In 1967, I was 22 years old and sitting in a movie theatre watching Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate. For my generation at that point, there is one word from that movie that will never be forgotten. The moment we heard it, we all laughed! We laughed at the greed and self-absorption of an older generation who talked the talk, but turned its collective face from the challenges of the present and the future, our future.
Contrary to popular opinion, we were not all liberals. There were conservatives and others who would later choose to call themselves “libertarians”. Although young, we had our heroes, both living and dead, from older generations, Ayn Rand born in 1905, Barry Goldwater born in 1909, and John F. Kennedy born in 1917, among others.
But we shared one thing in common, the feeling that our futures were at stake, but most in the older generation didn’t much care. And we saw it expressed here.
That was followed by decades of struggle, struggles that were fertile ground for votes and for hypocrisy.
There was Lyndon Baines Johnson, elected President on a “peace platform” in 1964, following that up with a doubling-down in the War in Vietnam in 1965.
There was Richard Nixon, elected in the name of “law and order”, who authorised criminal activity that led to substantial disorder.
There was Bill Clinton, a supporter of the women’s movement who preached the dangers of sexual harassment in the work place, until we were introduced to his office intern.
I suppose it’s no surprise that their hypocrisy was followed by ours, but it is pathetic to see and hear, nonetheless. I am 67. I know too many 60-something conservatives who bitterly criticise entitlements for people “simply’ because they are black, Hispanic, and/or female, but go ballistic if anyone challenges their Social Security entitlement, provided to them simply because they are old. I know too many 60-something liberals who pontificate endlessly on the aftermaths of the War in Vietnam and the War in Iraq, but never have a word to say about the aftermaths of the 1999 War in Serbia or last year’s War in Libya. I have even met a couple 60-something libertarians who have a list of “exceptions”, abortion for example, where their personal beliefs trump the liberty of others.
But worst of all, our generation chose to copy that which we criticised in our parents’ generation, greed and worship at the altar of the Great God Mammon, without regard to the consequences. We replaced “plastics” with “high tech” and took ourselves and our families over a cliff. No sooner was that behind us then we came up with “real estate” and went over the cliff again. But this time, we left behind a huge mountain of debt to be paid by today’s 20-somethings for the rest of their lives and their children’s lives. Let’s call it adding injury to insult. There’s another movie clip from way back that seems appropriate today.
It seems we need more than a hero, we need a superhero.
I have waited for years to hear the younger generation of Americans call us out on our hypocrisy, but heard little. Perhaps that is changing. It certainly is time for it.
Chester See, with his 680,000+ subscribers and 64,000,000+ views, is one of the young Americans who has built a career thanks to YouTube. Let’s hear from him.
Hey, Chester! Sounds like you’re catching on! Good. I hope you’re not alone and not just with other Americans. There are some folks in Europe who need to catch on and fast.
There has always been and always will be a degree of hypocrisy in all aspects of private and public life. It is simply one aspect of human behaviour. But there are times when a crisis reaches a level that we deserve more than that from our leaders, on both sides of the Atlantic, regardless of their ideological pretenses. This is one of those times.
One way to encourage that is to practice it ourselves. If all we can do is point our finger at the guilty party, than we can do that in front of the mirror as well.
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