Why young Americans passively accept the status quo

August 20, 2011 | By | 7 Replies More

I just finished reading Bruce Levine’s article at Alternet: “8 Reasons Young Americans Don’t Fight Back: How the US Crushed Youth Resistance.” It is a rare day when I read a detailed article with which I so completely agree. Here are eight reasons why the great majority of young Americans passively accept massive social injustice, incessant warmongering, and a stunning amount of lying and betrayal by most of their so-called leaders:

1. Student-Loan Debt.
2. Psychopathologizing and Medicating Noncompliance.
3. Schools That Educate for Compliance and Not for Democracy.
4. “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top.”
5. Shaming Young People Who Take Education—But Not Their Schooling—Seriously
6. The Normalization of Surveillance.
7. Television.
8. Fundamentalist Religion and Fundamentalist Consumerism.

I highly recommend Levine’s article for more details on each of these reasons. I especially agree with his arguments that by fighting back, young Americans perceive that they are putting at risk their chances of engaging in the material good life that they crave.  Fighting back, and even speaking out in person, can destroy one’s chances of getting a “good” job.   Most people I know limit their “activism” to bitching about problems on social media, and failing to get out on the streets and in the faces of elected representatives.

I would add at least the following two items my own to Levine’s list, however:

9. A sense of resignation that the political process can no longer result in meaningful change, especially after the crushing spectacle of Barack Obama abandoning working folks, and crawling into bed with big oil, insurance, telecommunications, media and banks in order to pad his re-election war chest.  Most people with whom I speak have no interest in engaging in the political process on the national level because it is almost entirely corrupt.

10.  The powers that be have needlessly complicated virtually every aspect of American life, such that reform is a substantial investment in sorting through vast quantifies of misinformation, something that is made almost impossible without assistance from experts, including legal experts.  In other words, becoming an activist in most areas these days is intimidating. For most people, getting seriously involved in a major political issue means that they will give much more than they are willing to offer to their country.


Category: American Culture, Censorship, ignorance, Orwellian, Propaganda, Protests and Actions, Spying

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (7)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    Glenn Greenwald suggests that we are getting to the point where the discontent with Government is so overwhelming that even the hurdles listed in this article aren’t enough to maintain the status quo.

    Even if one takes as pessimistic a view as possible of an apathetic, meek, complacent American populace, it’s simply inevitable that some similar form of disorder is in the U.S.’s future as well. As but one example, just consider this extraordinary indicia of pervasive American discontent, from a Gallup finding yesterday [finding that only 11% of Americans are now satisfied with national conditions.].


  2. “by fighting back, young Americans perceive that they are putting at risk their chances of engaging in the material good life that they crave”

    Uncle George Carlin who said that the powers that be, the owners, will not at all be satisfied with just getting more for themselves, but will also want to make sure that everybody else gets less. I think that by doing so they will ultimately remove that barrier against resistance to their rule. I may not see that day though….

    • One of my favorite movie quotes is from a relatively little-known Richard Dreyfuss film, “The Big Fix”—wherein F. Murray Abraham, playing the part of a former antiwar activist-turned advertising man says: “You know why it’s so hard to be a rebel in this country? Because it’s like being a spoil sport at an orgy. They lay all these goodies out for you and you feel like a shit when you say no.”

  3. Jim Razinha says:

    If you give any credence to John Taylor Gatto’s theories of the mass educational system in the U.S., it shouldn’t be a surprise that resistance was crushed. Even if you take Gatto with a grain of salt (and eye skeptically his more fringy conspiracies), a lot of what he says makes sense when examined this way.

    And Planetary Paul, good point from the master. The making sure everybody else gets less applies to the fundamentalists as well – not happy with building their own mental walls, they don;t want anybody else to think either.

    • I think Gatto gets carried away and tries to make his case with several kitchen sinks that don’t all fit in the room, but at base I agree with his general thesis. Which is why I have no patience for people of a certain age who complain about the lack of critical thinking coming out of schools today. My response is always “So, when did schools teach that? I don’t remember it when I was there.” And I’m now old enough that this carries weight.

      But it does go back to other factors. I was thoroughly turned off by school, yet never lost my curiosity or my sense of “mission” if you will. That was because at home my parents both insisted I not take what I was handed at face value. I did not get that in school and it’s quite possible I would not have, no matter how the system is laid out. All the factors that have driven me to be inquisitive, intellectual, and skeptical are from outside the formal systems and I doubt that would change. What we should try to do is establish a system that compliments these other influences.

      But one thing is hard to overcome—peer pressure. When being the “smartest guy in the room” gets you continually disinvited to party, there is a lot of negative pressure to dumb yourself down.

  4. Dan Klarmann says:

    Sitting in school makes you a student like standing in a garage makes you a car. Isn’t that how it goes?

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