America’s Empty Progressive Culture
We enjoy looking back to a time when generations of men were willing to fight and die for the things of value in this world, especially today. Many of those men were mere teens when they took up their causes. When Alexander Hamilton was around 19 years old, he wrote “The Farmer Refuted,” a lively response to the loyalist writings of Samuel Seabury in 1775. Hamilton was not only a rowdy and confident teen, he knew well the ideas that this nation would soon be founded upon and that he would help to define:
Hence, also, the origin of all civil government, justly established, must be a voluntary compact between the rulers and the ruled, and must be liable to such limitations as are necessary for the security of the absolute rights of the latter; for what original title can any man, or set of men, have to govern others, except their own consent? To usurp dominion over a people in their own despite, or to grasp at a more extensive power than they are willing to intrust, is to violate that law of nature which gives every man a right to his personal liberty, and can therefore confer no obligation to obedience.
Hamilton also suggests that Seabury become more acquainted with the likes of Grotius, Puffendorf, Locke, Montesquieu, and Burlemaqui. While I imagine some American youth are exposed to Locke and Montesquieu in the most empty fashion possible, they would be hard pressed to truly understand how important their ideas are.
Public school systems have dumbed down philosophy, history and all of the humanities which the founders of this nation studied extensively. The very fabric of this nation was based on classical philosophical ideas. Is there any way a student can be expected to understand their Second Amendment rights when they have no clue what liberty is or why it is worth fighting for? They have studied culture relatively and are never asked to compare our republic to other nations (because of course, that might offend someone).
In George Washington’s Farewell Address of 1796, he warned that “reason and experience forbid us to expect that popular morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principles.” To apply this to today’s world, it might be better to say a “global morality.” This is what many children are being taught. There is a “global” way of thinking that washes American culture in particular of its values and morality. Even some modern conservatives shrink away from attempting to argue the value of religion for our nation and its people.
And what has been the happy result of this progressive mission to destroy our culture? Suicide rates amongst teens and young adults have been higher than at any other recorded point in history. Young men have the highest rates and this is not surprising. Liberal culture has failed them. It has confused the roles they should aim for, leaving them empty, void of tradition, values, or morality.
For the youth fortunate enough to get a “great” education, they are likely to become educated dumb people with no convictions on anything. Obama’s 2007 campaign was powerful amongst youth for one reason, they had absolutely no faith in anything else. American youth culture has grown to reflect the empty things on television and in public school curricula. Bars are filled with young adults whose best attempt at life is to model something they hear in a Lady Gaga song. Somehow, getting embarrassingly drunk or yelling obscenities to the world is a defining moment in their lives. They resent anyone who tries to tell them about deeper things in life, philosophy, religion, anything that seeks to answer the questions that plagued them. Somehow they know it all without understanding a thing.
This is the problem with progressivism. It is barren. Barack Obama caught youth attention because his media image sold him as hope, the Messiah come to earth; and needing something to link them to their sorry existence, to have a reason to experience joy or to feel tears on their cheek, they praised him. Now that many of them have returned to their empty feelings, they still praise him out of the memory of having something to believe in.
Though it seems like a devastating picture, the culture war is still going. In the book, “The Conservative Mind,” Russell Kirk described a few ways Conservatives or any loyal American can work to hold back the damaging emptiness of progressive culture:
- Reaffirm the truth that lies in tradition, i.e. stop saying morality and tradition do not matter. That is the progressive game. He who cares the most wins. If you feel religion is pointless to the conversation, then you leave space for progressive “values” to fill in the gaps.
- Defend the classes and regions where tradition is still a living force, Middle America and rural communities.
- Humanize urban life, instead of destroying old buildings and landmarks for new ones, keep native architecture. People have a deeper connection to their cities when their monuments remain for generations. This was one reason why the World Trade Centers were targeted by terrorists, they were symbols of the Western world.
- And probably most importantly, return to family-centered and church-centered life, the glue that has held American culture together from the beginning.
*If you are curious to see Kirk’s arguments in more detail, they are contained in the chapter titled “The Problem of Tradition.”