After reading Generation Me, I got to thinking about leadership in our generation. I don’t think we have leaders like we used to. I’m not sure our generation will accept leaders. Here are some ideas I’ve been thinking about since being disheartened by Jean Twenge’s book:
Living In Criticism
If a leader does emerge, count the costs, make a decision, and point a direction, our generation will be unhappy with it. Our country loves to criticize, to satirize, and to tear down. Already the country is getting upset with President Obama because he’s withdrawing troops next year instead of immediately. They’re getting upset that a national health care bill is has not arrived by now. The news actually spent the time to criticize President Obama’s jeans when he pitched the opening pitch at the MLB All-Star game, saying they did not look fashionable.
I don’t think our generation will slow it’s hyper-active, critical spirit. This would be mostly because technology (Ipod, internet, credit cards) is allowing us to have what we want, when we’d like it, and it’s taught us that we don’t have to be measured, reasoned, or patient in our lives. This also means that when we’re tired of something, or we don’t like it, we have plenty of options. Example: how many countless times have you clicked on a link in a google search to find that the link was loading slowly. Then, instead of waiting, you quickly hit the back button and try the next link. If a Youtube video doesn’t load quickly, we get irate. I’m going to extrapolate this type of response as an explanation to what I see in my students today. Students repeatedly ask me questions and, while I am mid-sentence explaining the answer, interrupt with another question. It seems to me that the students are getting bored with the complete question and want to back up and try a different route to get an answer without me talking nearly as much.
This bleeds into how we view religion, also. We’re built to criticize, to deconstruct, and to take apart claims of the religious. Any decision made by a pastor or leader will soon be criticized because it’s not perfect, as no plan will ever be. We’re trained to distrust anyone but ourselves and our feelings or comfort- a dangerous thing when our hearts are deceitful.
Criticism is no longer something that we would base in fact or reasoned explanation. We may criticize now purely based off our personal tastes about anything that is in our scope. If we don’t like how our President dresses, we aren’t slow to complain. We are slow to think if even discussing the matter has any consequence. And I’m not sure if this has always been the case, but I feel like our leaders suffer more from destructive criticism today.
Too Much to Think About
This has been an issue with the church for a long time. There are so many religions on the worldview market that many people don’t know how to differentiate different worldviews and make a decision on what they will reject. Now, however, most are tired of critically thinking and having to deduce what might not be true and decide that as long as a person is an okay person, they’ll go to heaven… or whatever the good reward is after death.
This apathy might be from the conflict that arises between our desires and feelings and a tenant of a belief. This is most apparent while we cross-walked. Out in Dinkytown, with a giant cross at our side, we saw hundreds of drunk students walk by and claim allegiance to the Catholic (or Lutheran) church. After being asked about what they believe, most would say that drinking isn’t bad, Jesus himself drank wine, and as long as you’re an okay guy, you probably will make it to heaven. A great majority believe it didn’t matter what you believed, because all worldviews were basically the same. Many went on an on about their friend who wasn’t the same religion, but they thought that was cool. The distinct feeling you may get from listening in on these conversations was that most didn’t want to commit seriously to an idea. Most wanted to be okay with everything.
Good luck to the next revivalist. Maybe I’m saying this a cynically, but I honestly believe it is tougher now to have meaningful discussion about religion. The general public, on the surface, doesn’t want to be inspired by meaningful ideas or by moved by God. Most are happy being moved by anything that’s easy- alcohol, TV, music, movies…
Everyone’s a leader on the internet
It’s funny how quickly some become experts on subjects. We’ve all had the experience in college or high school where students would argue relentlessly with a teacher on any point they could, even though the professor or teacher was completely qualified to give sound judgments in their area of expertise. This sense of the grand self makes our generation more willing to speak out about anything, and, with the advent of blogs, everyone can see your opinion.
This is deliciously ironic that I’m writing this on a blog. There are a few things I can say in my defense. Blogs as a communication or discussion tool are not what I’m (hopefully constructively) criticizing. I’m criticizing the idea that all have equal say now. I’m also criticizing the now-oft-applied rule that popularity is the new measure of importance.
Look at Digg.com or Answers.com. The thing that drives them is the populous. Digg relies on word of mouth to develop its content. Those who think something is cool simply “Digg” it. The crowds decide what is important. Similarly with answers.com- when a question is asked, the populous responds and the best answer is given by the number of approving votes. We’re removing the discerning editor and replacing it with the discerning people to deliver content. This isn’t bad! What is bad is if our generation mistakes popularity with importance, meaning, or truth. What is bad is if we make the mistake of erasing any distinction in understanding or qualifications, such as having a Ph.D. in the subject. If I we were to ask on answer.com: “Which worldview is correct?” Would a popular response be a truthful or a meaningful, or even a coherent one?
I would really like to hear what people have to say. I think are things to be thankful for and positive about, but that’s for my next post, I think.