I was just perusing David Brooks’s essay in The Atlantic, chronicling the staggering destruction wrought on the extended family over the last century and a half in the United States.
The essay, like Brooks, I find a decidedly mixed bag–more peanuts than chocolate chips.
Brooks is a hysterical Never-Trumper, and his political analyses are worthless in my experience. But his essay provides some thought-provoking data and a few interesting conclusions. Brooks writes:
This is the story of our times–the story of the family, once a dense cluster of many siblings and extended kin, fragmenting into ever smaller and more fragile forms. The initial result of that fragmentation, the nuclear family, didn’t seem so bad. But then, because the nuclear family is so brittle, the fragmentation continued. In many sectors of society, nuclear families fragmented into single-parent families, single-parent families into chaotic families or no families.
In the argument over immigration, conservatives have expressed a lot of concern over the last 30 years about the problem of assimilation. Will immigrants assimilate into American culture like early twentieth-century immigrants did? Or will they silo themselves in ethnic communities and remain permanent cultural aliens with citizenship?
Not discussed is the fairly evident question: assimilate into WHAT? The American culture of the past has been deliberately and systematically obliterated by a progressive siege lasting decades. Family, faith, national pride, loyalty, tradition, and community have been tarred with ‘isms’–racism, sexism, nationalism, fundamentalism–and very little traditional American culture remains. Brooks writes:
I often ask African friends who have immigrated to America what most struck them when they arrived. Their answer is always a variation on a theme–the loneliness. It’s the empty suburban street in the middle of the day, maybe with a lone mother pushing a baby carriage on the sidewalk but nobody else around.
These immigrants from Africa probably want very much for their families to experience the American standard of living: healthcare, government-provided education, career opportunities, plentiful goods, infrastructure, etc. But those are amenities, not culture. What immigrant in his right mind would want his children to adopt the cultureless existence common among America’s youth?
I’m talking about the hyper-sexualized, nihilistic pop music and movies. The toxic individualism. The serial dating through a lonely, childless, isolated young adulthood. The 50-percent divorce rate. The pornography. The disconnection from the very old and the young, who are incarcerated in nursing homes, daycares, and schools. The reduction of education and wisdom to mandarin credentialism. The rampant ethos of careerism, which encourages the young to drop family like a hot rock and move to chase ever-more lucrative jobs or educational prestige. The rampant tech addiction and its accompanying narcissism. The philosophy of scientific-materialist atheism, which relativizes everything traditionally meaningful to human beings.
And the loneliness–even during so-called “socialization” in workplaces, schools, and synthetic gatherings of strangers, like networking events, activity clubs, and parties.
Faith and family have been the historical vessels of culture, moving the young, the community, and the nation into the future. This is probably why LGBT groups, radical feminists, socialists, and globalists have hacked away at them so determinedly over the last 100 years. They correctly understood that faith and family were the dikes that must break before radical change could flood the country and turn the United States into a nation of fully interchangeable droids.
Immigrants 100+ years ago were presented with an attractive culture to join in America: a nation of close-knit communities and churches, full of people who by and large believed in hard work, family, charity, God, community loyalty, law abidingness, and education as a spiritual good in itself. Today, they are presented with a cultural wasteland, full of literal and figurative strip malls. No wonder they often resist assimilation, ghettoing in communities to hold on to their religions and family structures.
I interviewed an elderly black man for an article a few years ago. He opined to me that the changes of the Civil Rights Era destroyed black communities in America:
You would go to black schools in the early 60s, and you’d meet young boys dressed in pressed shirts standing in a row, with church-going, married black men in suits and ties telling them to stand up straight, behave respectfully, make something of themselves, and support one another. Those teachers were strict, but their strictness was love. The strictness told those boys they belonged–to a family, a church, a commuity, and to America, segregated and unfair as it was at the time. Those boys knew they had responsibilities and a purpose in this world.
Then the federal government in its infinite wisdom bused those boys to white schools with white teachers to “help” them–which usually meant feeling sorry for them and telling them they were owed something. And what did that do? They lost it all. The families, the churches, the sense of responsibility to their communities, the self-respect, the respect for others. They didn’t belong, had no identity or purpose. They joined gangs to get family and belonging. They made up a culture to replace what was gone, a culture full of saggy clothes, weird-a** hairstyles, dumb music full of profanity and women-hating, full of resentment toward whites and “society” and America.
In their rush to make the United States a color-blind society, progressives inadvertently made the United States a community- and culture-blind society. Many Americans are now inured to this state of affairs; but it strikes recent immigrants as insane and self-destructive. Human beings require strong bonds of affection and understanding with close allies, or they wither. Culture is the glue of these bonds. This is fairly obvious to any mind not indoctrinated in ‘multiculturalism’–which is more often than not just cultural nihilism.
Absence of supportive culture is killing Americans and driving them crazy. Somehow, pundits still manage to act surprised when one lonely, alienated young man after another takes up a rifle and inflicts his pain on the world in a nihilistic rampage. And lest one wander to the canard of ‘toxic masculinity’–women act out from loneliness, too. They just do it by cutting themselves, putting their fingers down their throats, or taking a bottle of pills.
What’s really surprising is that there aren’t a lot more mass shootings by de-cultured, family-less young men, a lot more young women taking the whole bottle of pills. It’s a testament to America’s young that ANY of them choose to continue in the world we have bequeathed to them, a world where ‘online community’ is treated as a serious concept rather than a contradiction in terms.
Loneliness, lack of strong family, and absence of culture may account for the popularity of socialism among the young today. Socialist politicians have successfully conflated ‘socialism’ with ‘communitarianism’. Many young people seem to think the new ‘friendly socialism’ will bring economic sharing and togetherness, factitious families of revolutionaries who support one another, a mass movement and a tribe all in one. Such an outcome seems unlikely. Advanced socialism rarely brooks local, family-like attachments of any kind: “Thou shalt have no other god before the Party.”
Not only can the United States not assimilate recent immigrants into a wholistic culture; it can’t even assimilate the young people already here into a wholistic culture. No culture exists, except what the consumer conveyor belt provides: an ever-changing, monstrous amalgam of trendy goods, vaporous entertainment, garbage ‘deconstructive’ education, and a quixotic quest for fleeting experiences, whether they be sexual liaisons or Instagram-worthy vacations.
The United States suffers from junk-food culture. No matter how much its people eat, they are starving.