The Age of Individualism

Will the millennials come back to community?

Great commentary! And lots of good information. I think your choice of many words was exquisite: "blur into libertarianism"; and especially "indifferentism". I just want to say thanks.....I am very old and many times I feel sad about being very old. Now I am not sad anymore. I would not want to be what you refer to as a "millennial". Nor a "GenX" either. Although my generation made too many mistakes, and partook of too many wars, I believe it was so much better than what I now see coming down the pike.

15 2017-08-09 22:36:46 - PogoWasRight

My wife just read that Facebook is now worth OVER $100 BILLION dollars. That's BILLION with a "B" as Carl Sagan said of the heavens. I find Facebook disgusting - but not because of its "worth". That one jerk has taken society to the cleaners by sucking my grandchildren and my daughters-in-law into his stupid social arena is disgusting. Zuckerberg is a predator, feasting on our children and adults, just as sexual perverts do. We just haven't caught up with the harm he and his brain child has done to our culture.

You state:
"Only pot, selfies and Facebook will abide — and the greatest of these will probably be Facebook."

What a sad and disastrous state for our country. Let's hope the Millenials catch on to Facebook's darker side.

1 2017-06-30 17:36:03 - MARSHALL MORETTA

Douthat is so wrong. Millennials are NOT individualistic. The age of individualism was from late 60s to early 70s when so many young people--and older people--were forced to ask big questions about social changes, rights and wrongs, and meaning of life. This was before political correctness set in, when the boomer young were divided and fragmented along many lines and expressions.

Today's young may seem to care about freedom, but they are mostly 'free' in the same way. The fact that so many of them are for 'gay marriage' means they were brainwashed enmasse by PC education and mass culture of decadent hedonism. Being braindead fans of Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus is to be minions, not individuals. And notice that everyone is into selfies cuz it's the cool thing to do. It's instant conformism spread via twitter and facebook. At least in the 60s, young people tried new drugs to find themselves. Now, young people just wanna smoke weed to tune out and think/feel alike with everyone else. They are adrift in the same cloud.
They don't rebel against their professors but spout the same PC nonsense fed into their heads.

Millennials are globo-conformists. The rich ones are neo-aristocratic admirers of fancy 'gay' style. The less fortunate ones are minions glued to celebrity news on the internet and twittering about the same thing; they imitate he rich-hedonist 'gay' style. Not a single one has the guts or fortitude to have a real individual thought or emotion. It's minionism.

4 2017-06-27 15:51:28 - Sandy Bates

More generational nonsense. The human experience has been going on for thousands of years. People are born every day not in twenty year batches. There is no conspiracy of people belonging to a "generation" conspiring to disenfranchise a subsequent "generation". These theoretical conflicts are media fictions. Things aren't going your way? Blame a "Boomer". Younger people coming in to your workplace? "They" don't work hard or respect authority like "we" do. Poor Russ Douthat. He keeps hoping, as most conservatives do, that the clock can be turned back to "those thrilling days of yesteryear". Change is hard but religious social conservatives like Douthat need to adjust and adapt, not blame "generations" that do not conform to their world view.

28 2017-04-20 22:17:14 - mike

Book recommendation: Jon Haidt's "The Righteous Mind."
It might give you a different perspective on liberal and conservative tendencies. Even if you disagree, it's a great read.

0 2017-03-08 08:28:48 - dgrose

How is a belief in marriage equality "post family"? Really, Ross?

10 2017-02-24 19:13:20 - Eduardo

I would add that the Catholic Church, in the Middle Ages and early Renaissance, was itself a totalitarian system. It is striking that Douthat exempts this example of our susceptibility to totalitarian regimes even as he laments it. A global religion is not a contrast to Fascism and Communism - it is an example of the same thing. In between these bouts of concentrated power may come brief summers of decentralization, but it is hard to argue that there has ever been an extended period in any society where more than a few individuals held all the cards. The US may have experienced a period of balanced power between the election of FDR up to the election of Ronald Reagan, when unions were strong, and our culture and tax structure helped to keep the beast on a leash. If so it has long since waned, and delusions about their own "individuality" among twenty-somethings surely help our burgeoning plutocracy more than harm it.

2 2017-02-14 08:43:11 - tony zito

Ross laments the loss of community, a common conservative lament. Yet it is conservatives who lampoon community (or hasn't he noticed the fun folks like Sarah Palin have with the phrase "community organizer"). And how can you expect people to coalesce into a community if your central principal is to praise the entrepreneur and to dismiss those who are weak as lazy moochers.

Maybe Ross does not personally celebrate the mean spirited individualism of the conservative movement but until folks like him call these folks out, they cannot expect the rest of us to take them seriously.

My son started as fairly conservative in his views, but despite being off to a good career start in business, he despises Republicans. And as far as I can tell, so do his peers.

12 2017-02-06 09:33:59 - Terry McKenna

The only reason we can perceive anything is because of self / the soul.

If you don't find the soul profound, you're missing out on life JUD.

It's a shame you need 'belief' to fill in for the missing 'awe' that gives meaning to everyday life.

1 2017-02-02 17:35:21 - Bree

Gee, Ross, you mean as opposed to the greed-is-good, never-too-rich-or-too-thin, only-suckers-pay-taxes, Billionaire-Boys-Club ideologies that characterized Reaganism? Or how about the Hell No We Won't Go burn-your-draft-card '60s youths who later--in comfortable middle age--declared that no-exceptions military service should be compulsory for all those selfish spoiled youngsters? Or your own penultimate-year-of-Generation-X (you're younger than I thought, Ross) bunch who are pretty much on the scene now and seem to be the basis for so many of your current complaints?

Oh, yes, the millennials have a tough act to follow.

2 2016-12-18 07:29:21 - Hans Christian Brando

"Will the millennials come back to community?" I'm still wondering when the Republicans will come back to community. That used to be their bailiwick.

2 2016-12-16 14:39:06 - Sharon Foster

I don't take much solace in libertarianism, which I believe is a dangerous trend. If anything, as the young "own" things, they tend to get more conservative. In my generation, the hippies into sex, drugs and rock and roll became Reaganites once they owned a house and paid taxes. They still distrusted government, but from the opposite side of the political spectrum.

The nature of libertrianism is that it can be unmoored. How can one predict where it will go therefore? However, I can say that as the right has embraced it, we have seen the general welfare of our society get worse for most Americans and wealth and power grow more condensed. The solutions of the past such as the social contract and social activism of religious groups is nothing compared to what it once was. I am far from "my country right or wrong". But I am very much a partisan for my country and our society. I tremble for both should all most Americans care about are "me, myself and I". There was a famous book that referred to "Entertaining Ourselves to Death". That is a sad substitute to engaged citizenry which our founding fathers knew was the basis for both a fully functioning democracy and a healthy society. "Leave me and everyone else alone" may push the right away now. It could push the left away later if the demands upon the self to belong to something bigger than self become unwelcome from that corner as well. Self-interest may not always be enlightened. The last 35 years have proven that one.

3 2016-12-05 01:56:56 - Tom

In other words, reality has a liberal bias.

It always has and it always will.

Conservatives try desperately to hold onto the frozen past and maintain pointless, uninspired traditions, but it's all just one big pathetic time in a bottle obsession impeding all forward progress.

Religion has nothing to do with reality; it's nice to see more people are noticing that.

Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels; it's nice to see more people are noticing that.

Thinking is good for you; it's nice to see some Americans are firing up their brains independent of our corrupt political duopoly that has reduced our public policy to a cash-and-carry fast food shack.

Politics often fails societies, although occasionally it has its moments of redemption.

Government can do good and bad; conservative ideologies help it fail spectacularly.

It will be nice to see how a fresh generation of youngsters reacts to the growing realization and eventual outrage at their elders for creating a cesspool of economic disparity, injustice, moneyed speech and limited opportunity so a few sociopaths could have all the marbles.

I hope the age of individualism puts the age of narcissistic greed in the guillotine it so truly deserves.

Conservatism has no logical or relevant place in a progressive society; it has proved its utter uselessness and irrelevancy repeatedly.

The only thing saving conservatism is fear of reality, fear of change and fear of others.

Fear and 1% tax cuts: Conservativism 2014.

48 2016-11-25 07:14:01 - Socrates

America IS the land of individualism where any perceived infringement on personal liberty is called socialism; where individual rights, rights such as unrestricted gun ownership, trump the common good and common sense. Individualism in America, far from leading to communism (something which seems contradictory on its face) has led - in the context of capitalism and the facile patriotism which permeates the culture - to a lonely materialism empty of community and human attachment. Instead we have the tepid substitute called social media - human contact mediated by computers and corporate America.

Mr. Douthat may be right about the future since individual humans, unlike individual cats, seem more susceptible to herding.

54 2016-11-18 03:34:16 - Richard Chapman

So Pew poll says that Millenials are "socially liberal on issues like immigration and marijuana and same-sex marriage, proudly independent of either political party, less likely to be married and religious than earlier generations, less likely to identify as patriotic ..."

Douthat seems to think that these developments reflect a narcissism that presages the death of American freedom.

I have different explanations, to wit:

a) Whole sectors of the economy depend on the labor of illegal immigrants, who should therefore have rights commensurate with their contributions to the economy.

b) It is depraved to send joint-smokers to prison to be brutalized by stronger inmates and turned on to harder drugs.

c) There is not one single shred of evidence that allowing same-sex marriage does any harm to anyone.

d) Women, in their modern economic dependence, don't have to put up with unlimited amounts of garbage from their husbands anymore, and can consequently divorce, thank goodness.

e) Both political parties are so beholden to a corporate money that it would be foolish for young people to trust them.

f) Sending our young men to die in order to buoy up corporations like Halliburton and Blackwater does not inspire patriotism.

g) The constant tattoo of backward misogyny and homophobia that emanates from the Evangelical and Catholic churches does not inspire admiration.

19 2016-11-16 19:49:51 - Jim Grossmann

I agree that the human need to belong to a group will prevail–it is evolution's gift to humans that has allowed us to become the dominant species on earth. The conflict, however, remains between our need for social belonging, which frequently inspires us to altruistic behaviors that do not directly help us as individuals, and the individual drive to selfishly do what best helps us get ahead.

This conflict' also evolution's gift, has played itself out throughout history in ways that have caused us to sacrifice ourselves to support our tribe, but be eager to violently destroy those from other tribes who threaten us. When the world was large and there were only a small number of nearby tribes with which we could disagree, this more or less worked out. As global becomes the new neighborhood, this is a recipe for endless strife.

If humans are to survive, we have to learn to expand our notion of tribe. If we cannot, we doom ourselves to constant conflict that will likely destroy us. As millennials inevitably rejoin society, let's hope they are able to continue to have a more expansive sense of who "we" are.

4 2016-11-13 07:45:30 - MarshallD

One hopes not.

It is the individual making decisions for himself that created a nation where there was none.

It is the individual acting on his own that created an economy based on excellence.

It is the individual taking responsibility for himself that created a society that redefined the old institutions into a viable healthy new community.

The old world mentality of "it takes a village to raise a child" has resulted in 47% of the population taking more than they produce.

Time to recognize that the basis for all healthy growing societies is the individual, not the group.

3 2016-11-07 18:57:05 - Canis Scot

NSH - I think what Diana was saying wasn't necessarily in direct conflict with your sentiments. But Boomers didn't all take and not give....Civil Rights and anti-war marches were not all self-involved. As for Fox, the Tea Party etc....I find it curious that you want to hang that on Boomers happened on your watch.

9 2016-11-04 13:38:41 - JUD

Sorry Ross, I am a just pre baby boomer and have seen as people grow older (not necessarily mature) they drop into predictable patterns. They will become more conservative, marry more and often and want to keep what they have. The main deference is the ever present cell phone which for most increases self indulgent tendencies. We are no longer confronted with the specter of World Communism but world domination by the electron.

1 2016-10-21 06:56:07 - Don Grant
NSH, for someone who claims to be tolerant & community-minded you sure are interested in developing the idea of generational conflict.

I'm a late boomer, and what I remember is people joining the Peace Corps (some of my friends), others working to control/prevent environmental damage, and there were a few I knew who joined communes. In the PNW, there was the Hoedads (a communal or cooperative group). There were also VISTA volunteers. It's difficult to see those actions and groups as "taking" in the sense you seem to mean it.
Other "boomers" fought for women's rights, Native American "boomers" (that generation) fought for better treatment of Native Americans and more rights for them w/regards to the BIA, et al.
Maybe your US history courses in school weren't very good? Sure there were selfish people, there have been selfish people throughout US history. For sure there are selfish people in the so-called Millennial generation too.

As far as I'm concerned, most of the generational conflict is just another game played by the upper 5%/ruling elite (of all and any generation) in the US. Just as the wealthier whites did a great job of turning working class/poor whites against working class/poor blacks-- thus preventing the possibility of people uniting to decrease economic injustices/unfairness via voting, unions, etc.
Is that what you want? To be even further exploited by the wealthy elite?
2 2016-10-17 03:35:55 - garnet

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