|Ottawa nuclear family, 1802, from the collections of the Comte d'Argenteuil.|
In the great American tradition, millennials would like to have their cake and eat it, too. A few years ago, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis came out with a song called “Can’t Hold Us,” which contained the couplet: “We came here to live life like nobody was watching/I got my city right behind me, if I fall, they got me.” In the first line they want complete autonomy; in the second, complete community.
But, of course, you can’t really have both in pure form. If millennials are heading anywhere, it seems to be in the direction of community. Politically, millennials have been drawn to the class solidarity of the Bernie Sanders campaign. Hillary Clinton — secretive and a wall-builder — is the quintessence of boomer autonomy. She has trouble with younger voters.Far be it from me to defend Macklemore and Ryan Lewis—it would be hard for any sentient being to be much less invested in Macklemore and Ryan Lewis than I am, and one of the house Millennials informs me that this is an especially awful song, though allowing that it was pretty popular (the other one doesn't particularly recall it but says of Macklemore in general, "It's like quoting a Vogue article, there's no content", that's my girl)—but for one thing from a purely literary-critical standpoint Brooks is reading that wrong: it's not a couplet, but the last line and the first line of two distinct units, as you can see from a longer excerpt:
Deuces goodbye. I got a world to see, and my girl she wanna see Rome,"We came here to live life like nobody was watching" is the second line of a couplet representing a song, and a song asserting not autonomy but that intense group identity that Millennials fall spontaneously into, tribal but not congenital—about the "we" who come together in the city to form a tribe, if you like, when society has failed to provide one. And "I got my city right behind me" is the rapper's reply to that imagined chorus, "my city" being that same willed community that will catch him in the mosh pit, if they still call it that. In that way the Brooksian analysis is completely wrong, as usual; the song has nothing to do with the cake-having and cake-eating theme he's proposed for it, but it does want to make a communitarian point.
Caesar'll make you a believer. Nah I never ever did it for a throne.
That validation comes from giving it back to the people. Nah sing this song and it goes like
"Raise those hands, this is our party
We came here to live life like nobody was watching"
I got my city right behind me
If I fall, they got me. Learn from that failure gain humility and then we keep marching ourselves
And then it offers "giving it back to the people" in contradistinction to a "throne" as a desired validation, so it's pretty doctrinaire liberalism. I think. Learn from that failure, Brooksy, and gain humility. Where are you going, did I say something wrong?
Also, Clinton's "trouble" with the youth vote may be, like the report of Mark Twain's death in 1897, somewhat exaggerated, given that she was 53% to 17% against Trump in the latest McClatchy poll among 18-to-29s (41% to 9% if you added in Johnson 23% and Stein 16%).
Nor is she the "quintessence of Boomer autonomy" but the author of one of the most insistently communitarian books ever written by somebody who was not Amitai Etzioni, It Takes a Village (1996). Which David Brooks charmingly evoked in 2005,
Anybody who thinks it takes a village to raise a child has never sat near a crying baby in first class. In these circumstances, if it were up to the village, somebody would be stapling the brat's mouth shut and somebody else would be locking mom in the overhead storage compartment.(It's so key that he doesn't imagine people in economy class would ever have a problem with that. They're just not as sensitive as us gentry, let's face it.) He has more in common with the Trump than he realized!
(Snopes, I should say, asks us not to report that Trump threw that baby out of the rally, which he didn't, though they don't reject the interpretation that he made "an insensitive, heartless, ordinary-person-embarrassing remark.... it was an unusually barbed endorsement of the mother’s own decision to depart.")
Clinton's "trouble" with the youth vote, which was indeed pretty serious in the primary, had no relation to Brooks's theory, but was a direct consequence of propaganda painting her, falsely in my view, as a "Republican lite", a person somewhat like David Brooks in fact, a supporter of the Iraq War and oppressive bankruptcy law and cruelly tossing children off the welfare rolls. In short, it was about the issues, not about Brooks's sociology fan fiction, because Millennials are in reality smarter, at least smarter than Brooks is; and it's to be hoped that these things are falling away as her actual views come to be better known.
In reality, she stands, as she has always done, for my Boomer generation's deep desire for community to step in and take responsibility, not in moralistic condemnation but in caring, so that "the least of us" will have a better life. What's called "liberalism" and is forever beyond the intellectual and emotional reach of David F. Brooks.
And "wall-builder"? What was that all about? Yes, I think I know. He's really such an insidious little swine.