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You and Snowflakes have a lot in common

“Not good, University of Manchester. Not cool.” Here’s how Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, responded to a 2018 story about a student union that “banned” clapping at its events. may cause anxiety in some audiences and that there are fewer surprising ways for people to show appreciation.Instead, students are encouraged to use the “jazz player”—the gesture British Sign Language for clapping.

It seems odd that a prominent American politician should feel compelled to comment on a small decision made by a group of students thousands of miles away. In fact, the former governor Bush referred to his own horrifying experience asking the audience to clap after an unsuccessful speech during the 2016 Republican presidential campaign that failed. labour. But the joke was missed during the international media storm that blew around the story. Overnight, the University of Manchester jazz players became a desperate among those frustrated with the character of the youth of the day (“What a Load of Clap” was a popular title). , without any hint of Bush sarcasm (Piers Morgan tweeted “England is losing interest”). “It symbolizes the slide of our culture,” says one professor. into infantile decadence, where fame is glorified and learned helplessness is enjoyed.”

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It is not just students in Manchester that have been the subject of such attention: Whenever similar incidents occur, whether at political conventions in the United States or schools in Australia, the objections are similar. The reason is that it provides a simple yet vivid example of a complex problem that different groups see radically differently. On the one hand, these measures are just a reasonable attempt to include people with autism, in which case autistic people clapping their hands, as the University of Manchester disability officer says, can feel like an exploding bomb. On the other hand, it is a sign of a generation brought up in a way that leaves them completely unprepared for the real world.

The clapping controversy is one, admittedly somewhat ludicrous, example of a “culture war,” often presented as a battle between a young “snowflake” and “optimism.” The culture wars are increasingly the prism through which we see intergenerational differences, so it’s important to find out if we’re experiencing a real shift in attitudes and the beliefs of today’s youth or not.

The first point to realize is yes always tension between generations, and this is a good thing. We can think of it as a kind of “demographic metamorphosis,” as the Canadian demographer Norman B. Ryder outlined in the 1960s. Ryder sees society as an organism whose metabolism is subject to change. This creates change is inevitable. As both Karl Mannheim and the French philosopher Auguste Comte have concluded, social, political or technological innovation is likely to stall if we live forever, as individuals struggle to find their way. surname. As Ryder puts it, “The constant emergence of new participants in the social process and the continued withdrawal of their predecessors compensate society for the limited flexibility of the individual. A society whose members are immortal will be like a stagnant pond.”

Despite the benefits of generational change, it is a constant challenge for society to deal with this incessant disarray of members, and, as Ryder puts it, “the invasion is not stop of the barbarians.” While this may seem like a harsh description of us, Ryder means that each new entrant is, by definition, not “configured” to the attitudes and behaviors of their parent’s society. Traumatic shocks, such as war, economic crisis or pandemic, can radically change the direction of new generations in their formative years, but there are always cultural tension between generations. As Ryder puts it, we are “gradually detached by the slow evolution of evolution”.

“What’s more, painting an entire generation of young people fighting for “social justice” ignores the fact that less “progressive” values ​​persist among substantial minorities.”

This is also the impression we get when we look at the actual data: There have been some amazing changes in our cultural attitudes over the past few decades, but this has changed. Not starting with the arrival of Millennials or Gen Z. Instead, we can see that there is usually not much difference between generations, except for the oldest. Striking examples of extreme attitudes and behavior on both sides of the generational divide are amplified, but they do not reflect general intergenerational discontinuities. Rather than a cohort effect, this looks like a period effect, where the greater polarization in today’s society makes us sensitive to differences.

More than that, painting an entire generation of young people fighting for “social justice” ignores the fact that less “progressive” values ​​persist among their sizable minorities. Generational analysis is to some extent part of the problem, as it can give the impression of an unstoppable march towards greater liberalism. In reality, cultural change is neither smooth nor directional. Changing social values ​​are the result of an ongoing and messy struggle both between and within generations, and a fuller understanding of group, life cycle, and period effects is crucial. important.

“Even in terms of gender identity, the label “culture warrior” is not suitable for most young people.”

Generational effects are essential to understanding cultural change, but the gap between today’s youth and most other generations is not as large or unusual as they are often portrayed. Of course, we shouldn’t belittle the difference altogether; There are important differences and they appear mostly on the top issues, as we would expect. For example, support for BLM protests in the youngest age group is twice as high as in the oldest age group, and in the UK young people tend to be “shy” about our imperial past almost twice as high as in the older groups. But these gaps are no different in scale than those between the Prewar and Baby Boomers generation on the track. Even in terms of gender identity, the label “culture warrior” does not fit the majority of young people, and other characteristics have a stronger influence on their views.

Once again, our tendency to focus on one explanation for our change hides a richer and more complex reality. The life cycle is so important, and we seem to change our views on issues like immigration as we age. For example, the period effect also had a say in shifting all generations’ views on the role of women in the United States in the 1990s versus what looked like a solid generational wave. .

Perhaps most importantly, wider divisions across society, fueled by polarized politics and the social media environment, have made us susceptible to representative but underrepresentative examples of behavior. vi “wakeful” and “not sober”. People of all generations are identifying more with their own group and distinguishing themselves more from “other” groups, which leads us to focus on less attention-grabbing behaviors in the past. . The “war to wake up” seems to be driven more by this change in the general environment than by the marked break in attitudes of our current generation of young people. By exaggerating differences, we run the risk of falling prey to a behavior we consider today’s youth to be guilty of: “causing disaster.”

Oversimplifying generational analysis is part of the problem. Generational replacement is the main driver of cultural change, with older generations being replaced by socialized groups in very different times. However, this can give a false sense of certainty; we need to remember the power of shocks that can change our trajectory and the life cycle effects that put younger generations back on track. Generational trends are also sometimes mistranslated as “mission accomplished,” which highlights the fact that less liberal attitudes persist among substantial minorities of younger generations and inequality persists.

Taken from Generational myths: Why when you were born matters less than you think by Bobby Duffy. Copyright © 2021. Available from Basic Books, an affiliate of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/hey-boomer-you-and-snowflakes-have-a-lot-in-common?source=articles&via=rss You and Snowflakes have a lot in common

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