over swarming seas of elm and oak and maple. Now . . .

“Boy, whispered Douglas.

A whole summer ahead to cross off the calendar, day by day. Like the goddess Siva in the travel books, he saw his hands jump everywhere, pluck sour apples, peaches, and midnight plums. He would be clothed in trees and bushes and rivers. He would freeze, gladly, in the hoarfrosted ice-house door. He would bake, happily, with ten thousand chickens, in Grandma’s kitchen. […]

Summer 1928 began.

Song of Solomon
by Toni Morrison

Ruth felt a chill. She’d always believed that her father wanted to die. “I wish I could count on your faith as far as my son was concerned. But I think I’d be a really foolish woman if I did that. You saw your own father die, just like I did; you saw him killed. Do you think he wanted to die?”

“I swaw Papa shot. Blown off a fence five feet into the air. I saw him wiggling on the ground, but not only did I not see him die, I seen him since he was shot.”

“Pilate. You all buried him yourselves.” Ruth spoke as if she were talking to a child.

“Macon did.”

“It’s the same thing.”

“Macon seen him too. After he buried him, after he was blown off that fence. We both seen him. I see him still. He’s helpful to me, real helpful. Tells me things I need to know.”

“What things?”

“All kinds of things. It’s a good feelin to know he’s around. I telll you he’s a person I can always rely on. I tell yo somethin else. He’s the only one. I was cut off rom people early. You can’t know what that was like. After my papa was blown off that fence, me and Macon wandered around for a few days until we a fallin out and I went off on my own. I was about twelve, I think. When I cut out by myself, I headed for Virginia. I thought I remembered that was where my papa had people. Or my mother did. Seemed to me like I remembered somebody sayin that. I don’t remember my mother because she died before I was born.”

Before you were born? How could she . . . ?”

“She died and the next minute I was born. But she was dead by the time I drew air. I never saw her face. I don’t even know what her name was. But I do remember thinkin she come from Virginia. Anyways, that’s where I struck out for. I looked around for somebody to take me in, give me a little work for a while so I could earn some money to get on down there. I walked for seven days before I found a place with a preacher’s family. A nice place except they made me wear shoes. They sent me to school, though. A one-room place, where everybody sat. I was twelve, but since this was my first school I had to sit over there with the little bitty children. I didn’t mind it too much; matter of fact, I liked a lot of it. I loved the geography part. Learning about that made me want to read. And the teacher tickled at how much I liked geography. She let me have the book and I took it home with me to look at. But then the preacher started pattin on me. I was so dumb I didn’t know enough to stop him. But his wife caught him at it, thumbin my breasts, and put me out. I took my geography book off with me. I could of stayed in that town cause they was plenty of colored people to take me in. In them days, anybody too old to work kept the children. Grown folks worked and left their kids in other people’s houses. But him being the preacher and all like that, I figured I ought to make tracks. I was broke as a haint cause the place didn’t carry no wages. Just room and board. So I took my geography book and a rock I picked up for a souvenir and lit out. […]”

Pilate sucked a peach stone and her face was dark and still with the memory of how she was “cut off” so early from other people.

Becoming a Free Thinker and a Scientist
by Albert Einstein

When I was a fairly precocious young man I became thoroughly impressed with the futility of the hopes and strivings that chase most men restlessly through life. Moreover, I soon discovered the cruelty of that chase, which in those years was much more carefully covered up by hypocrisy and glittering words than is the case today. By the mere existence of his stomach everyone was condemned to participate in that chase. The stomach might well be satisfied by such participation, but not man insofar as he is a thinking and feeling being.

As the first way out there was religion, which is implanted into every child by way of the traditional education-machine. Thus I came – though the child of entirely irreligious (Jewish) parents – to a deep religiousness, which, however, reached an abrupt end at the age of twelve. Through the reading of popular scientific books I soon reached the conviction that much in the stories of the Bible could not be true. The consequence was a positively fanatic orgy of freethinking coupled with the impression that youth is intentionally being deceived by the state through lies; it was a crushing impression. Mistrust of every kind of authority grew out of this experience, a skeptical attitude toward the convictions that were alive in any specific social environment-an attitude that has never again left me, even though, later on, it has been tempered by a better insight into the causal connections.

It is quite clear to me that the religious paradise of youth, which was thus lost, was a first attempt to free myself from the chains of the “merely personal,” from an existence dominated by wishes, hopes, and primitive feelings. Out yonder there was this huge world, which exists independently of us human beings and which stands before us like a great, eternal riddle, at least partially accessible to our inspection and thinking. The contemplation of this world beckoned as a liberation, and I soon noticed that many a man whom I had learned to esteem and to admire had found inner freedom and security in its pursuit. The mental grasp of this extra-personal world within the frame of our capabilities presented itself to my mind, half consciously, half unconsciously, as a supreme goal. Similarly motivated men of the present and of the past, as well as the insights they had achieved, were the friends who could not be lost. The road to this paradise was not as comfortable and alluring as the road to the religious paradise; but it has shown itself reliable, and I have never regretted having chosen it.

Black Boy
by Richard Wright
(began writing at age 12)

At the age of twelve, before I had had one full year of formal schooling, I had a conception of life that no experience would ever erase, a predilection for what was real that no argument could ever gainsay, a sense of the world that was mine and mine alone, a notion as to what life meant that no education could ever alter, a conviction that the meaning of living came only when one was struggling to wring a meaning out of meaningless suffering.

At the age of twelve I had an attitude toward life that was to endure, that was to make me seek those areas of living that would keep it alive, that was to make me skeptical of everything while seeking everything, tolerant of all and yet critical. The spirit I had caught gave me insight into the suffering of others, made me gravitate toward those whose feelings were like my own, made me sit for hours while others told me of their lives, made me strangely tender and cruel, violent and peaceful.

It made me want to drive coldly to the heart of every question  and lay it open to the core of suffering I knew I would find there.  It made me love burrowing into psychology, into realistic and  naturalistic fiction and art, into those whirlpools of politics that  had the power to claim the whole of men’s souls. It directed my loyalties to the side of men in rebellion; it made me love talk  that sought answers to questions that could help nobody, that  could only keep alive in me that enthralling sense of wonder and  awe in the face of the drama of human feeling which is hidden by the external drama of life.

Dreams from My Father
by Barack Obama

When people who don’t know me well, black or white, discover my background (and it is usually a discovery, for I ceased to advertise my mother’s race at the age of twelve or thirteen, when I began to suspect that by doing so I was ingratiating myself to whites), I see the split-second adjustments they have to make, the searching of my eyes for some telltale sign. They no longer know who I am. Privately, they guess at my troubled heart, I suppose – the mixed blood, the divided soul, the ghostly image of the tragic mulatto trapped between two worlds. And if I were to explain that no, the tragedy is not mine, or at least not mine alone, it is yours, sons and daughters of Plymouth Rock and Ellis Island, it is yours, children of Africa, it is the tragedy of both my wife’s six-year-old cousin and his white first grade classmates, so that you need not guess at what troubles me, it’s on the nightly news for all to see, and that if we could acknowledge at least that much then the tragic cycle begins to break down…well, I suspect that I sound incurably naive, wedded to lost hopes, like those Communists who peddle their newspapers on the fringes of various college towns. Or worse, I sound like I’m trying to hide from myself.

The Magical Age of Twelve
by Lynley Stace

Read enough children’s books and you’ll realise something magical happens after age twelve. It’s even embedded in the English language, in which thirteen marks the beginning of the teen years. Twelve is the final age of innocence. In JudeoChristian terms, 12 is the final year in which you can get away with things. Next comes ‘the age of accountability’.

Twelve As The Age Of Initiation

Amazingly many children’s novels portray characters of eleven or twelve. I do not think this is a coincidence. This is the age of initiation in many archaic cultures, and although this connotation has been lost in Western society, some remnants may be left in the authors’ imagination. Children in The Giver are assigned their jobs, and therewith their place in society, at the age of twelve. Here is what another character says about this age: “Twelve is the magical dividing line, we all know that. I don’t care what grown-ups say, but that’s when your childhood comes to an end” (Johnny My Friend, 89). Formally, of course, after twelve you are a “teenager”, not a child.

— from The Rhetoric of Character In Children’s Literature by Maria Nikolajeva

Tally watched the last few uglies make their way inside, gawky and nervous, unkempt and uncoordinated. Twelve was definitely the turning point, when you changed from a cute littlie into an oversize, under-educated ugly.

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld (page 77)

Twelve As The Age Of In-between

Sometimes the protagonist starts off eleven then turns twelve. Sometimes the protagonist is twelve and turns thirteen.

Onkeli portrays a child of around 11 to 13 who is confused by many things. Researchers consider this age group to fall into an in-between area: there aren’t enough appealing activities on offer for kids of this age, who are treated as an awkward bunch both at home and at school.

– Kreetta Onkeli: Poika joka menetti muistinsa [The boy who lost his memory]

Twelve As The Age Of Fertility

It seems no accdident that the daughter figures in [feminist] nested narratives are girls who are either twelve years old or close to it. In The Mixed-Up Files, Claudia is one month shy of being twelve; Arilla turns twelve in the beginning of the framing tale of Arilla Sun Down. One of the stories that Georgina [of The Borning Room by Paul Fleischman] tells about herself occurs the summer she is twelve; it is the story of how she has learned form her grandfather’s stories that all living things are spiritual. That these girls learn about the power of narrativity while they are on the brink of physical fertility creates a textrual conjoining of artistry and maternity. As their bodies become capable of housing new life, their narratives become capable of housing new stories.

— Roberta Seelinger Trites, Waking Sleeping Beauty

What Do You Remember Best About Being 12?
by Katherine Schulten

This Is a 12-Year-Old Brain on Peer Pressure
by Corey Turner

If adolescence has a poster child, it’s a teenager. In a car. Smoking, drinking, and driving badly while also, somehow, having sex in the back seat. But changes in the brain that lead to the famously bad choices of adolescence don’t start at 16 or 17 years old. They start around 11 or 12, at the beginning of puberty.

This is the dirty little secret of adolescence: The cloudy judgment and risky behavior may not last a year or two. Try a decade.

Being 12: The Most Awkward, Essential Year of Our Lives
by Arun Venugopal

For a lot of American adults, age 12 is probably just one more moment in the extended blur that is adolescence, located smack dab in the middle of those forgettable middle school years.

We’re here to argue that 12 is in fact pretty special, especially if you’re a New Yorker. This is the moment when many students are commuting to school alone, navigating the city by themselves. At school, they’re juggling assignments and expectations, preparing for high school. Their minds are expanding dramatically, their bodies are beginning to morph. Social life is getting messy.

“It’s difficult because you’re learning all these responsibilities for the first time,” said Noah Shippey, a 12-year-old at Brooklyn Prospect Charter School. “And none of this has really happened before. Adults, they do that all the time and it’s easy because they’ve done it a lot. But we’re just starting.”

Middle School: A ‘Hot Mess’ of Distractions
by Beth Fertig

Seasoned middle school teachers and principals know what they’re up against. Their students are bombarded by physical and psychological changes. The same child can show up dedicated and hard-working one day, silly and difficult the next.

But if you grab their attention, educators told WNYC, there’s a chance to make a difference with long-term benefits.

“In the spectrum of adolescent development, 12 is really when you start to have the changeover,” said Derick Spaulding, the principal of Emolior Academy in the South Bronx. “They come in with a set of ideas, but a set of ideas that are amendable and moldable to a degree.”

Opinion: Seventh Grade Matters. A Lot.
by Carmen Farina

Walk into a middle school and it may feel like you’ve stepped into a foreign land, a world where young people are self-consumed, where a minor situation to an adult feels huge and devastating to a student trying to find her bearings at school and in the larger world.

Remember what it was like? Adapting to new ways of learning in subject-specific classrooms, feeling self-conscious about physical changes. Peers and friendships rose in importance. Parental relationships were tested.

It hasn’t changed much. As an educator and parent, I’ve come to see these years, in particular grade seven, as a watershed moment for youth development well deserving of our attention, best thinking and planning.

According to John Lounsbury, dean emeritus of the John H. Lounsbury School of Education at Georgia College and former editor of the Association for Middle Level Education, these are the most important years for the individual and, as an extension, for society.

“These are the years when youngsters crystallize their beliefs about themselves and firm up their self-concepts, their philosophies of life and their values – the things that are the ultimate determinants of behavior,” he wrote earlier this year.

Time to Ban Middle School?
by Anna north

The sheer unpleasantness of middle school has become something of a cliché; “middle school dance” now stands as a shorthand for any socially awkward experience. And yet, for many of us, middle school is terrible, a time when childhood is sort of over but even the mixed blessings of adolescence have yet to fully present themselves. Now experts are beginning to propose a solution to the problem of middle school: abolish it.

At Pacific Standard, Dana Goldstein argues that middle school students are not, in fact, so consumed with meanness and hormones that it is impossible to teach them anything:

“It isn’t that middle school kids are hopeless, just that middle schools are poorly designed to meet the needs of the students within them, a condition psychologists call a person-environment mismatch. The good news is that researchers already know what might work better.”

The Truth About Age Twelve
from Waldorf Publications

The age of twelve is remarkable. As childhood comes to its end, the twelve-year-old can feel accomplishment and mastery of many skills in jump rope, running, reading, arithmetic, high jumping, memorization, writing, logic, and reasoning. Just as the sense of mastery peaks, the child’s body begins to change. Though the first changes are invisible, the child feels them with a growing sense of alarm at what the changes might be.

For the following three to five years, the developing youth experiences the same rapid growth experienced by infants. Never again will the developing human being have to manage so much growth in a concentrated time. The child begins to experience expansion and hair growth in unusual places, changes in the voice and, most importantly, changes in thinking and reactions.

There is a dawning of the capacity of judgment in the child at age twelve. Suddenly the child can evaluate, contrast ideas and experiences, and think about things in a new and discerning ways. This new capacity needs exercise and children can be brilliant arguers at this age, It is difficult to win an argument with a twelve year old. Relentless energy and indefatigable focus are possible at this age as at no other.

The child has much to manage with all this growth. It is frightening to see the changes and wrangle with them. After experiencing the mastery of a few months before, the growing preteen often feels betrayed by the adults on which he or she has depended. They cannot believe that they are changing and so they think that their grown-ups must have changed and this can make them angry or mistrustful.

After all, a boy’s voice box grows up to seven times its original size and a girl’s three times its original size. This constitutes only one major change in a child’s development at age twelve. With this growth comes the power of procreation, the capacity to create new life. Though emotionally the proper use of this is not possible, the very presence of this ultimate potency to invent life brings to the young human being for the first time, and inevitably, dark thoughts of death.

The Planes of Development – Maria Montessori
from Ratner Montessori School

Dr. Montessori outlines four consecutive planes of development from birth to maturity; each plane spanning approximately six years. At each plane of development children and young people display intellectual powers, social orientations and creative potential unique to that stage. Each plane is characterized by the way children in that plane learn, building on the achievements of the plane before and preparing for the one to follow. The timing and nature of the transition between planes vary from individual to individual.

  • The second plane of development is the period from approximately six to twelve years. The developmental focus of this period is intellectual independence hand in hand with the development of ethics and social responsibility. During this stage, children become conceptual explorers. They use reasoning, abstract thought and imagination to explore and develop their understanding of the world.
  • The third plane of development is from the age of twelve to eighteen and young people become humanistic explorers seeking to understand their place in society and to contribute to society. They have a huge capacity for creative expression and their style of learning becomes more practical and experiential; an approach they use to explore previously introduced concepts in more depth and in real-life context.

Children in the Early 17th century: Child Care
from Plimoth Plantation

Child (6/7 to 12/14)

Age was viewed as multiples of six in the case of girls, and seven for boys. While there was no definitive break in a girl’s life at six, a boy was usually “breeched” about the age of seven. At this time he was no longer dressed in a child’s gown or skirts, but given small versions of adult male clothing. He was also likely to spend much less time at home with his mother, and more out with the men working. If a child did not go to school, s/he usually entered the work force by ten to twelve, although poor children might be placed in service at a younger age.

A girl was legally at the age of discretion at the age of twelve, and a boy at fourteen. They could wed at these ages, although that was very rare. A boy could inherit a copyhold lease at fourteen, as well. Twelve or thirteen had been the common age of confirmation in the Church of England until 1604, when reformers pushed the age to sixteen.

Youth (12/14 to 18/21)

Children in the early 17th century, if they weren’t in school, had commonly joined the work force by now. Some boys and more frequently, girls, would remain at home and work alongside their parents. For a boy who was to learn a craft, this would be the period in which he started his apprenticeship. […] For those not apprenticed, the majority would become servants.

As Jewish boys became men at age 12, Jesus became godman at that same age.

And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him. Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?

Luke 2:40-2:49 (see commentary on Luke 2:42)

Bar and Bat Mitzvah
from Jews For Jesus

The fact that the age of twelve is specifically noted may suggest that it was a transition age even in the first-century, though any evidence comes from the later period of the Talmud. At least, twelve could be considered an age when a young man evidenced wisdom and piety. Josephus (Antiquities X.4.1) says of King Amon:

And when he was twelve years old, he gave demonstrations of his religious and righteous behavior; for he brought the people to a sober way of living, and exhorted them to leave off the opinion they had of their idols, because they were not gods, but to worship their own God. And by repeating on the actions of his progenitors, he prudently corrected what they did wrong, like a very elderly man, and like one abundantly able to understand what was fit to be done …

Josephus likewise speaks of Samuel (Antiquities V.10.4):

Now when Samuel was twelve years old, he began to prophesy: and once when he was asleep, God called to him by his name; …

Luke may then be pointing to Jesus’ wisdom and special relationship to God by mentioning his age. Certainly Luke intends his readers to share the amazement that this twelve-year-old was engaging in a religious discussion beyond his years.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

when twelve years old—At this age every Jewish boy was styled “a son of the law,” being put under a course of instruction and trained to fasting and attendance on public worship, besides being set to learn a trade. At this age accordingly our Lord is taken up for the first time to Jerusalem, at the passover season, the chief of the three annual festivals

Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

42. when he was twelve years old] No single word breaks the silence of the Gospels respecting the childhood of Jesus from the return to Nazareth till this time. We infer indeed from scattered hints in Scripture that He “began to do” His work before He “began to teach,” and being “tempted in all points like as we are” won the victory from His earliest years, alike over positive and negative temptations. (Hebrews 5:8. See Ullmann, Sinlessness of Jesus, E. Tr. p. 140.) Up to this time He had grown as other children grow, only in a childhood of stainless and sinless beauty—“as the flower of roses in the spring of the year, and as lilies by the waters,” Sir 39:13-14. This incident of His ‘confirmation,’ as in modern language we might call it, is “the solitary flowret out of the wonderful enclosed garden of the thirty years, plucked precisely there where the swollen bud at a distinctive crisis bursts into flower.” Stier, Words of Jesus, i. 18.

This silence of the Evangelists is a proof of their simple faithfulness, and is in striking contrast with the blaze of foolish and dishonouring miracles with which the Apocryphal Gospels degrade the Divine Boyhood. See my Life of Christ, 1. 58–66. Meanwhile we are permitted to see (i) That our Lord never attended the schools of the Rabbis (Mark 6:2; John 6:42; John 7:15), and therefore that His teaching was absolutely original, and that He would therefore be regarded by the Rabbis as a ‘man of the people,’ or ‘unlearned person.’ (See Acts 4:13; T. B. Berachôth, f. 47. 2; Sir 38:24 fg.) (ii) That He had learnt to write (John 8:6). (iii) That He was acquainted not only with Aramaic, but with Hebrew, Greek, and perhaps Latin (Life of Christ, i. 91); and (iv) That he had been deeply impressed by the lessons of nature (id. i. 93).

twelve years old] Up to this age a Jewish boy was called ‘little,’ afterwards he was called ‘grown up,’ and became a ‘Son of the Law,’ or ‘Son of the Precepts.’ At this age he was presented on the Sabbath called the ‘Sabbath of Phylacteries’ in the Synagogue, and began to wear the phylacteries with which his father presented him. According to the Jews twelve was the age at which Moses left the house of Pharaoh’s daughter, and Samuel was called, and Solomon gave his judgment, and Josiah carried out his reform. (Jos. Antt. ii. 9. 6, v. 10. 4.)

Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible

And when he was twelve years old,…. Not that he was now, , “a son of the commandment”, (r) to use the Jewish phrase; or now came under the yoke of the law; or was obliged to the duties of adult church membership, as is asserted by some; nor particularly to go to Jerusalem to make his appearance at the feast of the passover, or any other feast: for according to the maxims of the Jews, persons were not obliged to the duties of the law, or subject to the penalties of it in case of non-performance, until they were, a female, at the age of twelve years, and one day, and a male, at the age of thirteen years, and one day; but then they used to train up their children, and inure them to religious exercises before: as for instance, though they were not obliged to fast on the day of atonement, until they were at the age before mentioned; yet, they used them to it two or three year’s before, as they were able to endure it: a son of nine, or ten years old, they train him up by hours; they make him fast so many hours; and one of eleven, or “twelve years old”, they make him fast a whole day: but then this was not law, but custom; and which they observed, that they might be used to the commandments (s), and be expert in them, and ready to perform them when required. It is said, (t) that “there was a good custom in Jerusalem to make their little sons and daughters fast on a fast day; the son of a year, till the very day he is “twelve years old”, when he fasts the whole day; and after that they carry him, and bring him before every ancient man, that he may bless him, and confirm him, and pray over him, that he may be worthy in the law, and in good works; and: every one that is greater than he in the city, he stands up from his place, and goes before him, and bows to him, to pray for him: and this is to learn him, that they are beautiful, and their works beautiful and acceptable to God; and they did not use to leave their little children behind them, but brought them to the synagogues, , “that they might be ready in the commandments”.

That they might be inured to them, and expert in them, when they were under obligation to them; for they were not properly under the law, until they were arrived to the age above mentioned; nor were they reckoned adult church members till then, nor then neither, unless worthy persons: for so it is said (u),

“he that is worthy, at thirteen years of age, is called , “a son of the congregation of Israel”;

that is, a member of the church. When therefore Joseph and Mary took Jesus along with them, at this age,

when they went up to Jerusalem, after the custom of the feast of the passover, it shows their religious regard to him; and may be an instruction to parents, to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, after their example,

(r) Aben Ezra in Genesis 17.14. (s) Misn. Yoma, c. 8. sect. 4. & Maimon. & Bartenora in ib. T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 82. 1. Maimon. Hilch. Shebitat Asur, c. 2. sect. 10, 11. (t) Massechet Sopherim, c. 18. sect. 5. (u) Zohar in Exod. fol. 39. 4.

Opportunity For Leftist Reform

I realize often think about things differently than others. What seems obvious to me doesn’t seem obvious to so many people I might agree with on various issues.

Many liberals fear the Republicans which I find odd because Republicans are weaker right now than they’ve been in my entire life. Many liberals fear Ron Paul, but what they don’t understand is that most Republicans and conservatives in general fear Ron Paul even more. It is people like Ron Paul who are forcing the Republican party to run toward the center, Romney being the most centrist GOP presidential candidate in a long long time. For a half century, Democrats have run toward the center as Republicans ran to the extremes. But now the complete opposite is starting to happen (or that is what I sense, the future will prove me right or wrong).

Why can’t the average liberal see this as the first real opportunity for reform they’ve had in decades? This is the new liberal moment. We should take advantage of it while we can, rather than hold to the center out of fear. What I fear is that a centrist Democratic party will continue to disempower the liberal movement from making real change and instead help to reinforce the status quo alliance between neoliberals and neoconservatives, between big business and big government.

It seems to me that all of the older generations, maybe including GenX as well, are afraid of any and all change at this point. The irony is that by resisting change the negative changes already made become even more difficult to reverse. It seems the only hope we have left in this country is from the younger generation, Millennials, who are the most liberal generation in American history. All the older generations are too afraid to fully challenge the status quo, whether of partisan politics or of corrupt capitalism.

I’m hoping that there will be enough left-leaning GenXers, especially the youngest GenXers, to form an alliance with Millennnials to force change. 2012 will be the first year Millennials will be eligible for running for congress and so this will be the first opportunity to dislodge the divisive Boomer majority since they took power a decade ago. This is an opportunity to be seized if people can just see it and take the chance of seeking real reform of the kind not seen since the Great Depresssion.

There is a class war going on. The demographics most affected by the class war, the young and minorities, are also the demographics most strongly pushing for left-leaning reform. The Tea Party represents the older established demographic that grew up in a prosperous white America during a time when economic inequality was low, economic mobility was high, college and housing was cheap, jobs were high-paying with good benefits, and opportunities were plentiful. This older demographic just wants to cling to the few programs left that benefit themselves while wanting to deny anything that will help anyone else. To put it simply, they are reacting out of fear and so creating a politics of fear where everyone loses.

So, this class war is ultimately a generational and race war. The fastest growing demographics are the young and minorities.

This conflict is even seen within my own generation, GenX. Older GenXers grew up in Reagan’s America when politics and society was dominated by the GOP’s Southern Strategy and anti-communist Cold War rhetoric. Younger GenXers grew up in Clinton’s America during a time when the Cold War had ended, when immigration was at its highest in a century, and when Democrats advocated moderation and the right-wing was offering ugly culture wars and militant violence (terrorist bombings, abortion doctor shootings, etc). It was in the middle of GenX that America hit a turning point.

Young GenXers like me are hardly spring chickens. The very youngest of GenXers are in their thirties while the oldest GenXers are moving toward middle age. Still, the divide is clear in that younger GenXers seem to have more support of such things as the Occupy movement while older GenXers either support the Democratic Party status quo (Obama being on the oldest edge of GenX) or support the Tea Party partisans (Beck and Palin also being first wave GenXers). It’s the older GenXers who are goading the already divisive Boomer majority.

I’m curious how this will play out. From here on in, Boomers will be losing power and they won’t go out easily. Nonetheless, the stupidest and ugliest of older GenXers (such as Beck and Palin) have already lost their popular support which leaves room for younger GenXers to take their place. I’ll be on the lookout for these younger GenXers who will be able to speak to the Millennials who desire real change. It is important to keep in mind that Millennials are the only generation, according to recent data, that has more positive views of socialism than capitalism.

Is Banking Bad?

“A Pew Research Center poll in December found that only 50 percent of Americans reacted positively to the term “capitalism,” while 40 percent reacted negatively. Among Americans ages 18 to 29, more had a negative view of capitalism than a positive view, the survey found. Those young Americans actually viewed socialism more positively than capitalism. In other words, America’s grasping capitalists are turning young Americans into socialists.

“The Financial Times recently published a series about “capitalism in crisis.” It noted that the Edelman Trust Barometer, a survey, found that only 46 percent of Americans had confidence in business to do the right thing (and only 25 percent trusted banks).”

Rising Share of Americans See Conflict Between Rich and Poor | Pew Social & Demographic Trends

“As a result, in the public’s evaluations of divisions within American society, conflicts between rich and poor now rank ahead of three other potential sources of group tension—between immigrants and the native born; between blacks and whites; and between young and old. Back in 2009, more survey respondents said there were strong conflicts between immigrants and the native born than said the same about the rich and the poor.

“Virtually all major demographic groups now perceive significantly more class conflict than two years ago. However, the survey found that younger adults, women, Democrats and African Americans are somewhat more likely than older people, men, Republicans, whites or Hispanics to say there are strong disagreements between rich and poor.

“While blacks are still more likely than whites see serious class conflicts, the share of whites who hold this view has increased by 22 percentage points, to 65%, since 2009. At the same time, the proportion of blacks (74%) and Hispanics (61%) sharing this judgment has grown by single digits (8 and 6 points, respectively).”

Young Reactives In War (4th turning analysis)

I’m presently reading the book Generations by William Strauss and Neil Howe. I’ve read other books by them and I’ve had this book for a few years. I can’t remember when I first discovered these authors and their generations theory. It was probably sometime in the early 2000s, although it could’ve been some years earlier.

I’m already familiar with their theory, but I’ve mostly just studied it in terms of recent generations. The book Generations, however, covers the entire history of America beginning with the Colonial era. If you’re seriously interested in generations theory, this large book (over 500 pages) goes into great detail with a section analyzing every single generation.

What is interesting about their theory is that it proposes a cyclical view of history. The world progresses, but does so through repeating patterns. The cycle (approximately 80 years) consists of 4 generational archetypes (each approximately 20 years), although historical events can alter the cycle or even (very rarely) cause stages in it to be skipped. The cyclical nature of it makes it fascinating and easy to learn. The generations of today and the relationships between them will mirror those of the past.

I’m part of Generation X, although I’m on the younger end of it. Older GenXers were entering the workforce when I was still a young child. Despite this, I do fit the generational archetype. My experience might be slightly different than older GenXers, but my attitude toward the world is similar. The main difference is that the Clinton era shaped my young adult mind more than Reagan era.

I tend to study things from a more personal perspective, seeking to connect the subjective and the objective. A theory such of this is perfect for the way my mind works in seeking connections. In American history, my generation archetype has formed 5 separate generations since colonial times. My generational archetype is labeled ‘Reactive’ because it is the generation that reacts to the idealists (such as the Idealist Boomers or, to go further back, such as the Idealist Transcendentalists). The Idealists are sure of themselves and full of themselves which often leads to lots of conflict and divisiveness (principled leaders unwilling to compromise even if it means sending the young off to war, the young in question often being the Reactives). For this reason, Reactives are often a cynical lot who don’t expect much good out of life. Reactives are survivalists who grow up in hard times and often are despised by older generations.

This is where my mind became most intrigued. I want to do a comparison of one factor among the Reactive generations, but I will limit myself to the 4 generations following the colonial era. The factor I will focus on is war.

– Liberty Generation: fought in Revolutionary War (1775, age 34-51)
– Gilded Generation: fought in Civil War (1861, age 19-39)
– Lost Generation: fought in World War I (1914, age 14-31)
– Generation X: fought in War on Terrorr (2001, 20-40)

I would offer analysis of this, but the analysis that I wrote was somehow deleted by crappy wordpress.

My basic point was that Reactive generations tend to make a lot of sacrifices for society (willingly and unwillingly). Besides dying in demoralizing wars, they experience low rates of education along with low rates of stable families (meaning high rates of divorced parents which leads them to be latchkey kids) and, as both children and adults, experience high rates of poverty, violence and suicide. For all these sacrifices, they tend to be disliked and feared by other generations or else simply forgotten about. This is particularly exemplified by GenXers lost between the two largest generations in US history, the reform-minded Boomers and the civic-minded Millennials.

White Nationalist Recruiter Rebuffed At CPAC 2011

Here is a video that gives further support to a theory I’ve had.

The younger generation is more socially ‘liberal’ than past generations. Even younger Republicans are relatively liberal on social issues (which actually started back with GenX Reagan Republicans, personified by the fictional character of Alex P. Keaton from the tv show Family Ties). Other evidence of this shift is Meghan McCain who supports gay marriage.

As far as I can tell, the only reason social conservatism took over the Republican party was because of the Boomer generation. Social conservatism has remained so dominant for so long is because the Boomer generation was the largest generation followed by the extremely small Generation X. Only the new generation of Millennials is larger than the Boomers and so that is why we are only now seeing this shift to any great extent. GenXers, by themselves, couldn’t have much impact on changing social attitudes and GenXers don’t have the same desire to change social attitudes as is seen with the Millennials.

Millennials are the most multi-cultural, multi-racial generation ever to exist in US history. Along with being racially open-minded, they support a broad range of socially liberal positions. The only position they hold that is slightly socially conservative is their being somewhat pro-life, but at the same time they are very pro-sex and they don’t support repealing Roe vs Wade. Millennials are odd in being somewhat more ‘conservative’ in their lifestyles such as being focused on marriage and family. It’s just this lifestyle conservatism is more about personal choice instead of culture war. Millennials are very critical of politicized religion. Also, their conservatism is very much pro-government.

https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/02/09/a-portrait-of-generation-next/

https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2009/11/27/the-new-conservatism-genx-millennials/

https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2011/02/04/survey-on-love-sex-kids-gender-roles-reversing/

https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/01/23/us-demographics-increasing-progressivism/

https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/09/28/oreilly-polls-old-vs-young/

Generation of Clowns in the Fourth Turning

Here are a few videos that I thought worth posting… along with some of my own commentary.

We need to have more public debate about generations. Demographics are destiny. We have lived through a time ruled by Boomers and part of the shift we’re experiencing is that of the younger generations gaining power.

By the way, not all or even most Boomers were hippies. The fundamentalist backlash and the culture wars were also products of Boomers. Bush is the perfect example of a Boomer.

I’ve heard that some Washington politicians were aware of the Fourth Turning theory back in the 90s when the book first came out. What if some of these politicians decided to use the theory for the purposes of social engineering. The author said that Obama hasn’t been very successful in using the crises to create change, but maybe that isn’t the agenda in Washington. There are definitely those who’d like to avoid change and re-establish the status quo.

I’d point out one factor not considered. The clowns (Glenn Beck, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert) are all GenXers. If you’re familiar with the generation theory expoused by Strauss and Howe, you wouldn’t be surprised that GenXers play the role of clowns. GenXers serve two purposes: 1) to push the system over the edge into the Fourth Turning; and 2) to act as leaders to the young generations as we shift into a new era. Whether or not they play their role well is a whole other issue.

Their viewers don’t get their news from Jon Stewart & Stephen Colbert. Their viewers are mostly young and mostly liberal, both demographics getting more news from alternative sources than any other demographics. On the other hand, older conservatives are more likely to trust mainstream media which is why they are so uninformed compared to young liberals. The difference might be that viewers of satire realize the entire mainstream media is comedy.

Iowa Politics & the Younger Generations

Sadly, almost the only attention Iowa gets is from Steve King. I truly hope people in other states don’t actually think King ‘represents’ the average Iowan.

What many people don’t realize is that Iowa is a rather moderate state. We are the real Middle America. The Midwest isn’t Deep South Lite. Yes, we have our share of the worse kind of Republicans, but the Midwest is also known for having a strong element of progressivism. Gay marriage is legal in Iowa and the legalization of medical marijuana was being discussed in Iowa recently.

Because of Iowa’s moderateness, the Tea Party has had a hard time getting momentum in here. The harsh rhetoric of fear-mongering and hate speech simply doesn’t appeal to most Iowans. Polarizing rhetoric works best in poor conservative states where there is great socio-economic disparity, but in Iowa we are relatively less class conscious and we have more of an attitude of respecting our neighbors. Here is from a Tea Party in Iowa:

http://okhenderson.com/2010/04/15/tax-day-tea-party-rally-des-moines-ia/

Doug Burnett, the event’s first speaker, urged the crowd to stress the positive rather than the negative.

“Let’s watch our words.  Thoughts become attitudes, attitudes become words and words become actions.  I hear too often people saying, ‘I’m scared.  I’m scared for my country. I’m scared for my way of life’ and I don’t doubt the sincerity of that sentiment, but I do question the accuracy of the words.

“Scared is negative.  It’s powerless.  It’s debilitating.  Scared is what happens when you wake up in the middle of the night to that bump, right?

“We’re frustrated.  We’re angry.  We’re concerned and trust me, many times I look at our elected leaders and I see the boogey man, but we are the Tea Party and we aren’t scared of anything.  Are you scared?  We don’t do scared.

“Think of words that are positive and accurate, like ‘I’m engaged. I’m empowered. I’m moved to action.’”

Maybe we moderate Midwesterners (excepting Rep. King of course) could be a model for the rest of the country. This is particularly true for the younger generations of Americans who have been turned away from politics because of all the divisiveness, negative rhetoric and partisan bickering. For example, Christian Fong is a young Iowa Republican who has started a bipartisan organizing campaign.

http://www.radioiowa.com/2010/04/15/the-iowa-dream-project-seeks-millennials-gen-xers/

Christian Fong says The Iowa Dream Project is targeting Iowans who’re considered Millennials or part of Generation X. “The goal of the project is twofold. One, it’s just to get young people involved and engaged.  I think every Iowan of any age will look and say, ‘Iowa’s going to be a better place when our young people are involved and engaged in making their communities better,’” Fong says.  “But secondly it’s about making the tone something that is inviting to the next generation.” 

Fong intends for The Iowa Dream Project to  foster discussion about ideas and solutions rather than to be a new place for finger-pointing. “I think the next generation often looks at kind of the mean-spirited kind of slogan shouting that masquerades as political discussion and they despise it,” Fong says. “They want nothing to do with it.” 

Today’s “Tea Party” rallies are a bit of a turnoff to most young people, according to Fong. ”You don’t even have to understand the issue to be able to hurl a slogan at the other side. It’s not respectful.  It’s not honoring your peers.  It’s not ideas-based. It’s really not what the next generation is looking for,” Fong says.  “Whether it’s a political movement, a political party or a candidate — if they want to win the next generation, they’re going to have to say, ‘In five or 10 years, this is what we want Iowa to be and these are the specific steps we’re going to have to take to get there.’”

The New Conservatism: GenX & Millennials

I just watched most of this following video.  It’s a good video about the data on the various generations.  But if you’re already familiar with generations theory, then you probably won’t learn anything new.

The video just reminded me of the changing nature of politics.  Liberal and conservative are labels that, as they’ve been used in the past, don’t apply to what politics is becoming.

Both GenXers and Millennials are more conservative in certain ways than the Boomers, but in less obvious (read: less loud and divisive) ways.

GenXers aren’t politically active in a direct fashion because they mistrust big government and politics in general.  Instead, GenXers prefer influencing society through volunteering and the private sector.  GenXers have had massive influence on society considering their small size, but this influence has primarily been through the technological industry and in particular through creating new social media.

Millennials are even more conservative in their lifestyles despite being very liberal in their political beliefs.  On the level of personal choices, rates of such things as sex an pregnancy are down.  They accept the idea of sacrificing individual needs for the collective good.  They want a government to build and support community.  They value family and they value cooperation.  They are politically opposite of GenXers libertarianism.

What is going to change in the liberal direction is that government will play more of a role.  The reason for this is because only government can ensure a fair egalitarian society and only government can guarantee civil rights.  The GenXers may agree with the good intentions, but many GenXers fear such a potentially oppressive nanny state.  Certain freedoms may be sacrificed in the name of equality… and safety.

The ironic thing is that on the social level this future possible society may be more conservative than what we’ve seen in recent decades with the rise of the Evangelical right.  The Millennials, unlike the Evangelicals, won’t simply be a loud minority.  The Millennials don’t need to be loud because they shall change society through sheer force of numbers.

What is clearly ending is the GOP vision of the invisible hand of the market (which never existed anyways) and trickle-down economics.  Some will consider this to be a redistribution of wealth, but Millennials will see it as fair redistribution of opportunities.  Millennials refuse to believe the Republican propaganda that government fails because the Millennnials have observed how the government has particularly failed when Republicans were in power.  Of course, a party that preaches failure will fail.  Quite different from GenXers, Millennials are optimistic.  They know they’re inheriting large problems and so far that reason they know that large solutions are demanded.

The question now will be whether Millennial optimism will pay off and whether GenXer cynicism will help balance it.

Civic GenX

Here is an interesting article about GenXers.

More Than Zero by Pete Peterson

Two things caught my attention:

(1) GenXers are the least trusting of non-local government, but also identify as more conservative.  So, this would seem to imply GenXers are attracted to politicial ideologies such as libertarianism.

(2) GenXers are very civic-minded.  On the local level, GenXers are very involved in volunteering and donating.  This is interesting because GenXers are prone to a sense of being disenfranchized from the political system and aren’t well represented by politicians.  So, this would seem to imply that GenXers prefer their politics on the level of personal direct action and so bypass traditional paths of influence.

Wanted: Visionary for a Cynical World

This post is just about what is on my mind at the moment.

First off, I recently ordered two books that I’ve been excited about.  Quentin S. Crisp’s fiction book Shrike just came today.  I’ve only read a few of his stories, but I enjoyed them.  Also, even though I read many blogs, his is the only blog I regularly follow.  He has an interesting take on life and is an imaginative writer.  The other book I ordered is Carl Jung’s Red Book which is now being published for the first time.  It was a private journal that he kept during a difficult period extending many years.  If you’re a fan of Jung, this is a must read.

New books always make me happy and I can always use some extra happiness.  Recently, I’ve been in a bad mood for various reasons.  The most overt reason is that I’ve been listening to the news and the news is so very depressing.  I probably should ignore the news, but I seem to be a masochist.

In a perverse way, I was happy to see the CIA get nailed for one of it’s covert activities.  The CIA, of course, is always doing something evil somewhere in the world, but it rarely gets caught and when caught rarely gets into the news.  This covert operation involved kidnapping in a foreign country and extraordinary rendition where a person was tortured horrendously.  The reason I’m happy is because a foreign government decided to hold America’s government up to a moral standard that Americans should expect of their own government.  I’m not a fan of evil secret agencies such as the CIA and I’m not a fan of those who are the strongest supporters of this kind of evil such as the evangelical Christians (who are the biggest supporters of torture in the US).  May these CIA agents end up in torture prisons themselves and may these evangelical Christians end up in the hell they like to fantasize about.

I was watching Alex Jones documentary Terrorstorm.  It’s conspiracy theorizing, but it’s intelligent conspiracy theorizing based in actual facts that you can research if you’re one of those people who prefers not to dwell in complacent ignorance.  Agree or disagree about Jones overall view, the examples he brings up are in the public record.  You may dismiss them as isolated events or you may see a repeating pattern, but either way I think it’s important to know about such things.

I wrote about this a while back detailing the entire dark history of the 20th century US government and let me tell you it was a long post.  Jones covers some of the same things that I wrote about.  As I said, it’s all in the public record for anyone to research for themselves, but sadly few people choose being informed over being ignorant.  I wish I understood the attraction of ignorance.  Between government agencies and megacorporations, there are endless examples of oppression and the cynic that I am I simply accept that there are immoral people who enjoy oppressing others.  What I don’t get is why most of the world’s population wants to be oppressed.  There are people walking free who have commited various crimes against humanity and most people don’t seem to care.  Why?  Is it just ignorance?  Or is it fear?  Or even do people believe they deserve to be oppressed?

Every day, the goverment and media feeds the public lies and propaganda.  In the industrialized West, we like to think we’re free and yet we live in a fantasyland detached from reality.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then read the writings or documentaries by people like Noam Chomsky.

It makes me wonder what a visionary like Jung would think about these dark times we live in.  He saw the social climate shift as Europe descended into WWII and he had great fear of the evil that can be accomplished when people become organized.  But he also had faith in the individual and as an individual he has had great positive influence on the modern world.  There are plenty of doomsayers (whether intelligent like Alex Jones or idiotic like Glenn Beck), but where are the visionaries?

The ugliness of politics has become so blatantly obvious in the past half century that I think most people have become too cynical.  These dark times will pass, but it’s hard to see beyond them.  In the next couple of decades, the world is going to transform so dramatically that the outcome can’t be predicted.

About cynicism, I grew up in the cynical mood of Generation X.  My generation is much more realistic and informed than previous generations.  We grew up with more information available to us and we learned young not to trust authorities, not to trust single sources of information.  When I look at older generations, they seem very naive and trusting of the government and of authority figures.  Older generations grew up when there was certain authority figures everyone trusted such as Walter Cronkite, grew up before all the corruption came out about various presidencies such as Nixon and government agencies such as the CIA, grew up before the assasinations and COINTELPRO that destroyed the civil rights movement, grew up before the loss of America’s moral highground.  My generation, on the other hand, was bottle-fed on dark visions of post-apocalyptic America and dark visions of demonic children.

Now, my generation is coming to power.  Obama is technically a GenXer according to certain definitions, but he is on the very oldest end of GenX and some categorize him as different generation entirely.  Also, Obama grew up abroad and so doesn’t have the same experience that most US GenXers had growing up.  But he does represent the change that is happening.  He is a different kind of president than we’ve seen before.  He is the first president, for example, who has successfully used the internet in his presidential campaign.  Even so, there are more ways he is similar to than different from the neocon presidents of the last several decades.  He has so far done very little to distinguish himself from Bush jr.  More so than Obama, I’m looking to the GenXers outside of politics.  Will the innovativeness of GenXers actually pull us through this divisive time?

I don’t feel hopeful.  Glenn Beck is also representative of this new generation as he was born 3 yrs after Obama.  Both Obama and Beck know how to use the new media to influence the public.  Sadly, though, Beck’s cynicism is more in line with GenX than is Obama’s hope.  Who made a drunken clown like Beck into the mainstream voice of GenX’s cynicism.  I feel deeply ashamed that he represents my generation in any way.  I suppose the true visionaries of our time are people like David Foster Wallace who recently killed himself.  I could maybe try to nominate Quentin S. Crisp as the new visionary of GenX, but I doubt he’d want the job.