by michael on December 14, 2010

Teen Tyrants

           I don’t remember how I found the article Teen Tyrants by Jeffrey Folks www.americanthinker.com but it resonated. I wrote a posting on December 1 on self esteem, inspired by an article by Dennis Prager. Self Esteem: Don’t Have It? No Problem. Folks begins his Teen Tyrants article writing about teens committing horrific murders in Japan several years ago. He attributes their brutality to social ostracism and low self esteem. Well, if he says so, but the assertion reminded me of Prager’s key points, so I kept reading, but with an edged cynicism. I concluded that whether or not Folks was accurate regarding the Japanese teens was irrelevant to other points which he more persuasively asserted.

            Folks went on to analyzed the mob activities that occurred in London in the past few days. These three paragraphs capture the essence of how Folks framed the issue of their explosive and whimsical violence.

It was the mob attack last week on Charles and Camilla that brought back these memories for me. This attack was also the work of teenagers for the most part, but it had a very different source. The violence in Britain was the work of an inflamed mob, roaming en masse from one object of attack to the next and arrogantly chanting “off with their heads” as they assaulted the royals’ car. These were not the actions of lonely outcasts driven to despair by years of abuse. Rather, they were the acts of young people who felt an almost unlimited sense of entitlement and who became enraged when their expectations were not met.


In addition to the mob that gathered outside Parliament and then swarmed through London’s shopping districts, a second teen mob was on the rampage last week. The “Anonymous” mob apparently seeking “payback” for the detention of Julian Assange caused temporary disruptions to the websites of several major financial institutions.


This second mob had a similar profile to the one rampaging in central London. These were not teen pariahs acting out of desperation. Like the 16-year-old Dutch boy arrested Thursday, they were largely middle-class youths who are the product of an affluent society. They were young men and women who, with their excessive sense of entitlement, claim the prerogative to flout any law with which they disagree.

            Folks does not address the issue of the joy—a nearly erotic pleasure—inherent in exercising power to hurt and intimidate people. Rather he hypothesizes about the destructive and infantilizing consequences of the entitlement mentality. Folks concludes that:

Indeed, I suspect that it is not the raising of tuition fees, in and of itself, or the fate of Julian Assange that triggered the enraged responses of the London mob and their Anonymous peers. Rather, it was the dawning sense that society has reached a crossroads after which more will be expected of them and less handed out for free. Read the complete article.

            Reason and logic and mental processes matter little to these entitlement-oriented people, as the facts narrated by Folks in the tuition and Assange events could not rationally justify strong disagreement, let alone violence, by these teens. Here is where I fault Folks for not going far enough.

Reason is not an end in itself. It has value, and by this I mean moral value. To the degree reason is in service of virtue; it has a higher calling. But reason is thoroughly rejected by these teens and by their like-minded ilk. Passion, not facts, is the fuel for action by these thugs, and passion, obviously, need not be for a noble calling.

            Their attitudes evoke recollections of statements made by sloppy and self-indulgent yet horribly destructive radicals of the past. Mussolini, in a 1932: interview, said, “Reason is a tool but it can never be the motive force of the crowd.” Hitler spoke about the need for a “revolt against reason.” More recently, during the Columbia uprising in 1968, students chanted such profundities as “the issue is not the issue.”

Thus we see the exquisite irony that people chant “truth to power,” yet in their ideology, there is no truth. There is only power. They are contradicting themselves to the core. Their operating foundation and ideology are subverted and undermined, yet, since, conveniently, a contradiction is just a construct of the mind, who cares?

A variation or permutation of that entitlement mindset, and, admittedly, a less violent and purulent off-spring of it, held by these entitled-drenched teens, is that they want things to be easy. Many of my friends and colleagues have interviewed dozens of college graduates seeking employment in their prestigious law firms, businesses and investment firms. To my peers’ dismay, applicants did not present themselves as ‘can do’ people committed to overcoming all obstacles to success. Rather, they came as brats inquiring about vacations, bonuses, how soon they can make partner and when can they use the company condo in Vail and Aspen?

I recall a case decided by Italy’s highest court a few years ago which ruled that a father had a duty to support his son in a lifestyle similar to how the son was raised until such time as the son found employment deemed acceptable and fulfilling by the son. At the time of the litigation, the son was, as I recall, in his early thirties.

            In England and France, high school students are already planning their retirement and thus are very concerned about their benefits and pensions. They are already voting for those politicians that promise to take care of them as soon as the impeding few decades of work—or the appearance of work—in between passes.

            A colleague working in the foundation department of one of the preeminent spinal cord injury treatment hospitals in the world shared this dismaying vignette. One of the hospital’s most supportive donors had risen from near poverty to great wealth through decades of tenacity, hard work and creativity. Grateful and humbled by his success, he paid for the college education of several economically disadvantaged youth. At a reunion which he also funded, he inquired about their plans and visions for work, achievement and contributions to the greater good. Without exception, each graduate declared that he or she wanted to work for the government.

Not a single one wanted to go into business; not a single student wanted to be an entrepreneur or had a vision to create the fabulous wealth that their benefactor had created—wealth which had so significantly benefitted each of them. Not one.

Of course, government service encompasses a wide swath of human activity, from standing amidst a large highway repair crew watching someone else dig a ditch while occasionally waiving a car to slow down, all the way to serving in the CIA in Sudan. The latter service, however, was not what these students had in mind. Not a single one wanted to serve in the military.

In contradistinction to the epic achievement of the individual that made their education and potential lifestyle possible, they chose security, low risk, the opportunity to be part of—perhaps hide—in bureaucracies and, as a general proposition, they chose to avoid an environment where failure would likely be visible and where personal accountability was minimized. Given my biases and preferences, I found this information to be disturbing and not boding well for the future of this country. Riots are occurring in Europe because entitlements are threatened. It is likely to happen here also.

More later.

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