In my last column, I wrote about the Halloween riot in Madison, Wis., after which at least one reader accused me of glorifying rioters’ behavior.
Needless to say, no thinking person would even condone – much less endorse – the kind of idiotic, Neanderthal violence that tarnished Halloween this year in Madison. Not only did the rioting cause senseless damage for when private citizens will end up paying, but it was also a tragic abuse of an unusually friendly police force that went out of its way to show patience, courtesy and leniency to revelers.
Now that I’ve had some time to think about it, I’d like to offer a theory as to why our generation consistently demonstrates such a profound eagerness to loot and pillage its college campuses. Madison was only one of many seemingly pointless riots that have erupted at Midwestern universities in recent years, and there are sure to be more in the near future.
First, let’s briefly run through the list of things authorities say cause all these baffling college riots: Liquor? Yes. Stupidity? Yes. Testosterone? Naturally. Not enough police? Well, maybe.
But do these things add up to an explanation? No. Every past American generation has overindulged in booze, partied until the break of dawn and behaved ignominiously in their college years. So what is different about our generation that we have so many riots?
Let’s look at who is doing the rioting. Contrary to popular myth, the rioters are neither psychopathic sports fans nor stereotypical unruly frat boys. After watching events unfold in Madison, I realized the people who partake in these riots are normal college students who come from average, middle-class backgrounds and who lead otherwise unremarkable lives. Yet something inside them transforms them into violent miscreants when placed in the right circumstances.
Here’s an idea: What if liberal parenting is to blame? After all, this is the generation raised by the baby boomers, the hypocritical anti-authority generation that spent its 20s smoking Mexican shwag and listening to The Beatles and now sues the local high school when one of their kids gets kicked off the soccer team for drinking.
The baby boomers ruined public education by lowering standards so their dumb kids wouldn’t feel bad about being stupid. Thanks to them, U.S. high schools are the last bastions of communism in the Western world, in which high marks are handed out like toilet paper according to need rather than merit.
The boomers shielded their children from everything hard in life. If the kids got in trouble, the parents blamed it on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and sued the school for being insensitive to their children’s needs. If the kids got bad grades, they admonished the teachers and elected politicians to tinker with the school system. If one of their kids wanted a $60 Nautica shirt, instead of making the lazy kid get a job to pay for it, the parents just bought the shirt.
Now, take these kids – these overprotected babies with inflated egos who grew up in an insular world of video games and consumer lifestyles – and turn them loose at college, which popular culture has led them to believe is four years of “Animal House.” Is it any wonder these jerks show a lack of good judgment and restraint?
But there is another factor that should not be overlooked. Despite our material affluence and liberal parentage, young people in the United States actually have lost a lot of freedom in the last few decades. Smoking cigarettes or carrying a toy gun can get you kicked out of high school. The universities, far from being marketplaces of ideas, are governed by the pseudo-decorum of political correctness. And every important aspect of young people’s lives – from the curriculum we are taught in high school to the tuition rates we pay in college – are dictated by corporate interests and government bureaucracies so remote and powerful they seem almost godlike.
Now, combine two things: a generation raised to believe it can do whatever it wants without consequences living in a world where it has no control over the things that affect it most. What incentive is there to behave?
Riots like the ones in Madison, Mankato, Minn., and here won’t be prevented by simply putting more cops on the streets after football games and cracking down on underage drinking.
Bad parenting, liberal social ideas and the nihilistic mentality produced by the consumer era have produced a whole generation of spoiled brats who set cars on fire and smash storefront windows for no other reason than because they can.
At this point, there is not much anyone can do except to try to appreciate the ironic humor in it and hope it’s not your car to which the egomaniacal horde sets fire.
Nick Busse is a columnist. He welcomes comments at [email protected]