Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Wonksters--A Good Friday meditation

In this morning's New York Times, David Brooks, in an article titled "The Empirical Kids," quotes extensively from a student paper he received in a class he's teaching at Yale. The student, Victoria Buhler, he says, is examining herself and her generation, kids who are heirs of "the aughts," a decade that took us from Sept. 11 through the deepest economic woes since the 30s.  

That kind of social analysis is always interesting, even if--and when--the landscape artists who produce them end up eventually having been wretchedly out of focus. Victoria Buhler may well be wrong, but she's writing as one of them, a child of the generation that came of age in a decade that featured significant American misfortunes.

Brooks says that much of what Ms. Buhler says in the paper is of interest, documenting, as it does, her and their vision.  She claims that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, for instance, along with the moral fervor that created those commitments, have made her generation wary and skeptical of not only of armed action abroad, but also of the moral arguments used to legitimize those actions--and thus, moral arguments themselves. 

He says she says that America's financial misfortunes have made her generation equally wary of believing in capitalism because corporations created the long and wearying mess we're still digging out of.

What happened when her generation came of age, she says, simply killed off the idealism otherwise typical of young people.  Not only was the recession a horror, the Arab Spring--a phenomenon so full of promise--has led nowhere, and the Occupy movement died of terminal atrophy. So much for hope.

Brooks ends with this sad note:  
I had many reactions to Buhler’s dazzling paper, but I’d like to highlight one: that the harsh events of the past decade may have produced not a youth revolt but a reversion to an empiricist mind-set, a tendency to think in demoralized economic phrases like “data analysis,” “opportunity costs” and “replicability,” and a tendency to dismiss other more ethical and idealistic vocabularies that seem fuzzy and, therefore, unreliable. After the hippie, the yuppie and the hipster, the cool people are now wonksters.
To a guy who is irretrievably "late 60s," such change signals a kind of apocalypse.  Brooks says he gave her an A.  She deserves it.

And, if she's right, we might well conclude, even and maybe especially on this Good Friday, that the rest of us deserve her generation's blighted perceptions. 


Anonymous said...

Sounds like these youngsters need to witness God's guiding hand in history. Without this perspective, I agree, their perceptions become a "blighted" vision.

I've raised four "wonksters" who are not disillusioned with capitalism and the moral arguments that undergirded our involvement in the wars. [In fact, one of my kids did two tours of duty.]

We than God...they are all grounded in Jesus Christ. I am sure their social analysis would look and sound far different than the Yale student account.

Happy Easter!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous' comment is why we are all so frustrated and disillusioned. How can we hope for change and social justice and embrace scientific breakthroughs when half of our population thinks that the world is only 6,000 years old...

Anonymous said...


You wrote that comment on Good Friday!

Hey Frustrated & Disillusioned:

Christ created this thing called earth and all that is on it. I think he has got, change, social justice and scientific breakthroughs all figured out.

Get your eyes off yourself and focus on what He did for you on the cross 2000 + years ago.

It is the Easter season after all.

Anonymous said...

And what happened to your Jesus? What did he say when he visited the establishments temple in his day? How are the "christians" caring for the poor in our day? Why are there so many poor in our day? Is your Christ and Jesus the same? How is that working out today?

Anonymous said...

Obama and all the lefties have enabled the church to not to it's job of serving the poor.

The church, despite this government enabling, must follow the scriptural mandate to serve the poor, no doubt. Let's start with mainline church's view of buildings and material wealth of denominations swallow-up loads of resources that could serve the poor.

Also, Christians need to vote in Conservative job creators instead of lefty liberals who change nothing in our inner cities. Take Detroit... Chapter 11... liberal mayors for over 50 years and the plight of African Americans just continues to get worse. Obama has left the black community with a 13.8% unemployment rate. This has go to change.

I too believe Christians need to do better. However, do not be disillusioned or frustrated. I saw the same challenges when I was young and devoted my working life to serving the disabled. My challenge to you is go and "do it unto the least of these" like I did.

Anonymous said...

"What happened to your Jesus?" ...HE died for you and for the 'christians', they do way more than their fair share than the rest of society. Just look it up for yourself instead of just blatantly blaming Christians for the social injustices that we have in every culture in the world.

Anonymous said...

To the one wondering where Jesus is, you sound like a B A I T E R. Wonder what that is? FInd out in Dr. Phil's new book, "Life Code". YOU just might fit.

Philip Sedlak said...

And, this reader would like to ask, why is Brooks’ conclusion a “sad note.” I believe it is about time that “evidence” be used in making judgments. The term “evidence-based” has been a cliché, i. e., a buzzword in development circles for at least ten years. As I came late to that revolution, I was naïve enough to think, “Well, if we weren’t basing what we were doing on evidence, what were we using?” Bravo, Ms. Buhler. I find this all uplifting. Long live rationality!

Anonymous said...

Hey JCS:
I hope the person who came late to the revolution was not one of your students.

Re-enroll him and re-program him. He is rowing with one oar.


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