The idea began gnawing at me after watching some news stories while in Germany. Why did the younger generation so long for “someone” to step in and give orders? And why communo-environmentalism? What was the attraction for so many younger people in Europe? And the US for that matter, when you start to think about things.
Could it be in part the lack of property and space?
Not entirely, no, but what happens when you have two generations that grow up in rented apartments and houses without the possibility of owning their own piece of ground? Always living in cities, occasionally going to visit parks and other open areas, but returning to spend most of their time in the cities. Combine that with the absence of a sense of past, and could it affect how they view the world? Or what about a warped sense of the past, being pounded almost daily that their people were uniquely guilty for horrible deeds? Eventually a reaction would come, and seems to be coming.
It would certainly make it easier for those with an environmentalist-fundamentalist “calling” to encourage the younger urban generations to “save” or “preserve” an environment they’ve never really seen. They see the city. They are told over and over that Nature is endangered and choked with pollution. Animals in remote areas are dying horrible deaths because of humanity’s over-expansion and over-abundance of amenities. The fact that large swaths of “nature” are not built-over, plowed-under, or festooned with tattered plastic bags would never occur to them, because they’ve never seen anything like that. They see the city, and pollution. Of course the world needs to be saved from urban blight. Of course the polar bears are starving, and the birds have disappeared, and trees are endangered. Experts tell the younger people that, and it fits what they see. It becomes easy to agree that the planet needs saving, and to vote for legislation and politicians who promise to save everything that is “out there,” even though people happen to depend on that same landscape for food, fuel, and shelter.
If you live in a world of rented property and leases, does it make vandalism easier to justify? I’d think that it might, because “the man” owns the building or the store, not a person that you know. Why not tag it to show the Establishment just what you think of social injustice? Why not shatter windows and burn cars belonging to “the rich” or evil, rich international businesses? You have nothing to lose, and the faceless power that is “a greedy capitalist” suffers, not a real person.
Looking farther, does living in a smaller world make it easier to deny things to others? “I don’t need a 2000 square-foot house on an acre of ground. I don’t need a car, so no one else does. I don’t need a big truck, and they destroy the environment, so no one else should have big trucks. Private property is theft.” They do not see the possibility for ever owning a home or even an apartment in a co-op, and so they deny that privilege to the rest of society. They’ve never had to care for property, to be responsible for everything. That’s what the super is for, or the land lord, or the government.
I’m over-simplifying. That’s a given. But I wonder how many farm kids and teens or young adults from more rural parts of Europe took place in the Hamburg car-b-ques this past summer? As with Occupy Wall Street, which did not seem to catch on too easily between the Sierra Nevadas and Appalachian Mountains outside of Chicago and possibly Kansas City. Urban life does not cause people to become left-progressive political activists. But it seems to encourage that tendency, or at least to make it more apparent. There are left-progressive radicals in the rural parts of the world. I’ve met several. They tend to be hard-working and well-meaning, and several tutted at OWS’s more extreme moments.
Historically, cities have always been more radical than the countryside. Medieval Europe certainly provides multiple examples, as do Early Modern Europe and modern Europe and the US and Canada. Large urban populations imply sufficient resources that at least part of the population does not spend every waking hour worrying about doing enough labor to keep themselves fed on the farm. That is especially true today. But until the advent of the internal combustion engine and transportation that did not require horses and oxen, the city and the country remained fairly closely tied together. Now a mental-moat seems to be developing between residents of the large urban agglomerations and the less densely peopled areas.
I’ve read articles arguing that people find it harder to connect with other people once cities reach a certain population density. The crowding and constant interaction lead people to shut themselves away from neighbors. Also, they tend to become more dependent on government for certain things, in part because there’s no choice. You don’t know enough people to ask them for assistance, and they don’t know you well enough to consider offering it. And so on.
A single strong leader, a mayor, or a president-for-life, a Dear Leader, a First Secretary, doesn’t seem that much farther to jump. Authoritarians impose order, or so those who prefer them believe. And we seem to have a large swath of younger people who are desperately confused and looking for order. Their world is under threat of environmental and racial destruction, or so they have been persuaded. Haters are out to get them and their friends, people who want to re-enslave visible minorities, or to put homosexuals into camps, or who don’t believe in anthropogenic climate change and who refuse to see how that plastic grocery bag is destroying the planet. A strong leader is needed to put things to rights, to organize the forces of good so that they can defeat the forces of evil.
I’m not certain what the solution is. The media and major entertainment outlets, and swaths of the education industry have so inculcated their preferred story that some days I wonder how on Earth or any other planet to get through to the younger activist set that no, the entire world is not like that, and that in some cases, they have been horribly misled and lied to. Some days it takes a lot of effort to remind myself that despair is a sin. Fortunately those days are rare, but I watch the media, especially from outside the US, and really wonder.