I’m sitting in the wood shop at my girlfriend’s university right now as she works on a project. We’re surrounded by other young people, a situation in which I do not often find myself. As I sit, I realize there’s a host of reasons for that, a prominent one being that I hate the way they talk.
Non-black young people love emulating the AAVE accent in their everyday speech. This has grated on me for years, partly because I find it disrespectful, and partly because it’s so hypocritical. I am realizing a third reason that this bothers me, which is the fact that everyone does it.
I’m contrarian by nature. I enjoy being outside of whatever the current culture might be. I try not to let this define me—I don’t like something simply because it’s out of the mainstream—but it’s certainly a major part of my identity.
That being said, I don’t think it’s my conservative or antagonistic tendencies that lead me to dislike the lack of diversity among America’s youth (present company excluded). To be sure, I don’t like trends, but I dislike them because they rob people of their individuality. The rub is that these people consent to the robbery.
I assume this is not exclusive to my or the preceding generation. That does not make it any less disappointing to see millions of young people parroting each others’ dress, speech, and ways of thinking. They have a need to be different—be it from their parents, or “society,” or whatever—only to become like everyone else. It’s a classic dilemma for the angst-ridden youth: The goth kid needs to be different, so she dresses in black and listens to angry music, just like every other goth kid.
The other explanation is that those who participate in broad societal trends need to belong to a group. That’s understandable. We are made to belong to groups, and in this secular, isolated, screen-trapped world, groups are getting harder to come by. But why choose such a banal group to which to belong?
The cynic in me says laziness. It’s no secret that young people are happier to complain than to grind (as multitudes of youth would describe work). But it’s also no secret that young people today are adrift in our amoral culture. They need something upon which to grasp, something that gives them a sense of identity. Unfortunately, the closest and most present thing is societal trends, which today include talking like people from a different culture and making jokes about your omnipresent depression, not to mention immersing yourself in a radically left-wing ideology.
I know every generation thinks it is special. I know my attempt at societal analysis is based in little more than anecdotal evidence, and that these conclusions could likely be drawn about many generations using starkly different evidence. But I still think there’s value in trying to connect the dots.
I think I’ve mentioned this in an earlier post, but there is no simple panacea for the woes of the youth. There needs to be a cultural awakening, a return to (most of) the values that have guided Western civilization for the past two thousand years. Without that, we will continue to spiral into hyper-individualistic collectivism, a group of separate individuals who only interact through group-think and communal programs.
There is hope. Africa is seeing a major return to sanity, and Generation Z seems to be a counterweight to the mindlessness of the millenials. We can only hope these tendencies spread over the next few years.