Here an introduction for the layperson. The past several months have seen a flurry of postings and columns in which Generation X and Y Feminists have expressed exasperation at the ways of their Baby Boomers mothers. Snark and sarcasm factors have been high. This argument has quickly grown very personal indeed. Linked below is the latest salvo in a growing war of bitterness and resentment. What I have written here may not be worded as tactfully as it needs to be, but I wrote it feeling decidedly annoyed and opted to keep my initial response. The essay I have referenced is snide and condemnatory, so I couldn’t help but return a volley or two of my own.
Tag: generation gap
Oct 08 2010
Some incumbent Democrats in danger of being voted out of office are attempting to lean heavily on the youth vote this election. I applaud anyone’s effort to reach out to that particular group, though I have to say the act seems tinged with desperation rather than genuine, lasting outreach. Voting demographics must be cultivated and allowed to flourish with time, not reached for when desperately needed. Considering this attitude, I find it unsurprising that few politicians can rely on such a crucial group. Instead of throwing one’s hands up or lecturing in hopes of creating guilt and shame, I argue that politicians, pundits, and columnists need to look at the subject very differently.
Mar 13 2010
With the passage of time, fellow Friends at meeting have come to me with helpful suggestions. They insist I should read this book, or this epistle of George Fox, or this collection of essays by one of our Society’s notables. Obligingly I have read these one by one and am certainly fortunate that I now have a better understanding of Quaker history and how everything came together in space and time to make the faith the way it exists today. It is always helpful to see the intersections and make the connections throughout time that link the past with the present. Indeed, as history was my major in college and has been a lifelong passion, my interest already leans towards such pursuits. Certainly nothing I read was ever taught in any history class I took, even in graduate school. Each have been fascinating reads, but as I dug deeper and deeper into them, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Why have we hidden our light under a bushel?”
Beyond spiritual functions, I’ve gotten the same treatment from people who feel as though I need to do my homework first before I step any further into any activist group, association, or organization.
If you’ll forgive the archaic sexism of the passage, the King James Bible renders Matthew 5:15 as
Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
This passage has given rise to a familiar idiom, the act of hiding one’s light under a bushel. It doesn’t matter what gathering of believers I attend nor whichever secular group that receives my membership that I don’t see something along these same lines. Assuming you talk to the right person or persons, you’ll uncover much that is inspirational and fascinating. Yet, why not extend full understanding or full comprehension to all without the need for intermediaries? Is that which I speak merely an oversight of habit that must be corrected by whomever speaks up loudly enough? Or, is it some deliberate distrust of those who have yet to suitably prove their mettle or commitment? The intentions may not be sinister, but they are certainly detrimental, regardless of why or how.
As always, I find the beginning of any movement the most fascinating—the first efforts where, in this case, one man’s vision became adopted and advanced by other believers. This initial flowering appeals to my senses most keenly. Likewise, my favorite musical songs are appreciated for the moment at which the opening chords and melody blossoms into the hook. I am drawn to the instant at which the attention of everyone is drawn to this new creation. I am also drawn to the promise of wholesale fulfillment and with it the incredible possibility of that of that which might lie beyond. I extend this same interest to a desire to build from the ground up in my own life and by my own example. The passage has particular resonance with a Quaker audience, particularly with our belief that the Light of God exists within each of us.
To provide some contrast, in my activist work, I keep a close eye on the issues in debate within Feminist groups, particularly those issues which pertain specifically to Young Adults like me who wish to contribute to the movement. A week or so ago, an articulate and intelligent voice wrote a highly pertinent but also very critical essay taking aim at The National Organization for Women, known to most as NOW. The post took the organization to task for its failings to stay current to the existing political debate while expressing no small frustration that it seemed like there was nothing the author could do personally to make the internal changes necessary. Even from within, the author’s voice had fallen on deaf, or at least uncomprehending ears.
The essay was, I am happy to report, received in the spirit in which it had been intended, and a response by NOW was drafted and posted. In it, the reader was greeted to a very well-researched narrative detailing how the organization had been founded, providing the names of the people instrumental in putting it together, and documenting well the great struggles of those who expended the time and energy to build it up from the roots. It was a fascinating read, but as I dug deeper and deeper into it, bouncing from the story and contribution of one largely unknown person to another, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Why have they hidden their light under a bushel?” Certainly nothing I read was ever taught in any history class I took, even in graduate school.
If it be modesty or shyness on the part of those who have the strategies and wisdom, then this can be corrected. If it be to avoid attention, others more comfortable can vocalize that which needs to be shared with a larger audience. Friends and friends alike, what if the solution existed within us? What if that solution could be realized and put into place so that we could best attack a lingering problem? What if we didn’t we didn’t hide our lights under a bushel—all of us? What sort of world would we live in then?
Mar 11 2010
Michael Walzer’s piece entitled “Missing the Movement” is so relevant and smartly written that I felt inclined to read it through four times before beginning to thinking about formulating an adequate response that would do it justice. I am overjoyed to find someone who has managed to put forth a strong, sound hypothesis as to why recent reform efforts tied to a resurgent liberalism have been so limited while setting out cogently what we ourselves ought to do to fix the problem. Having identified what went wrong, let us now proceed to take on the hard work and soul searching necessary to get past it. For as it is written, “Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.”
Liberalism is the American version of social democracy, but it lacks a strong working-class base, party discipline, and ideological self-consciousness. None of these are in the offing, but we need to be aware of what we are missing, and we need to begin at least the intellectual work of making up for it. European social democrats are on the defensive right now, but they have a lot to defend. Liberals here are in catch-up mode, and not doing all that well. We know more or less what we have to do, but we haven’t managed to give the American people a brightly colored picture of the country we would like to create. There is a lot of wonkishness on the liberal left, among American social democrats, but not much inspiration. We haven’t found the words and images that set people marching. As an old leftist, I can talk (endlessly) about citizenship, equality, solidarity, and our responsibility to future generations, but someone much younger than I am has to put all this in a language that resonates with young Americans-and describe a “city upon a hill” that may or may not be the same hill that I have been climbing all these years.
It is this section in particular which resonates most strongly with me. I notice this kind of stultifying dullness among those who have, for reasons unknown, exchanged wonkery for truly impassioned discourse and inspirational rhetoric. The result produced is robotic and bloodless, for one. For another, it’s downright Pharisaical. In this circumstance, Dictionary.com defines Pharisaical as “practicing or advocating strict observance of external forms and ceremonies of religion or conduct without regard to the spirit.” I have noted, sometimes with anger, sometimes with frustration, never with satisfaction, that this is true not just in gatherings of religious liberals, but also quite evident in multiple settings and causes comprised of vocally secular liberals. Going through the motions without understanding the passion will never serve anyone’s cause well and indeed, it is partially why we find ourselves in the mess in which we are now. Layering laws upon laws, formalities upon formalities, and procedures upon procedures might seem to be helpful upon first glance, but they end up separating ourselves from each other, not pulling us together.