Why Is So Much Crap Being Published?

I just found a description of yet another book by people who like nothing more than to dump on the younger generation:

“Every generation claims that the next one has been coddled and spoiled, but it really may be true this time,” writes Ken S. Coates, arts dean at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, and Bill Morrison, history professor emeritus at the University of Northern B.C. in Prince George. “Something new and nasty is going on with university students these days, and there’s more trouble in store.”

The authors blame societal permissiveness, child-centred educational and parenting styles, overwhelming materialism, video games, sexualized media and the guilt of two-income families.

As you can see, the insufferable old fogies who wrote this piece of silly garbage realize how boring and unoriginal their premise is. Whenever people feel they have entered into old age (which is not a chronological but an ideological concept), they invariably start issuing proclamations as to how the younger generation is so much worse than they were in their youth, i.e. the time when the sugar was sweeter and the sun shone brighter.

What’s sad is that even though the authors realize that they are making themselves look ridiculous by repeating the age-old invective against younger people, they can’t help themselves. The need to condemn the young for having what the authors don’t have any more (namely, youth) is too strong.

It is so strong, actually, that it forces the authors to come up with a series of explanation for why the kids today are so bad, mad, and dangerous. Let’s look at them one by one.

Societal permissiveness – I find that when people complain about “permissiveness” it means that they simply bemoan their own incapacity to take advantage of said permissiveness.

Child-centred educational and parenting styles – can anybody imagine parenting that isn’t centered on the child who’s being parented? It’s like condemning book-reading for being too book-centered. Or eating for being food-centered.

Overwhelming materialism – I’m kind of surprised that the authors who are so overwhelmed with materialism don’t just place their work in free access online (just to combat the materialism, you know) but sell it for $22.95 in paperback. In my experience, whenever anybody starts screeching about the horrible materialism of everybody else, this is the surest sign they want to make money off those others.

Video games – I didn’t know there were still people who evoked this silly bug-bear to support what is supposed to be a serious argument. I, for one, refuse to believe that playing video games is a less noble pursuit than publishing the kind of books that these authors have done. Actually, I’d much rather people just played video games instead of addressing their psychological issues through dumping on young people.

Sexualized media – this one is just beyond hilarious. Do the authors even speak English? Or are they, indeed, trying to say that the media is being objectified sexually and that sad fact somehow magically makes today’s kids all bad? I can just imagine a teenager in her room getting all hot and bothered about the media. “Oooh, the NYTimes, you are so sexy!”

Guilt of two-income families – what does this even mean? Please tell me if I’m wrong, but I’m perceiving anti-feminism behind all this jargon. Are these authors suggesting that women who work are supposed to feel guilty about that? And that working parents are actually bad for children? In spite of all the overwhelming evidence that has amply demonstrated that the opposite is true?

To conclude, as a middle-aged college professor, I can testify to the fact that today’s eighteen and twenty-five-year-olds are absolutely the best, most amazing, inspiring and intelligent generation ever. Just twenty minutes ago, I couldn’t leave the classroom because my first-year students wanted to continue the discussion about the ideological appropriation of history. It’s a Friday afternoon but they want to talk about something like this after class.

And then look at the young readers of this blog: Pen, Nominatissima, Jaime, David K., el, and others. These people are the world’s future, and I only hope the future is as bright as they are.

Honestly, I have no patience with folks who dump on the young people.

25 thoughts on “Why Is So Much Crap Being Published?

  1. Blah,blah,blah…. Every year a similar book comes by, and occasionally somebody manages to get famous for repeating the same old stupid arguments. Although nobody has top “The Closing of the American Mind” as far as best-selling goes, I think.

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  2. I’ve had more than one person ask me, “Can we just fire everyone under 30?”. They’re unreliable, ill-equipped to make rational decisions on their own, ignorant of common courtesies and generally believe the world owes them success simply because they exist.

    Is this any different than it was 30 years ago? or 50? I would say not.

    I hate pulling movie references as a defense, but I think it’s applicable here. Two movies come to mind – East of Eden (1955) and Stand by Me (1986). Watch those movies, and tell me those young people don’t have problems. And I’m sure they weren’t conjured completely from the imagination of the writers, but from the experiences they knew audiences could easily identify with.

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    1. I think your movie references are great. And prove your point. And I love Stand by Me (1986). I was so surprised when I found out it was based on a Stephen King short story.

      Or imagine what they said about the youth when Elvis came around. And then the 60s (gasp!). I’m surprised this bullshit still sells.

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  3. Sexualized media – this one is just beyond hilarious. Do the authors even speak English? Or are they, indeed, trying to say that the media is being objectified sexually and that sad fact somehow magically makes today’s kids all bad? I can just imagine a teenager in her room getting all hot and bothered about the media. “Oooh, the NYTimes, you are so sexy!”

    Whenever somebody complains about sex and violence in The Media These Days, I just read a few passages from Macbeth. Between Lady Macbeth talking about how she’d be willing to rip an infant from her breast and dash its brains against a wall, or the porter talking about how he can’t get an erection when drunk, that usually shuts people up.

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    1. Oh yes, I totally agree. Shakespeare full to the brim with sexual innuendoes. People, I think in their desire to define his work as high class, forget that he was writing plays for a working class audience just as much as he was the aristocracy.
      I mean seriously, have these people not read Much do about Nothing? I also remember Toby Belch (I think) making a joke about blowjobs in Twelfth Night.

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  4. Actually, Clarissa, I find a great deal of today’s younger people (I’m 26, so I use the epithet for a very specific age-group) quite difficult to deal with, because they seem to have priorities and ideas very different from mine. You readers Pen and Nominatissima (and lately Jamie) sound a lot like late teens from when I was their age, but most younger people around me these days, bear no resemblance to the young, responsible adults they should be. And yes, I do think being brought up with far greater indulgence and far fewer responsibilities than most earlier generations were plays a part in this.

    In fact, you realise this yourself and have posted about it earlier. Your readers know how you helped bring up your ‘baby’. A lot of household responsibilities that were normal for young children not too long back — like looking after younger siblings, doing the grocery rounds, helping with cooking and running whole sets of errands for the extended family — would be considered child labour, or child abuse, or at the very least exploitative parenting these days. Plus being surrounded by consumer goods in an environment where not buying them is simply not a choice makes young people into perennial consumers — the ethic of instant gratification (I dislike the phrase but it’s apt here) developed by the market and indulgent parents makes a lot of these people — obviously not all — more focused on what they want than how to work hard to get it. As you probably have read, this has lead to a spiking of interest in quick-buck careers like sports, modelling, and most of all, reality television *at the cost of* most others. I don’t object to these careers, but I do object to the ‘at the cost of’. Some people even cited the London lootings as an instance of this ethic (I have mixed feelings about that).

    So yes. There is a great deal of convenient dumping on younger people, and there is a ready market for it — cantankerous older people who have quite forgotten their youth and pretend they popped into this world, forty and respectable. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t an actual phenomenon here that we should not be concerned about.

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    1. Honestly, I thought you were much older, maybe almost my age. 🙂 But that’s only because of how much you know.

      I think you just proved my point for me about how impressive this young generation is.

      I agree with you that there is a lot of mollycoddling of young people that goes on. They are given baby-sitters until they are 12!! How idiotic is that? Parents have to rush home to make dinner for their 15 year-olds. I can only imagine the whooping I would have got had I sat there on my ass waiting for my mother to come home from work and feed me.

      People even get baby-sitters for their second and third child when there is a perfectly good elder sibling right there at home.

      But let’s ask ourselves who is to blame for all this. Aren’t the very adults who treat their children like imbeciles incapable of taking care of themselves and younger siblings the people who create this state of affairs?

      Something tells me that the authors of this book mollycoddled their kids until they got my age.

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      1. My parents got babysitters sometimes when I was old enough to watch my younger siblings because they wanted me to have free time as well, rather than feeling like I had to spend it all taking care of my siblings. Since they explained this directly, I appreciated it rather than feeling mollycoddled or like I was expected to act immaturely because I “needed” a babysitter. Like everything, it depends on how and why it’s done.

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        1. Of course, I don’t mean this kind of situation where parents are so invested into the actual well-being of the children. I’m talking about the helicopter-style parenting where parents can’t leave the kids to their own devices for 3 minutes. They even do it with college-age kids! How crazy is that?

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  5. On video games: I have shot people, beat people to death and run them over in games like Grand Theft Auto. I have done hundreds of unspeakable acts in video games, and never once have I even considered performing them in real life.

    Overwhelming materialism: and this materialism didn’t exist 20 or 30 years ago? Not 50, either? This materialism didn’t exist in the Roman aristocracy or French monarchy?

    Child-centred educational and parenting styles: all Western society has been what one might ‘child-centred’ for quite some time; now that children are economic burdens for 18 odd years opposed to family money earners. Any child-centeredness in society surely affected them just as much as it did them?

    Societal permissiveness: at the same time as I hear one group of older people telling me that sexual permissiveness in society today is discussing, I also have great aunts (and a worlds worth of literature) reminding us that our generation didn’t invent sex.

    Sexualized media: I’m more of a Guardian man, myself. But pretty much anything apart from the Murdoch press, the Daily Mail and the Daily Express turns me on too.

    Guilt of two-income families: like you, I really get what they’re on about. I presume they mean parents feel guilty because they both work and spoil their kids rotten as a result. As a child of parents who both work, I’m plain calling that out as bullshit.

    I am also quite genuinely flattered that you mentioned my name here. Thank you very much.

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    1. We are all happy to have you here.

      I also have unleashed many a nuclear holocaust in my favorite Civilization IV and V. In RL, though, I’m a responsible tax-payer who never engaged in any act of violence, a productive citizen and – as some of my students tell me – even a role model.

      What’s with the whole anti-video games paranoia?

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  6. Video games eh?
    I said it before and I will say it again: I learned more about morality, human suffering, whether the ends justify the means, and trust from a video game, Shadow of the Colossus, than I ever did from any stodgy, condescending video-game hater.

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    1. Its a game I never played, tbh. And I got rid of my PS2 a few years ago (something I regret, in hindsight), so I am unlikely to ever play it, but there are certainly games I’ve played that have had very beautiful narratives.

      Video games are just another thing that some members of the older generations like to attack out of technophobia and misunderstanding. These are the same type of people that claimed TV or comic books dulled the brain; the same people that attack the internet and mobile phones today; the same sort of Reactionist, Social Conservatives that will attack technology for as technology continues to improve.

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      1. If you have a PS3 then there’s still hope. From what I understand Shadow of the Colossus and Ico are going to be rereleased in a combo pack later this year..

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  7. Most of these factors you list — a “permissive” society, child-centered parenting, sexualized media (though back then it was music they worried about, not TV or movies so much), materialism — were also widely bemoaned in the 1950s, which I am going to guess are the Good Ol’ Days this writer wishes to emulate.

    Video games did not exist, but comic books were totally going to destroy the morals of young people! I’ve read two wonderful books on the comic-book industry in its early years, one fictionalized and one not: MIchael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and David Hadju’s The Ten-Cent Plague. I would *LOVE* to get my hands on the seminal text of that particular moral panic, the psychologist Fredric Wertham’s melodramatically-titled The Seduction of the Innocent. Unfortunately, few editions seem to exist today, and those that do are horribly expensive.

    Even the anti-feminist mother-blaming undercurrent you detect was also in play in the ’50s; women in the US had poured into the work force during World War Two, and lots and lots of women coming of age in the postwar years had gone to college, unlike most of their mothers. The psychologists and child-rearing experts of the time (another historical novelty that persists today) spent a HUGE amount of time and energy telling women, through books and articles and sometimes in person, that their education and ambition were de-sexing them and making them unable to relate to their husbands or care for their children, and that the cure was full-time housewifery and as little education as possible.

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  8. I would just loooove to see all the people bitching about the horrible youth of today step into our shoes. We spent twenty years being told that an education is the key to a wonderful life. We trusted our parents and went to college, studied liberal arts as well as specific focused fields, gave up most of our free time to extracurricular activities and volunteering through both high school and college, got caught up in this absurd student loan bubble with tuition rates spiraling sky-high. Now we graduate into markets that frequently have one job opening for a hundred candidates, while starting our adult lives with a debt burden that would have been unthinkable for generations past. And while fully qualified mature adults with lots of work experience often can’t land jobs today, these jerks sit there and whine about young people still living with their parents and not working, as though that’s the life anybody wants.
    (I’m so pro-education, by the way, but the way our generation’s had to go about it in a really mucked-up way)

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    1. And, by the way, these were the exact same jerks who sat by while this whole thing was happening. Were they not the ones who voted in Bush? Twice? And now when the economy is in the toilet as a result of all that, they are upset with the college kids. yes, makes a lot of sense.

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  9. Video games – I didn’t know there were still people who evoked this silly bug-bear to support what is supposed to be a serious argument. I, for one, refuse to believe that playing video games is a less noble pursuit than publishing the kind of books that these authors have done. Actually, I’d much rather people just played video games instead of addressing their psychological issues through dumping on young people.
    All I have to say about people trying say that video games are so wasteful is this. When you read a book the ending is just sitting there waiting for you, in a video game you have to work for that shit. Books only have one ending whereas multiple endings is pretty common in video games these days (and often those endings require you to play on higher difficulty levels, thus making you work even harder).

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  10. History tends to repeat itself in successive generations.

    “Whenever people feel they have entered into old age (which is not a chronological but an ideological concept), they invariably start issuing proclamations as to how the younger generation is so much worse than they were in their youth, i.e. the time when the sugar was sweeter and the sun shone brighter.”

    Of course there is truth in what you say, but then there may be some truth in their observations as well. Regret for some is a helluva thing to have to live with.

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