January 26, 2006

The Non-Declarative Declaration

My former neighbor Gerard has done a riff on poor Joel Stein, the hapless cub columnist for the LA Times, whom the blosophere savaged for a column wherein he allowed as how he didn't support our troops.

Brave or foolish enough to allow Hugh Hewitt to interview him on the air, Stein showed he knew nothing about our men in uniform, and the Times had no reason to pay him to opine.

Gerard makes two points. He observes that Stein speaks declarative sentences that end in an annoying half-question intonation. That's common among what as a Grumpy Old Man I am entitled to call the Slacker Generation. Gerard links it to what he calls a "neuter" quality, a disconcerting blandness and inability to live a real life.

I don't think Gerard's making the commonplace association between anti-military views and cowardice or effeminacy, but rather to a persistent disconnect from responsibility, from assertion, from polarity of any kind. Neither yang nor yin, the Steins of the world are incorporeal wraiths.

I would add to Gerard's thought mention of the recent articles on the exodus of males from our high schools and colleges, and the resulting feminization of those institutions and the professions, the rise of hip hop music and iconography, and the increasing absence of fathers in any but the sperm-donor sense.

If "virtue" etymologically refers to the male qualities, it would seem that many of my generation have failed to raise up virtuous men, worthy human beings who can be counted on and will take a stand when it counts. Instead we have raised up wusses on the one hand, and thugs on the other (or at least boys who emulate thuggish style and manners).

Our soliders and marines seem to be an exception, and I hestiate to draw too bleak a picture because it's so easy for the grandparent generation to conclude that youth has gone to hell in a handbasket. But Gerard is on to something.

For a longer and somewhat different essay on this theme, read "The Sons of Murphy Brown", or anything by Theodore Dalrymple.

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