Tom Brokaw wrote a book in 1998 called, “The Greatest Generation,” about the American generation that survived the Depression and went on to fight for freedom in WWII. Brokaw wrote in his book, “… it is, I believe, the greatest generation any society has ever produced. He believed that the men and women in this generation fought not for fame or recognition, but because it was the “right thing to do.”
We are losing this WWII generation on a daily basis and as they pass the baton to the younger generations, I wonder if this older generation’s values are being passed along or are they being passed over.
Former president Jimmy Carter wrote about this in “Our Endangered Values: America’s Moral Crisis” in 2005, which was “dedicated to our children and grandchildren, for whom America’s basic moral values must be preserved.” Carter wrote, “I am convinced that our great nation could realize all reasonable dreams of global influence if we properly utilized the advantageous values of our religious faith and historic ideals of peace, economic and political freedom, democracy, and human rights.”
What is causing this erosion and endangerment of our former values? I call it a “creeping extremism.” You see it increase every day as extremists throughout the world are committing egregious acts without significant consequences from moderates who used to be in the majority. Extremists have begat extremists, so that they are becoming the new majority. This is polarizing our world, removing the moderates, who in the past made our world a better and safer place to live.
What is happening to the generations that follow the Greatest Generation? Well, they have not had the same moderating influences. Going through a depression will significantly influence your value system. I remember my father and mother both believed in “doing the right thing” no matter what the consequences might be. They were selfless and made moral decisions based on how their actions would impact others. Today’s generations, without the moderating influences of major economic and wartime pressures, are selfish and their moral values are based on how their actions will impact them. It’s all about me and not you.
Now, these are generalizations. Clearly, there are some members of younger generations who are wholly committed to serving society and not themselves. But it is a matter of percentages. A great majority of the younger generations have not gone through economic deprivation and therefore have placed themselves on a high pedestal. They believe that “greed is good.” If these individuals were asked to give their lives for their country, I suspect I know what most of them would say. And their question would be, “What is in it for me?”
The problem with extremism and fundamentalism taking over the world is that it will lead to worldwide totalitarianism. There are those in powerful positions today who believe that they should control the world for themselves, not for the benefit of others. There is a big difference between philosophical Marxism, which is designed to benefit the working class, and the real-world communism, which controls and subjugates the working class. The new world leaders will want the rest of us to be completely under their control. When “freedom” is no longer important to the masses, it will be replaced by “free” government entitlements. The masses will become addicted to the government and just like drug addicts will give up their freedom for a fix.
So as we lose the Greatest Generation, I pray that moderates within the following generations can maintain some modicum of control to protect our children and grandchildren for a few more years. However, I think the most we can hope for is to preserve democracy for the remainder of this decade.