David Brooks’ "Modesty Manifesto" and the "Call for Intergenerational Justice"

>David Brooks’ recent editorial addresses some of the issues raised by the “Call for Intergenerational Justice,” the topic of my previous 2 posts. He notes that Americans today are more self-confident than previous generations and place much emphasis upon their own self-importance. “In short, there’s abundant evidence to suggest that we have shifted a bit from a culture that emphasized self-effacement — I’m no better than anybody else, but nobody is better than me — to a culture that emphasizes self-expansion.”

Brooks also wonders if this attitude shift contributes to the debt we have accumulated and why we are having trouble getting that debt under control.

Most pervasively, I wonder if there is a link between a possible magnification of self and a declining saliency of the virtues associated with citizenship.

Citizenship, after all, is built on an awareness that we are not all that special but are, instead, enmeshed in a common enterprise. Our lives are given meaning by the service we supply to the nation. I wonder if Americans are unwilling to support the sacrifices that will be required to avert fiscal catastrophe in part because they are less conscious of themselves as components of a national project.

Perhaps the enlargement of the self has also attenuated the links between the generations. Every generation has an incentive to push costs of current spending onto future generations. But no generation has done it as freely as this one. Maybe people in the past had a visceral sense of themselves as a small piece of a larger chain across the centuries. As a result, it felt viscerally wrong to privilege the current generation over the future ones, in a way it no longer does.

Read the the whole piece here.

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