The Kids Would Be Alright, If You Let Them
It's fairly astonishing that a society that has caused so much damage to itself can, in almost the same breath, continue to accuse it's youth of being weird at best or incapable of running things in the future at worst. For some reason, when Wallstreet brought America to the brink of financial ruin, we still manage to find the time to obsess about what teenagers are doing their bedrooms.
While the current commander in chief fights a seemingly never ending battle to reform the financial system, our nations students are falling behind in economically critical skill sets, yet public school systems find the time and budget to spy on their students.
The very act of blaming the youth of today for social decline is completely counter intuitive. These kids are literally the product of a value system they themselves had nothing to do with creating. Marketing, education, and socialization all turn kids into what they are today. Are we so naive that we will actually beat a dog in its developing years, and then complain about the dog’s choices later in life when we did the beating? How are we going to criticize the youth of today, when people who were supposed to keeping this nation financially stable were watching porn while Rome burned?
So now people have no faith in other people, but it would be rude to call other adults bunch of sex-crazed poltroons, but kids are not able to defend themselves against against such accusations. Like a bully in need of release, people beat up on the weakest members of society, the teenagers.
Adults, subject to laws and value systems that they themselves probably despise but are also powerless against, enforce these social and legal rules with an iron fist against the youth of today, charging teens with child pornography charges if they take pictures of their own bodies. However, studies have suggested this is an absurd moral panic with very few teenagers actually sexting, and those who are probably are sent precisely the wrong message: their own bodies are viewed in the eyes of the law, and by extension adults, as the regulated commodity of pornography.
Kids don't know anything about anything and cannot be trusted with the simplest of tasks. A rather toothless version of this stance was the recent tirade by Roger Ebert saying the video games will never be art, the flaw in the thinking illustrated in three deft panels by Penny-Arcade.com.
This is especially silly when you realized many art movements, most obviously Surrealism and Cubism, are heavily influenced by child-like concepts of portraying space and structure. So the youth's perspective inspires us, but we need not admit they did so, because they're just dumb kids.
A recent book speculates that perhaps youth is made to last too long artificially, and this allows the complaining about youth to last even longer. In the 1950’s by the time many young men were in their mid-20’s they had already fought in a war, came home, started a family and started feel like something was missing. It’s quite possible with this extended youth business, most of that is skipped in favor of the "feeling something missing in the late 20’s" phase.
However, that missing thing in the 50’s probably resulted from the gauge for success being, at best, the very narrow field of "what the previous generation can understand," or worst "benefit from." That emptiness is what prompted the arguably failed revolution of the 60’s, which everyone who was there assures all who will listen that it was totally awesome and we can never understand it.
That sort of "you kids don't understand" attitude was the crux of Ebert's criticism of youth’s efforts in art and reflects the public at large, but it also appears to be a kind of bait and switch. Ebert himself criticized young people's "attempts" at are through another medium in much the same way film was criticized at it's inception. New art forms are almost never accepted initially practically by definition, since they are the product of young people, who everyone in charge would never admit are capable of what they consider to be art.
When the U.S. government was insisting that young people were responsible for a significant portion of all crime in the 50's, they were laying the ground work for a wasteful cold war against the Soviet Union, most of the intelligence about which we now know to be grossly exaggerated.
In Mexico, people have gathered together to beat up Emo kids, because it's clearly their fault. All the corruption and murder? That' the result of skinny jeans, and not massive drug cartels with as much fire and man power as a city state. If the people who got together to beat up children had half the resolve against the people who are actually ruining their country, they could be well on their way to bringing corruption to heel.
Every ethnic group, it’s adults at least, find a way to incorporate into a society. They learn the social rules, the economics and legal systems so they can establish a foothold and eventually a very real place in a society. But youth? Youth is always wrong. Youth is always an easy target and it is replenished every year. Anything going wrong? Blame youth! Blame that rock n’ roll music! Blame anybody but the people in charge.