In every generation, young people need to differentiate themselves from their parents. Like almost all human endeavors, this exercise is based on the fallacy that finding an alternative version of your parents’ beliefs and proclaiming it different.
There was another version of this experience that happened on a broad scale. In France, in 1789, the overpopulated proletariat decided that their problem was not their own reckless breeding but their leadership. Thus they staged a mass protest and then executed enough smart people to drop the average IQ in France by ten points.
Ever since their, our history and personal behavior have followed these two archetypes. When individuals enter a new group, their first act is to differentiate themselves by doing something outrageous — but it must affirm the notions of the group. Similarly, whenever our politics become stagnant, we declare a “revolution” and destroy anyone intelligent, then settle for a dumbed-down version of what went before.
Thus instead of benevolent kings, the French got Napoleon. Instead of social stability, we get endless “novelty” that isn’t all that novel and when viewed from a neutral distance, appears as embarrassingly simple-minded as it actually is. Where our forefathers wrote symphonies, we have to content ourselves with doing things in a broken way and calling it “innovation”:
Sonic Youth have been praised for having “redefined what rock guitar could do”, using a wide variety of unorthodox guitar tunings and preparing guitars with objects like drum sticks and screwdrivers to alter the instruments’ timbre. The band is considered to be a pivotal influence on the alternative rock and indie rock movements.
That’s up there with the contemporary art “mistaken” for trash at a famous gallery. The reason the word mistaken is in scare quotes is that it wasn’t mistaken for trash; it was trash, or at least made of it. While the usual chattering classes would like you to argue on and on about whether this is “valid” or not, a more interesting question is whether or not it is ambitious or meaningful in any sense. Most of us find it trivial.
In fact the root of modern society is triviality. We specialize not in depth, which might divide us, but in minor changes in appearance that make the same old stuff seem new long enough to sell it to each other. Our politicians manipulate us with such tokens and then make incremental changes that do not affect the whole. They are aided by a legion of media commentators, academics and bureaucrats trying to sell us on the idea that these trivial changes are important and demand our immediate attention. And yet when they go all wrong, nothing happens; in the meantime, when we ignore the real issues we skip over to focus on the triviality, serious problems occur.
Rebelling against this process is useless however. Most rebellions end up like the indie band with garbage on their guitars claiming to be innovation. Even worse, most people expect rebellions to be this way: more triviality, in a new form. Thus even a powerful thinker who allows his work to slide toward revolutionary rhetoric will quickly be absorbed by a large group of people who demand the novel triviality be reborn. For this reason, the answer to modern society is not to follow its pattern of iconoclasm and overthrow, but to escape the appearances game entirely and focus on the non-trivial.
However, we still need a way for the youth of tomorrow to shock their parents. I suggest to these children that the quickest way to grow up is to tackle an actual grown-up issue instead of trivialities, thus I suggest to them that they take a truly radical path:
Refute the guillotine.
Acknowledge that the Revolution in France was a mistake that led to barbarism because it had no natural course to follow, since it was an ideology based on fear of power and not responsible use of power. Affirm that whole families — men, women and children — were sent to the gallows for no reason other than that they were more intelligent and noble than others. Reject the idea that blaming others for our problems as a society is a workable solution. Remind everyone that the true symbol of leftism — or liberalism, progressivism, greenism, whatever it has renamed itself today — is the guillotine.
Even following liberal movements cannot save you from the guillotine. When they ran out of enemies of the state to execute, they began pointing the finger at each other. Once the revolutionaries had murdered every noble they could find, they began killing each other for not being revolutionary enough. Eventually this culminated in dictatorship and Napoleon raging across Europe in the name of bringing the enlightened good news of liberalism to others.
Shock your parents. Don’t aim for surface trivialities, where you can get into trouble with specifics. Aim for the heart of the beast. Refute the guillotine. Point out that liberalism is insane. Use the nihilism of modern society to say that there is no inherent morality of equality, and that chasing such a chimera will lead us down the path to the guillotine yet again. Liberalism is like a germ on the unwashed hands of a doctor, infecting and killing every patient he sees until finally he eats a sandwich at lunch and then it kills him too. The only true iconoclasm is washing our hands of liberalism entirely. And it is the only thing that truly makes those in power shake in their boots: the thought that they will soon have no way to manipulate us.