25.7.17

TRANSGRESSIVITY IS FOR POOR PEOPLE.

Do as I do, not as I say.
The most elite circles of American life are the most critical of traditional living and are, with the very notable exception of religious life, some of the most traditional in their own life choices. College students have by and large turned back the clock on the sexual revolution, overwhelmingly preferring stable, monogamous relationships. They don’t smoke or drink very much. They focus on building careers. When they want to have children later in life, they get married, and, once they get married, they tend to stay married.

This should lead us to a few conclusions. First, the concerns about widespread cultural collapse that have been in vogue since the late 1960s and that may perhaps be best encapsulated by Pat Buchanan’s Culture War speech, delivered at the Republican National Convention in 1992, are less pressing now. The current young generation holds more moderate, more sustainable, and even more conservative attitudes toward sex, relationships, and drugs than the generations before it. This does not mean that there are not serious challenges — in particular, there are very worrying signs of social collapse in working-class America, from the opioid crisis to the continued decline in marriage rates. But the resurgence of traditionalism among America’s young is real, and it’s something to celebrate.

Secondly, it’s clear that traditional institutions have very considerable staying power, at least among the elite. The very cohort that mocks marriage and monogamy as patriarchal and old-fashioned ends up in healthy marriages at historically high rates. It is clear to most elites, at least to judge from their personal preferences, that marriage and committed relationships offer something that casual sex, polyamory, and the bachelor life do not.

This suggests that the threats to traditional marriage are less than some conservatives have feared: There is nothing about same-sex marriage, culturally liberal attitudes, or cosmopolitanism that inevitably leads to the culture-wide erosion of monogamy or of marriage as an institution. But it also suggests that there really is something special about a certain traditional type of living, something that doesn’t allow for substitution. Upper-middle class progressives don’t need to be told this — they know it well enough. But communities struggling with divorce, unwed parents, and drug abuse could stand to benefit from this message, and it is a terrible shame that America’s elites preach the opposite.
Perhaps it's not so much shame as it is cynicism: don't judge the Deplorables, they'll self-destruct long before they get around to writing the College Boards.

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