Nugents of Wisdom

I’m pretty sure that everyone who has any idea Ted Nugent is, let alone grew up listening to his music, is stunned to consider him a social and political commentator.  And yet, such is life.  If anything truly surprises people, I think they simply haven’t been paying very close attention to stuff.  

In any event, Mr. Nugent recently published an op-ed piece in the Washington Times.  In it, he rails against the apathy of the millenial generation, particularly in comparison to his generation of youth in the 1960’s, known for their more rampant political activism.  Mr. Nugent is quick to admit that he wasn’t a part of that political activism, but is probably correct in saying that by and large the younger generations of today are not going to be known for sit-ins or protests or other acts of political conflict.
I think his conclusion is accurate.  The only problem is that his rationale for his conclusion is more likely part of the factors contributing to the very malaise he’s irritated with.
Nugent’s argument as stated is essentially:
  1. Today’s generation is “stoned on apathy”  
  2. Today’s generation may be the first in US history to make less money than their parents
  3. The national debt levels today are indefensible
  4. The economy is already suffering so that many college graduates are being forced to live with their parents
  5. Ongoing engagement in war around the globe without clear commitment to victory is ridiculous
  6. Therefore, the apathetic response of American youth today is unwarranted and dangerous
Again, I tend to agree with his conclusion.  However I also think that the very reasons that he uses to support his conclusion are what has contributed to this situation (in the reverse sense).
We have morphed from a culture concerned with moral truth and reality into a nation that teaches publicly that truth is pretty much non-existent.  It’s all relative to what you feel or what you want, and it may differ radically or completely from what another person holds to be true.  As such, the only things that tangibly can matter are how we’re doing financially.  Do we have a nice place to live and a car to drive?  Are we able to eat out at the places we’d like to?  Are we wearing decent stuff?  Then life must be ok.  Since we can’t have any discussion about truth or morality because it might offend someone and wind up in a law suit, we have to talk about the most trivial of things.  Have you seen that new movie?  Did you see American Idol last night?  
Our younger generations have been progressively isolated from any sort of important interaction with the world around them.  The generation of youth in the 60’s may have been the bridge generation that accomplished the transition from youth as functional members of society to youth being a state of mind and being by definition isolated from and exempted from any expectation of functionality in society.  Our creation of the idea of teen-agers as a distinct socio-cultural phenomenon has been disastrous, I think.  We put our kids in a bubble and then are surprised that they don’t feel particularly inclined – let alone equipped – to deal with the real world that may be rapidly crashing down on their heads.  Add to this the fact that because of marketing and advertising (and perhaps something deeper on the part of the Powers That Be) this bubble continually expands, so that rather than lasting until graduation it extends through college, or now extends into the late 20’s, and now extends well into the 30’s.  
I know congregations who define their young adult ministries for ages 18-40.  Who the hell are the adults?!?  You’re telling me that at 45 someone might finally be considered a fledgling full adult?  No wonder kids opt out of church, and no wonder they opt out of the world of politics and reality in general.  We’ve given them permission to.  We continue to give them permission to.  We practically insist on it.  And then we lament that they have trouble finding purpose and direction in their life.  We lament that they’re comfortable living with us after college, when that’s really all they’ve ever known and all they’ve been primed to do.  
It’s a complicated issue, but I’m pretty positive that economic security is part of the contributing problem in some ways, rather than the solution to the problem.  If we build a culture that says nothing can really matter, and therefore nothing really does matter outside my own personal satisfaction and happiness, we’ve created a culture where people not only don’t care, they can’t care.  On what basis can they care?  Economic security?  The idea that every generation has to do better than the generation before is appealing, to be certain, but is it sustainable?  Is it realistic?  Is that what the American dream is?  Didn’t it used to be that if you worked hard, you had a shot at success?  Now success comes simply by being born later than somebody else?  
Economic success or personal satisfaction is not the determinant of whether or not a government is doing it’s job, though it certainly might be.  It certainly isn’t the only determinant.  We would be quick to castigate the dystopic future of Brave New World  as improper and undesirable, even though by certain standards, most people in that world would say they are happy.  We need a better standard of what happiness means – one not determined by those most anxious to remain in positions of power and authority. 
Are we sick of interminable wars and military actions where our people continue to die and nothing ever improves?  On what basis?  Are the bad guys not really bad?  Are they not really a threat to us?  Do we have a global responsibility if there are bad guys hurting other people but not us?  Are we morally responsible for nipping evil in the bud, so to speak?  On what basis?  Who defines who and what is evil?  On what basis?  More and more the continually shifting alliances that form the backdrop of Orwell’s 1984 make sense.  What is true?  Whatever the State says is true.  Who is good and who is bad?  Whoever the State deems to be so.  Ought this to scare the hell out of us?  Yes, it should.  But we’re losing our ability to talk about these underlying definitions and issues of control because we’re allowing our media to browbeat us into silence.  The same media we support with our attention span and our dollars.
Are there alternatives?  Yes, there are.  They’re complicated, to be sure.  And they involve sacrifice.  Not just sacrifice for our youth, but sacrifice for all of us.  We have to realize that perhaps the systems that we take for granted are not ultimately serving our best interests as individuals or a nation, and if that’s the case, we need to be willing to opt out of those systems even though it requires personal sacrifice.  We have to realize that we can’t have our cake and eat it to, nor can we eat our cake and simply insist that our children forego theirs.  
Is this a vague definition of alternatives?   You bet your bippy.  But no less vague than Mr. Nugent’s critique of our youth.  

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