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The Ron Paul Generation

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I only have a few more months to speak as a “youth” before I turn thirty. After that point, I’ll be on the other side of the looking glass, lavishing praise on “the future of our movement” while my mind and body decline into senescent irrelevance. Okay, not really. I’ll surely get old, of course. But I consider the artificial delineation of people into chronological identity groups to be one of the less obvious, more insidious ways that Modernity has undermined our worldview and crippled us as a people.

Our society’s one in which we attend school in chronologically defined “classes”, relocate to special age-delimited dorms when we come of age, and get carted away to grimy nursing homes to hide our suffering and death from our more youthful family members. Even our churches, those supposed outposts of tradition, segregate youths into special “youth groups” that deliver a more hip, modern, and casual relationship with a less judgmental God than our parents worship.

I do spend my money on different things now than I did when I was a teenager, and my spending habits will evolve in predictable ways as I age. To the marketplace, my age is much more relevant than my race, my ethnicity, my religion, my politics, or my personality. Personally, I resent being defined by my age—even while it remains flattering. It seems to me that people who wouldn’t dare define themselves by their ancestors or ethnicity are quick to carry on at length about their “generation”, reveling in generational identity cues in the same way healthy human beings would revel in the identity cues of their families, communities, and congregations.

I watched My So-Called Life when it originally aired on MTV, and will always have a special place in my heart for Claire Danes. I listened to Pretty Hate Machine with headphones on, played Nirvana Unplugged in my bedroom while writing bad poetry, and (with the notable exception of the notoriously difficult Lost Levels) have played and won every major Mario Bros. title. To some extent, those things do define me. But I would prefer to be defined by the family and community I’m from. My late grandfather never watched MTV and my father imbibed a different decade’s pop culture, but I cling to the belief that I’m more similar in more important ways to them than I am to random cohorts in my age demographic.

Based on what the media had told me all my life about my coevals, I had always assumed I was entirely out of step with my generation. But a funny thing happened on the way to the new world order: part of my generation started speaking for itself. Part of my generation has left the establishment speechless by rallying in support of Ron Paul. The septuagenarian contrarian has managed to leapfrog the Baby Boomer generation altogether to forge a fanatical majority of young conservatives without any of the puerile pandering to “Young Republicans” that the GOP establishment has been floundering at for years.

How could it be that a subset of the population raised on an exclusive diet of self-esteem boosting happy talk, big government propaganda, and multicult mythologizing is turning en masse to an old White guy who’s closer to John Birch than Jon Stewart? Libby Copeland, one of the feminists in Slate’s menstrual hut, is trying to dismiss this phenomenon with a confused theory that Ron Paul’s message attracts young men because they’re politically unrefined rubes who gravitate to simplistic ideas.

The notion that this year’s election is a choice between freedom (in the form of Paul) and tyranny (in the form of any other candidate) encapsulates Paul’s grand appeal to men in their late teens and 20s: He traffics in absolutes. Political scientists point out that age and newness to politics predispose young voters to a less nuanced view of the political world. They’re less likely to take the long view, less likely to have patience, less likely to spin out the implications of their political theories.

Do any political scientists subscribe to my hypothesis that young women’s disproportionate support of Barack Obama in the previous election was due to the vapors? Of course not. These “scientists” who peddle broad and disparaging gender stereotypes only do so in the anti-male direction. The political scientist in question, Peter Levine, is the author of “Young, Black, and Voting“, “The Civic Engagement of Young Immigrants: Why Does it Matter?“, and an amateurish novel in which his protagonist outwits nefarious Nazi scientists. He is a veritable caricature of Prof. Kevin MacDonald’s Culture of Critique, and the notion that he’s willing or able to objectively judge the voting, mating, or migratory habits of his historical nemeses—White males—is laughable.

Libby Copeland paradoxically condemns Dr. Paul’s popularity and growing support base as mere branding because—wait for it . . .—he insists that his supporters immerse themselves in an extensive reading list of political and economic theory!

Unlike supporters of, say, Obama or Mitt Romney, Paul supporters tend to talk about an absolute truth, one that others would see, too, if they could just be persuaded to read certain materials. Among them: Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, and Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. These, of course, come from Paul, who gives an exhaustive list of recommendations at the back of what he calls his “manifesto.” [. . .] To the extent that voters try to communicate who they are through their candidate affiliation, Fairleigh Dickinson’s Cassino believes that what Paul offers more than any other Republican candidate is compelling branding.

Ron Paul is the anti-branding candidate, having actually made a point to eschew opportunities to deliver catchy sound bites and slick branding in favor of long-winded diatribes and relentless grassroots hustling.

“The Ron Paul brand is actually relatively intellectual,” Cassino says. It’s “A brand that’s about, ‘I’m smarter than you are.’ . . . ‘All the politicians are telling you one thing but I know better.’ ” This is the brand for those who feel different, who see themselves as a little bit brainier and more marginalized than everyone else. “If you’re playing Dungeons and Dragons, this is your political movement,” Cassino says.

Oh, snap! Copeland’s article is one big desperate attempt to drag Ron Paul down to the same level as the majority of mainstream politicians from both the left and right. ‘Sure, he seems intellectual, but that’s empty posturing and it’s really about subcultural status cues!’ Frankly, it smacks of projection. By attempting to imagine what could possibly compel somebody to vote for somebody as extreme as Ron Paul, they betray a bit too much about what compels them to behave as they do. Ron Paul’s supporter’s aren’t vapid hipsters self-consciously preening their political perspectives to achieve the adulation of their peers. They’re men of my generation who are calling “bullshit” on the triumphalism and happy talk the Baby Boomer generation wallows in.

Men of my generation do share a thing or two in common due to our collective experiences. We were subjected for the first half of our lives to a school system that bloated our self-esteem with unwarranted praise and inflated our optimism with empty promises. Then the twin towers imploded on us. Then one sector of the economy after another imploded on us while our experts and educators insisted that everything was hopeful and changing for the better. More than anything, we’ve been longing for somebody on the national stage to level with us about how bad we suck, how disastrously off-course we’ve gone as a society and a nation, and how hope and change can only be had in exchange for deep and painful sacrifices and a radical realignment of priorities.

As a Radical Traditionalist, I reject Ron Paul’s libertarian ideology as a misguided doubling down on the very mercantile morality that got us into this mess in the first place. I disagree with Ron Paul and his supporters on the scope and nature of the problem, but he has–more than anybody else on the national stage–embodied the deep visceral reaction to decades of pandering and pampering we’ve endured while it all falls apart around us. He has managed to become the voice of my generation because he’s the last of a dying breed of men who roamed this country before this dark age of impenetrable arrogance, pandering to demographic focus groups, and all the happy talk. Our support for Ron Paul is the predictable “blowback” from decades of insufferable and irresponsible happy talk.


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