posts 1 - 15 of 36
freemanjud
Boston, US
Posts: 154

Reading to respond to: David Brooks, “America is Having a Moral Convulsion,” The Atlantic, October 5, 2020


David Brooks, a Canadian-born American who is widely regarded as a conservative-leaning moderate New York Times and The Atlantic correspondent, wrote what is a very timely and thought-provoking article in this month’s issue of The Atlantic. He describes a series of historical patterns in which periodic moral convulsions occur, in which people feel “disgusted by the state of society,” “trusts in institutions plummets,” “moral indignation is widespread,” and “contempt for established power is intense.” He then argues that in response, a “highly moralistic generation appears on the scene,” using “new modes of communication to seize control of the national conversation.”


That’s your generation, folks.


Is Brooks right?


Check out his argument in this very readable, very current article. He focuses on social trust. He ponders whether we are experiencing a period of national decline. He tells the story of Valentina Kosieva who has seen more in her 94 years of life than any of us have seen in ours.


This is not a happy article. But it does get you thinking.


So here are the questions I’d like you to address, in response to what you have read here. Be sure to make specific references to the reading.


  • Do you think that people are operating in this moment as they seem to be because they do not have trust in—that they instead distrust--society? Why or why not?
  • How do you respond to the question Brooks asks: are we living through a pivot or a decline?
  • When you hear “the United States is the greatest nation in the world” or as Brooks writes “for centuries, America was the greatest success on earth, a nation of steady progress, dazzling achievement and growing international power,”what do you think?
  • Do you think you have grown up, as Brooks argues, in the “age of disappointment”? Why or why not?
  • Yuval Levin, a political analyst, argues that in high-trust eras, people have more of a “first-person-plural instinct to ask ‘What can we do?’ In a lower-trust era…there is a greater instinct to say, ‘They’re failing us.’ We see ourselves as outsiders to the systems..” Do you agree or disagree? And why?
  • And what do COVID, the killing of George Floyd, have to do with all of this? And what does fear have to do with this?

Finally—and important, as you respond to this prompt, be certain to respond to at least one of your classmates by agreeing, disagreeing or amplifying something that they had to say.

thesnackthatsmilesback
brighton, ma, US
Posts: 9

Age of Knowing

We all as a nation right now as said countless times, are living in unusual circumstances. With the rise of social-protest movements due to the added leisure time in the last six months have allowed us all to take a step back from what we do as an individual and how the society we live in right now is in shambles. In my opinion, I think that people are operating more cautiously to the media and information that they take in subconsciously. For the average person who hasn't read this article or articles similar, I don't think they would outright say “ I have no trust in our society!” Although I have without a doubt said this in the means of the politics of our country, in the context of trust and what that means in our society, it's something that I think many other Gen Zs can agree with, we were born into it so we don't question it. I really think it depends on the generation that you are talking to, because we all grew up in different societies which hoan into how we perceive how trustworthy society is today.

As mentioned throughout the article, trust is on a decline to the point where only ten percent of Gen Z trust that politicians will do the right thing. As the years go by, numerically is on a decline. I don’t want to be naive, although I want to have hope that this is a pivotal moment instead. What I hope for is that it becomes a start of a new era where bonding as a whole instead as an individual. There are already instances mentioned in the article such as the switch from liberalism to activism, from global to local, from self to society and so on. These new morals, I hope, will strive the way into a new era of stronger bonds locally. After creating that trust with the people physically around us, we can be able to build up the country not to what it was before, but to one that can respect everyone.

When I first read the question and I saw “the United States is the greatest nation in the world,” my first instinct was to laugh. Economically over past years, we have been smart, although I would never say that “America was the greatest success on earth, a nation of steady progress, dazzling achievement and growing international power.” I think that because we focus so much on the individual and self gain, there's never a point of satisfaction which therefore strives us to stay in our bubbles and continue to work, which creates a well oiled economically stable machine. Although morally it is no secret that America is laughed at by others. If Brooks’ approach to that question was the overall dedication that America has to gaining more and more, I would agree that America has had great success, however morally standing, America is corrupt due to its history and it has gone to a point where the economic standing has somehow trump the moral rights of human beings.

I definitely agree that my view on the world is a lot more sinister than my family members, they are not the most informed people although they try to keep up with the news. I think it's so normal for kids my age to look at the world we live in and say “I want to help, but there's too much to do and I don't have enough power.” As the generations before have lived in an era of stability, they are more hopeful for their own future. Although kids now are finding out that there is no right or wrong path when it comes to life anymore. When I say that I mean that there's no stability in whatever you end up doing, colleges are less mandatory now with the help of technology and social media, even if you go to college, there's no longer a work field that stabilizes us with a 9 to 5 job for the next 50 years. The world is changing and therefore we don't have expectations anymore because we don't know who to trust. We have been the first generation to live with technology in our daily lives at the tip of our fingers. That makes us the most aware of the world's problems at such a young age and scientifically proving that we are the most depressed generation. With the past couple of years, we have seen the government fail us in many ways, we have seen the blatant descrimination of people of color, we find out that our world is dying and to everyone that is terrifying. I would not call us the age of disappointment, instead I would call us the age of knowing, because we find out all these things so young, it has altered our view of our society because the knowledge is now at the tip of our fingertips.

To Yuval Levin’s point, I would say that the more trust, the more optimistic they are when solving a problem. High-trust era people feel that connection with the government which makes them feel like they can be a part of the solution, although when lower-trust era have seen the wrongdoings of the government, they will tend to start blaming as they are probably more pessimistic since they have seen so much happen. I won’t speak on anyone else's part, although for me, I feel that I am an outsider to the system because even with the amount of peaceful protest, even with the amount of people who say “black lives matter,” the system has suppressed people for so long. The very heart of this country was built on slavery. It takes so many voices just to be heard, although there is still debate on the change that needs to be instituted. So for me, it makes me feel that no matter the amount of people, the government has the last word and ultimately decides what to do. Adding on, even though we vote for our representatives for the country, most of the things they propose during their election are false promises especially in the past four years, so what do we believe?

COVID has given the time for many to reevaluate the life that they have been living and grow as a person. It was a stage that put the killing of George Floyd on the map throughout the US and further on. For many it was a wake up call that these things are still happening and are a direct response to the way we run our country. Many have stepped away from their individual lives, and start to question, if they have not already, what our government is doing for us.


BlueWhale24
Boston , Massachusetts, US
Posts: 9

The Danger of Individualism

Mr. Brooks’ article was extremely well-written; the depth in which he probed the psychological aspects of American society was insightful, and the parallels drawn to the cyclical pattern of history were profound. After reading, I was left wondering about the past, present, and future of America. Here are some of my thoughts.

First, I believe that Americans are operating currently as they seem because of the country’s recent shift towards a society that is distrustful of itself. Mr. Brooks is correct in his assertion that the past few decades have not provided much reason for Americans to strengthen communal connections, like that of the 1950’s-1960’s. However, he believes that the reason behind this loss of communal trust lies behind the values of individualism, rebellion against authority, and liberation ushered in by the Baby Boomer generation. While I believe that those values did play a factor, the larger reason behind this distrust lies within a long history of polarizing ideology and a growing division within societal classes in the United States. If we analyze why 1950-1960 was the last time American society was cohesive amongst itself, it’s easy to see the reasoning behind it: coming off the heels of the Great Depression and World War II, Americans had become one as a nation. The American people had struggled together economically, and rallied together against a common enemy. People were much closer to each other in terms of societal status, meaning that the wealth division between rich and poor had not yet reached the astounding heights of today. Nonetheless, as America progressed post 1950’s, the country lost the sense of unity which had been created by the Depression and the post-war environment, choosing instead to emphasize individualism. In addition, the country became increasingly wealthy as a result of it’s free market economy, but an inherent byproduct of capitalism was the stretch between societal class gaps. After many decades of continued economic growth, save for a few years, the gap between each economic class (upper, middle, lower) has become almost unimaginably large. People have lost faith in social mobility, and the American Dream continues to be out of reach for those who seek it. Alongside this, the political stage of the United States has begun to become increasingly divisive. Over just the last few decades, America has been negatively impacted by the war in Iraq, the 9/11 attack, and the 2008 Recession. This, alongside growing negative perceptions of political figures and institutions (including the Monica Lewinsky scandal in the Clinton era and the conspiracy that George Bush was involved in 9/11), began to polarize the state of politics in the United States, with many people taking different stances on whether the government was reliable or could be trusted. In recent years, Donald Trump has contributed greatly to this issue. Overall, these factors have led to a sense of distrust within the American society, as the country’s landscape has become a battleground for each individual striving to attain personal success while feeling as if insidious political agendas and external competitors are constantly fighting against you. For this reason, I believe that we, in the United States, are currently living through a decline. The state of improvement in our country has always come following an event which unified the populus; this includes the American Revolution, the post-Reconstruction era (1895-1914 era in the article), and the World Wars. Division within the population cannot sustain growth; if everybody is fighting for the good of themselves, then nobody is fighting for the good of the country.

When I hear others proclaiming the statement that “the United States is the greatest nation in the world”, or anything of that sort, I ask the question ‘in what ways’? In terms of economical status, over the past century, no country rivals the dominance of America on the world’s market. The victory of capitalism over communism demonstrates the significance of American economy on a world scale. However, in terms of government structure, political unity, and societal cohesion, I do not believe that America reigns dominant over all other countries. There is no denying the influence which America has had around the globe. Being the dominant Western power in the world, it has exerted some degree of influence over nearly every corner of the Earth. Personally, I do not take it for granted that I was born in and currently live in the United States. I understand the privilege that citizens of our country have, yet I am not ready to anoint America as the greatest country simply for our constitutional rights. The country’s deep rooted issues, including a social class chasm, centuries of inherent racism, and a pattern of political unrest, cannot be ignored.

Mr. Brooks’ argument that Millenials and Gen Z grew up in a so-called ‘age of disappointment’ revolves around his assertion that more and more families are losing the rigid values of their predecessors. Factors like single-parent households, rises in divorce rates, and many more have caused the younger generations, in the opinion of Mr. Brooks, to develop a sense of distrust for society. I would agree with this statement, but not for the reasons that Mr. Brooks claims. In my own experience, my parents shaped my understanding of the world and those around me; their mindset, like many others of their generation, was much more critical of the government and society than many of those before them. In eras like the 50’s and 60’s, the government seemed to be the ‘good guy’, always looking out for the American people. Yet time and time again, recent struggles and tests have shown my parents’ generation that the government could not be blindly trusted like in the eras of before. I would argue that the growing distrust of society by Millennials and Gen Z’ers is not a result of the “age of disappointment”, but merely a reflection of the growing distrust of their predecessors, who found it increasingly hard to pursue individual success with the presence of an overbearing government and the difficulty of relating to those around them. I do not believe that familial values and experience have any major influence on how government is perceived. In relation to this, I agree with Yuval Levin’s point that contrasted the “what can we do” mindset of high-trust eras to the opposite “they’re failing us” mindset of low-trust eras. Extreme individualism and a strong sense of self-identity tends to be the mark of low-trust eras. As I alluded to earlier, the current state of society in the United States is marked by individual climb, and not collaborative effort. We tend to feel that outside forces are constantly pushing us down, leading us to ask: why are they failing us? However, vice versa, when a society has trust within itself, the good of the country is prioritized because that leads to the good of the individual. One of the quotes that stuck out to me within the article was, “Institutions get caught up in one of those negative feedback loops that are so common in a world of mistrust. They become ineffective and lose legitimacy. People who lose faith in them tend not to fund them”. This statement truly shows the issue with the current American state; how can institutions be allowed to improve if nobody has any faith that they can even do so?

I also wanted to respond to @thesnackthatsmilesback‘s post; I believe that their insights into how access to technology has shaped our generation was extremely profound, and really made me wonder not only how the “age of knowing” has impacted us, but how it will impact future generations as well. I did however disagree with their point of view that modern generations are facing the issue of shrinking job opportunities. To connect back to their previous point, technology has opened thousands of new doors for our generation; although in theory “9-5” type jobs are shrinking, the work force continues to grow. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ projections (link), the labor force continues to grow, albeit slowly. The innovation of new technology and the continuous turnover of retiring workers will open up new opportunities regardless. I believe that our generation is not weighed down by the challenges that lie ahead, but rather spurred on.

Finally, in a country shaped by the devastation of COVID-19 and the unrest following the death of George Floyd, the issue of America’s societal divisiveness rears its’ ugly head. Now, more than ever before, it is transparent to see how the country is split amongst itself. Extreme individualism, a trait which has been long celebrated in the United States, has proven to be the hidden danger to our country’s advancement. America is divided by the fear of individuals, who are afraid that they will be the next to fall victim to the challenges that grip our country. Because of this, it is crucial that we truly understand the importance of the collective good. History has a pattern of repeating itself; America’s history is especially cyclical. It’s up to the collective being of our nation to decide how we will face the remainder of 2020, separate or together, and how we will proceed forward into the future.


thesnackthatsmilesback
brighton, ma, US
Posts: 9

Originally posted by BlueWhale24 on October 13, 2020 21:40

Mr. Brooks’ article was extremely well-written; the depth in which he probed the psychological aspects of American society was insightful, and the parallels drawn to the cyclical pattern of history were profound. After reading, I was left wondering about the past, present, and future of America. Here are some of my thoughts.

First, I believe that Americans are operating currently as they seem because of the country’s recent shift towards a society that is distrustful of itself. Mr. Brooks is correct in his assertion that the past few decades have not provided much reason for Americans to strengthen communal connections, like that of the 1950’s-1960’s. However, he believes that the reason behind this loss of communal trust lies behind the values of individualism, rebellion against authority, and liberation ushered in by the Baby Boomer generation. While I believe that those values did play a factor, the larger reason behind this distrust lies within a long history of polarizing ideology and a growing division within societal classes in the United States. If we analyze why 1950-1960 was the last time American society was cohesive amongst itself, it’s easy to see the reasoning behind it: coming off the heels of the Great Depression and World War II, Americans had become one as a nation. The American people had struggled together economically, and rallied together against a common enemy. People were much closer to each other in terms of societal status, meaning that the wealth division between rich and poor had not yet reached the astounding heights of today. Nonetheless, as America progressed post 1950’s, the country lost the sense of unity which had been created by the Depression and the post-war environment, choosing instead to emphasize individualism. In addition, the country became increasingly wealthy as a result of it’s free market economy, but an inherent byproduct of capitalism was the stretch between societal class gaps. After many decades of continued economic growth, save for a few years, the gap between each economic class (upper, middle, lower) has become almost unimaginably large. People have lost faith in social mobility, and the American Dream continues to be out of reach for those who seek it. Alongside this, the political stage of the United States has begun to become increasingly divisive. Over just the last few decades, America has been negatively impacted by the war in Iraq, the 9/11 attack, and the 2008 Recession. This, alongside growing negative perceptions of political figures and institutions (including the Monica Lewinsky scandal in the Clinton era and the conspiracy that George Bush was involved in 9/11), began to polarize the state of politics in the United States, with many people taking different stances on whether the government was reliable or could be trusted. In recent years, Donald Trump has contributed greatly to this issue. Overall, these factors have led to a sense of distrust within the American society, as the country’s landscape has become a battleground for each individual striving to attain personal success while feeling as if insidious political agendas and external competitors are constantly fighting against you. For this reason, I believe that we, in the United States, are currently living through a decline. The state of improvement in our country has always come following an event which unified the populus; this includes the American Revolution, the post-Reconstruction era (1895-1914 era in the article), and the World Wars. Division within the population cannot sustain growth; if everybody is fighting for the good of themselves, then nobody is fighting for the good of the country.

When I hear others proclaiming the statement that “the United States is the greatest nation in the world”, or anything of that sort, I ask the question ‘in what ways’? In terms of economical status, over the past century, no country rivals the dominance of America on the world’s market. The victory of capitalism over communism demonstrates the significance of American economy on a world scale. However, in terms of government structure, political unity, and societal cohesion, I do not believe that America reigns dominant over all other countries. There is no denying the influence which America has had around the globe. Being the dominant Western power in the world, it has exerted some degree of influence over nearly every corner of the Earth. Personally, I do not take it for granted that I was born in and currently live in the United States. I understand the privilege that citizens of our country have, yet I am not ready to anoint America as the greatest country simply for our constitutional rights. The country’s deep rooted issues, including a social class chasm, centuries of inherent racism, and a pattern of political unrest, cannot be ignored.

Mr. Brooks’ argument that Millenials and Gen Z grew up in a so-called ‘age of disappointment’ revolves around his assertion that more and more families are losing the rigid values of their predecessors. Factors like single-parent households, rises in divorce rates, and many more have caused the younger generations, in the opinion of Mr. Brooks, to develop a sense of distrust for society. I would agree with this statement, but not for the reasons that Mr. Brooks claims. In my own experience, my parents shaped my understanding of the world and those around me; their mindset, like many others of their generation, was much more critical of the government and society than many of those before them. In eras like the 50’s and 60’s, the government seemed to be the ‘good guy’, always looking out for the American people. Yet time and time again, recent struggles and tests have shown my parents’ generation that the government could not be blindly trusted like in the eras of before. I would argue that the growing distrust of society by Millennials and Gen Z’ers is not a result of the “age of disappointment”, but merely a reflection of the growing distrust of their predecessors, who found it increasingly hard to pursue individual success with the presence of an overbearing government and the difficulty of relating to those around them. I do not believe that familial values and experience have any major influence on how government is perceived. In relation to this, I agree with Yuval Levin’s point that contrasted the “what can we do” mindset of high-trust eras to the opposite “they’re failing us” mindset of low-trust eras. Extreme individualism and a strong sense of self-identity tends to be the mark of low-trust eras. As I alluded to earlier, the current state of society in the United States is marked by individual climb, and not collaborative effort. We tend to feel that outside forces are constantly pushing us down, leading us to ask: why are they failing us? However, vice versa, when a society has trust within itself, the good of the country is prioritized because that leads to the good of the individual. One of the quotes that stuck out to me within the article was, “Institutions get caught up in one of those negative feedback loops that are so common in a world of mistrust. They become ineffective and lose legitimacy. People who lose faith in them tend not to fund them”. This statement truly shows the issue with the current American state; how can institutions be allowed to improve if nobody has any faith that they can even do so?

I also wanted to respond to @thesnackthatsmilesback‘s post; I believe that their insights into how access to technology has shaped our generation was extremely profound, and really made me wonder not only how the “age of knowing” has impacted us, but how it will impact future generations as well. I did however disagree with their point of view that modern generations are facing the issue of shrinking job opportunities. To connect back to their previous point, technology has opened thousands of new doors for our generation; although in theory “9-5” type jobs are shrinking, the work force continues to grow. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ projections (link), the labor force continues to grow, albeit slowly. The innovation of new technology and the continuous turnover of retiring workers will open up new opportunities regardless. I believe that our generation is not weighed down by the challenges that lie ahead, but rather spurred on.

Finally, in a country shaped by the devastation of COVID-19 and the unrest following the death of George Floyd, the issue of America’s societal divisiveness rears its’ ugly head. Now, more than ever before, it is transparent to see how the country is split amongst itself. Extreme individualism, a trait which has been long celebrated in the United States, has proven to be the hidden danger to our country’s advancement. America is divided by the fear of individuals, who are afraid that they will be the next to fall victim to the challenges that grip our country. Because of this, it is crucial that we truly understand the importance of the collective good. History has a pattern of repeating itself; America’s history is especially cyclical. It’s up to the collective being of our nation to decide how we will face the remainder of 2020, separate or together, and how we will proceed forward into the future.


Responding to @BlueWhale24, I don't believe that job opportunities are shrinking but instead the workforce is changing. A stable 9 to 5 job no longer exist, therefore the stability of that no longer exist as well. We are living in a pivotal moment where we need to learn how to maneuver a world where stability that was once there has passed. I agree with their point that there will always be more work and the work force will continue to grow, just in ways that we don't have quite a good grasp on yet, and I think I am not the only one who thinks that is terrifying. I also agree that our generation is not weighed down by the challenges that lie ahead but are just trying to move through the mysteries onward. No matter the circumstance we have as a generation continued to progress into the unknown.

Cookie Monster
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 9

The Concept of Trust

In the Atlantic article "America Is Having a Moral Convulsion", columnist David Brooks frequently refers to the United States of America during the Boomer Era in the latter half of the twentieth century as the "greatest country in the world". He reaps praise on the individualistic values present in society at the time and the so-called "cultural cohesion" that came as a result. He even calls it However, although this may because Brooks is from Canada and may be unaware of some on our country's history, I would like to dispute these claims. America has never been "the greatest country on earth" and has never been, in any way, "culturally cohesive". Ever since it's early beginnings, the US has been governed by people who were in large part a monolith, with very little diversity at the upper echelons of society. White males dictated the national conversation and skewed it away from those who were never given a voice. This dilemma was just as present in the latter twentieth century as it was at any point in American history. Although the Civil Rights Era did blossom in this period, the white people in power were too comfortable in their own privilege to do anything about racial injustice. Individualism was only emphasized for those in the first class of our society, while every one else was marginalized for being a member of a marginalized group. Thus, the cohesiveness that Brooks reiterated is contradicts the actual picture of American culture at the time.

Starting in the late 1990s and going on into present day is what Brooks referred to as the "Age of Disappointment". While it is true that many tough times did occur during this period, such as the 2008 Financial Crisis and the election of President Donald Trump, there is something else at play here that tells me that the "Age of Disappointment" wasn't so distinct. First of all, before the 21st century and going back for generations, not all Americans were reaping the same benefits from times of great success. Black and brown Americans were excluded from government run programs to initiate economic success and security. Women were not given the right to vote and ,thus, make their voices heard by those in power until 1920. Thus, by Brook's own application, all of American history could be described as an "Age of Disappointment" because millions of Americans were disenfranchised from the system at any given time.

It is more probable that this burn out of national trust is not a result of one recent moment in our flawed governance, but how the basic foundational values of our country were overly imposed on society, which deterred at their effectiveness. The ideas of of self-reliance and individual liberty were so baked into the American way of life that they gave way to the darker philosophy of expendability. The privileged class that determined this nation's path going back to the beginning made sure their societal prominence was maximized at the expense of the people of our country and abroad who differed from them.When this is not addressed , disenfranchisement is the result, and a sentiment that one doesn't belong or is valued in their community among marginalized groups. As Brooks says in his essay, many people begin to instinctively say that "they failed us" instead of asking each other "what we can do" to fix a problem. Members of the community begin to feel disconnected and feel a lot less involved in deciding which course to take, hence the exchange from the use of the word "we" to the use of "they". I do believe that young people and ethnic/racial/religious (etc.) minorities are justified in their distrust for the systems that govern this country, as Brooks sighted in his essay, because the people in power rarely deliver anything that would substantially change their living standards. However what I don't agree with is his emphasis on how the less diverse, older right wing electorate feels forgotten and are in doubt of our institutions. When Barack Obama, a black man, was able to jump over strenuous obstacles in his life to become our country's president, the white, christian majority began to retaliate and have brought us to where we are now with the Trump administration in power. These members of our society aren't threatened by society as it is now because they now that they are the major beneficiaries of it. What they are scared of is what would happen to their advantages if the voices of the unheard are actually listened to and acted on.

We as a country were already in shambles because of the failure of our emphasis on our failing foundational principles, but what the US wasn't prepared for was the craziness that the third decade of this century would thrust upon us. The Covid-19 pandemic took the world in a storm and forced the global community as a whole to confide to our own spaces for a little bit to maintain the common good of society. However, as Brooks noted in his essay, America failed to do this. Brooks cites the downfall in national trust of our institutions as a reason for this, which makes it difficult to believe any of what the government proposes on anything. However, I see it differently. Many of the people who have lost trust in the American system (minorities, young people, other marginalized groups) followed the rules to keep themselves and those around them safe even if they didn't have the option of social distancing with methods such as putting on a mask. It is the people who have been too comfortable with their own privilege for too long that messed this up for everybody. The mostly white, conservative electorate and the politicians who represent them came up with every baseless conspiracy theory they could to deter at the credibility of what the scientific experts were telling us to do. Instead of emphasizing their care for the common good, these people decided only to look out for their own financial and emotional well being. This is not a product of a feeling of governmental betrayal, but an overemphasis on self-interest that has made the privileged class complicit in the pain of other peoples.

2020 has also brought along a focus on the movement for racial equality that has swept across America and the world. With situations like the police lynchings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, this country has finally come to reckon with the fact that we are living in a post racial world. Brooks says in order to fix this social upheaval that we are going through in our country right now we as private citizens of the United States need to create our own community organizations that will address problems and come up with solutions. He gives examples like the NAACP and the ACLU, which were created in the period in between 1895-1914 that Brooks also defines as a "Moral Convulsion". However, what we need to do is to reform our government to best represent the interests of America as a whole. Most of the the about 330 million people in the US have finally come to recognize that their is more work to do to reach some form of equity in this country, but the politicians that we have put on such a high pedestal fail to address this. We have allowed the privileged class for too long to obstruct our institutions to bend in their favor. They have made any demographic changes that have accumulated throughout the US almost invisible inside our government. On the other hand, I believe that right now our country is at a tipping point, which is followed by a pivot in our country. You can see this illuminating right now through the Republican effort to jam through a Supreme Court nomination. Cultural conservatives know their vision and support of the institutions of America's past are going to be repudiated on a election day, and a new precedent that will fully embrace our diversity will begin to form in our culture.

Cookie Monster
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 9

Originally posted by thesnackthatsmilesback on October 13, 2020 16:31

We all as a nation right now as said countless times, are living in unusual circumstances. With the rise of social-protest movements due to the added leisure time in the last six months have allowed us all to take a step back from what we do as an individual and how the society we live in right now is in shambles. In my opinion, I think that people are operating more cautiously to the media and information that they take in subconsciously. For the average person who hasn't read this article or articles similar, I don't think they would outright say “ I have no trust in our society!” Although I have without a doubt said this in the means of the politics of our country, in the context of trust and what that means in our society, it's something that I think many other Gen Zs can agree with, we were born into it so we don't question it. I really think it depends on the generation that you are talking to, because we all grew up in different societies which hoan into how we perceive how trustworthy society is today.

As mentioned throughout the article, trust is on a decline to the point where only ten percent of Gen Z trust that politicians will do the right thing. As the years go by, numerically is on a decline. I don’t want to be naive, although I want to have hope that this is a pivotal moment instead. What I hope for is that it becomes a start of a new era where bonding as a whole instead as an individual. There are already instances mentioned in the article such as the switch from liberalism to activism, from global to local, from self to society and so on. These new morals, I hope, will strive the way into a new era of stronger bonds locally. After creating that trust with the people physically around us, we can be able to build up the country not to what it was before, but to one that can respect everyone.

When I first read the question and I saw “the United States is the greatest nation in the world,” my first instinct was to laugh. Economically over past years, we have been smart, although I would never say that “America was the greatest success on earth, a nation of steady progress, dazzling achievement and growing international power.” I think that because we focus so much on the individual and self gain, there's never a point of satisfaction which therefore strives us to stay in our bubbles and continue to work, which creates a well oiled economically stable machine. Although morally it is no secret that America is laughed at by others. If Brooks’ approach to that question was the overall dedication that America has to gaining more and more, I would agree that America has had great success, however morally standing, America is corrupt due to its history and it has gone to a point where the economic standing has somehow trump the moral rights of human beings.

I definitely agree that my view on the world is a lot more sinister than my family members, they are not the most informed people although they try to keep up with the news. I think it's so normal for kids my age to look at the world we live in and say “I want to help, but there's too much to do and I don't have enough power.” As the generations before have lived in an era of stability, they are more hopeful for their own future. Although kids now are finding out that there is no right or wrong path when it comes to life anymore. When I say that I mean that there's no stability in whatever you end up doing, colleges are less mandatory now with the help of technology and social media, even if you go to college, there's no longer a work field that stabilizes us with a 9 to 5 job for the next 50 years. The world is changing and therefore we don't have expectations anymore because we don't know who to trust. We have been the first generation to live with technology in our daily lives at the tip of our fingers. That makes us the most aware of the world's problems at such a young age and scientifically proving that we are the most depressed generation. With the past couple of years, we have seen the government fail us in many ways, we have seen the blatant descrimination of people of color, we find out that our world is dying and to everyone that is terrifying. I would not call us the age of disappointment, instead I would call us the age of knowing, because we find out all these things so young, it has altered our view of our society because the knowledge is now at the tip of our fingertips.

To Yuval Levin’s point, I would say that the more trust, the more optimistic they are when solving a problem. High-trust era people feel that connection with the government which makes them feel like they can be a part of the solution, although when lower-trust era have seen the wrongdoings of the government, they will tend to start blaming as they are probably more pessimistic since they have seen so much happen. I won’t speak on anyone else's part, although for me, I feel that I am an outsider to the system because even with the amount of peaceful protest, even with the amount of people who say “black lives matter,” the system has suppressed people for so long. The very heart of this country was built on slavery. It takes so many voices just to be heard, although there is still debate on the change that needs to be instituted. So for me, it makes me feel that no matter the amount of people, the government has the last word and ultimately decides what to do. Adding on, even though we vote for our representatives for the country, most of the things they propose during their election are false promises especially in the past four years, so what do we believe?

COVID has given the time for many to reevaluate the life that they have been living and grow as a person. It was a stage that put the killing of George Floyd on the map throughout the US and further on. For many it was a wake up call that these things are still happening and are a direct response to the way we run our country. Many have stepped away from their individual lives, and start to question, if they have not already, what our government is doing for us.


Although I do agree with you that the sense of individualism does lead to a sentiment of hard work and determination, I don't think that necessarily leads to any sense that America is the best country on Earth. While hard work and determination was celebrated for the privileged classes and those at the upper echelons of society, many others were left behind regardless. During the 50s and 60s, which Brooks weirdly referred to as culturally cohesive, black and brown Americans were still being excluded from social services and government run programs on the basis of their skin color. Abortion was still illegal, which made them more dangerous and lethal. There was no sense of any governmental health care program, which meant that people who couldn't afford it weren't likely to get any medical security at all. Thus, America even during this period was only great for those who were privileged enough to succeed and there was never a level playing field in terms of who's hard work paid off. Every period in American history could be called an "Age of Disappointment" because a huge populace of people were disenfranchised at any given point in time.

This overemphasis on self-reliance is exactly what has brought us to the crossroads are at now. Individualism and capitalism have led way to exploitation by those in power and expendability. Our society assumed that members of the community would share our common values and wouldn't have to enforce them through our bureaucratic institutions. We thought people would respect others without being told to, but that is obviously a naive thought if we think about it now. This has led to people today thinking its okay in our society to impede on another's human rights. The people in power have for too long ignored the voices of marginalized groups in favor of stepping forward with an agenda that only favors them and hurts everyone else. This sense of individualism has allowed the white people and other privileged class to become to comfortable in their own advantage. They have lost empathy because how society has never emphasized care for the common good over one's own self-interest.

user1234
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 6

We Need To Have More Trust in Each Other

The article was very interesting, and I think that it brought up a very good point about the social distrust that is currently happening in America. Although some people might not even realize it everything going on in America right now is because of the lack of trust that they have in other people. Taking politics for example, it was interesting when the article talked about how some people of low income voted for Trump because they felt so betrayed by elite politicians. Like the article mentions, the pandemic was a chance for all of us to come together, but instead we turned against each other, and that just goes to show the deep rooted issue of mistrust in America.

I agree with @thesnackwhosmilesback when they said that they hope they aren’t being naive by thinking of this time as a pivot and not a decline. Although maybe my thinking is naive, I think Gen Z is taking advantage of this time and making it a pivot. I’ve seen so many of my peers and other kids my age on the internet use their voices to help bring change. We aren’t declining because even though my generation was born into a society of distrust we are trying our hardest to try to bring people together. Like the article says we are using tools like social media to bring awareness to issues and make people feel like they have a community that they can feel safe and trust completely.

When I hear “the United States is the greatest nation in the world” I have mixed emotions. Although I know America is much better than a lot of other countries because of the economy and the different freedoms that a lot of people don’t have, at the same time America also has a lot of negative aspects. As much as people preach that everyone is treated equally in America that is very far from true. So many minority groups have been marginalized for centuries. Just looking at 2020 black Americans live in fear everyday that they’re lives are in danger even if they’re in their own homes. It just makes me upset that people, especially older people will get mad at me for questioning if America is really all that great, and I think in part it has to do with the fact that they were born into a time that was full of hope and things were going well. I just hope that it doesn’t blind them from the fact that America also has its flaws.

I 100% percent agree that my generation was born in a time of disappointment because we’re constantly being let down. We were born in the early 2000’s when everyone had just gone through the “summer” that was the 90’s, and when we were born everyone had lived through so much tragedy already and lost all the good expectations they had. How can we not feel disappointed when everyday we’re being taught that racism is a thing of the past, and then we see black people being murdered by white police officers for no reason. Our government is quite possibly the worst it’s ever been. Our country is being led by a president who was a reality star with no prior experience in politics before he became president. Everyday there’s something new that disappoints us. I’ve had older people tell me that we're too “soft” and “complain” too much, but I don’t think we’re the ones who are the problem, it's the environment we’ve grown up in.

I agree with Levin’s point that we see ourselves as outsiders because of our distrust in the people around us. Although I agree I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing. In order to get to the place of ‘What can we do?” we have to realize that what’s happening to us is not okay. We have to be able to see that everything going on is affecting all of us in order to get to a place where we can come together to fight against it. I think that the pandemic and all the racial injustice that is going on in our country is making us scared, and making us feel like outsiders. The thing we need to realize is that in order to get to a better place we have to put trust in each other. Although we feel we’ve been wronged before by the system, we can’t let that stop us from believing in humanity. That only way we’ll get to a place where we put the collective before the individual is, like the article states, by having faith in each other.

ernest.
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 13

Wow. Before I begin, I would like to say that this article was the most impressive piece of (nonfiction) writing I’ve ever come across. In the last year or so, I’ve come to start thinking a lot about our times and how they fit into History, the World, and Everything, and the way that this article seemed to be able to so clearly elucidate the context and reality of our times within its breadth was deeply impactful. I truly hope that I am able to write like Brooks one day.

Brooks is dead on when he faults societal distrust as a primary contributor to our society’s apparent crisis of social trust (I say apparent because, until reading this, I had not much considered that the “explosive” social distrust of today might be unique to our time). But I think it is necessary to elaborate on some of his points, especially when he highlights periods of “moral convulsion.” He paints the ‘90s under the broad stroke of general prosperity, both in actual indicators of societal well-being, and in perceptions of that well-being. However, one has to wonder—while we can accept that the ‘90s might have been a more prosperous period than today, did those good perceptions originate completely from the actual welfare of the economy, politics, and institutions, or did some great part of them stem from a lack of awareness of and consideration for other issues? Gay marriage was not legal in the ‘90s, and sodomy laws still existed in many states. Racism was certainly not at any kind of new low. Was the highly globalized supply chain of free market capitalism somehow less abusive to the workers in less-developed countries than it is now, or than it was beforehand in the ‘80s? Clearly, it was not all sunshine and daisies. Might periods of moral convulsion in the past have been more of an awakening, a stronger awareness of all the aspects of our society, than simply another period of upheaval in the regular intervals of social change and unrest?

We are living through a decline. There is no question about that; I cannot imagine a reason someone would say we are currently living through more of a pivot than a decline. Of course, there is complexity to the question. Brooks makes the entire thing seem more black-and-white than I really think it is: periods aren’t just either pivot and decline, they’re filled with movements and popular sentiments that lean in both directions, and it doesn’t make sense to say we’re only either in one or the other. In this period, however, with the economy poised to sink into a deleterious depression (especially if Congress cannot pass another stimulus package, ahem), with divisions higher than ever, with the pandemic raging as hard as ever, and with distrust and even disdain for authorities and experts proliferating, we are in an unmistakable decline. The good news, I think, is that in the social justice and equality sphere, the seeds have really been planted over the last few months in the Millennial and Gen Z generations that will lead to meaningful reforms over the next decade or more, as they grow in political force and a now-ingrained focus on anti-racism has its effects on policy and more.

Brooks’s praises for America are idealistic. It’s true that America has had great success in many areas: a robust and dominant economy, effective preeminence in the international community, and a history of democracy that, at least in the 19th century, seemed far ahead of many other monarchical or otherwise autocratic nations and empires. Nonetheless, it also has plenty shortcomings which we are all well aware of, like slavery, abuse and decimation of native peoples, and other deeply-entrenched systemic discrimination and oppression. So (especially during this time) it is a bit misguided to end with its “dazzling achievement.” But I disagree with @thesnackthatsmilesback, when they say Brooks is totally wrong and the world is laughing at America. In my opinion, this is conflating America’s current poor leadership and standing with its overall history. For the reasons I’ve listed at the beginning of this paragraph, America is definitely still respected and looked up to throughout the world, even if it is to a lesser extent today, and you can see this in the statements of political leaders, professionals, and others from abroad.

The Age of Disappointment has totally shaped our generation. This section of the article was particularly interesting to read and I think it convincingly argued that Gen Z, knowing nothing else, has become pretty mistrustful of authorities and institutions. And while this is healthy and understandable to a great extent, we have to be able to trust, and utilize, our institutions if we are to maintain and improve the condition of our society. For example, while it might be understandable that a Gen Z-er would express distrust in the efficacy of our voting system due to the electoral college, voter suppression, and disenfranchisement, the only way to actually change that problem is to vote. Thus it is extremely necessary for us to keep our faith in the systems and to keep using them, even while acknowledging their imperfection. This segues into my thoughts on Levin’s comment. While I think the quotation itself is illogical given the reality of how people operate in low-trust periods, its point is a good one. In low-trust periods like these, the emphasis is on both how the system is perceived to be failing, and how people believe they can fix it. The BLM movement and Trump’s unique brand/base have this in common, that they both see a system that is failing them, but also are looking to see what they can do, though in the case of Trump’s brand, “what they can do” seems more than anything keeping Trump and similar conservatives in office and nothing more.

I’d like to lastly add that for people like @thesnackthatsmilesback who see themselves as outsiders to the system- don’t, or at least, try not to. Seeing yourself as an outsider, is, I think, a consequence of a lot of stuff that Brooks talked about, but nonetheless it’s really important to realize that, as a member of society, you are society, you are the system, and that the federal government, while often disgracefully inactive on important issues, is not just in it for The 0.01% Elites and themselves. To begin with, all the congresspeople responsible for the lack of reform are not just sitting on Capitol Hill and deciding which reforms they want to support based on whims. Their actions are based on political calculations that involve what their constituents support, and what suits their agenda. At the moment, the majority of senators apparently do not believe that their constituents are in favor of change, and so the House bill meant to combat police brutality, and more, failed to pass. However, we will see shortly just how accurate that assessment was… and if polls remain as they stand now, it’s just not looking too good for Republicans at the moment. So while initial action failed, there is still hope for more to occur later on. And even then, action does not only happen on a national level. It starts with individuals who use whatever power they have, in club, sports, and extracurricular leadership, for example, to effect change. It occurs on the district, city, county, state, and even international level as well. And so far in 2020, change has definitely occurred on those levels, even if we still have farther to go. I firmly believe that the institutions currently in place do offer hope for change, even if they do not guarantee it.

So so sorry for the genuinely titanic length of this post *insert crying emoji*

yvesIKB
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 10

Fearing More Than "Fear Itself"

In modern times, who has not yet made the quip — or exclamation, or warning — that we are living through a historical moment just like the stuff you’d read about in textbooks? It seemed to be that for whatever topic — climate change, crime, war, innovation — the junctures we are witnessing are always “most critical,” unlike anything other generations have seen. Before the pandemic, whenever people would joke that the Trump Era would make it into history books, I was very doubtful of the possibility. Now, in the midst of the destabilizing, devastating, traumatic effects of the pandemic, it is clear that this has been a reckoning, a buildup of unsolved problems, and perhaps we do need to look at this time critically because we seem to need to learn more from our history and mistakes.


David Brooks takes this time to reflect and draw patterns in his article, “America is Having a Moral Convulsion,” where he claims that the issues we are facing, both physically and mentally, are due to a lack of trust in society. I can definitely agree that distrust is part of the issue — we don’t believe that institutions will aid or protect us, that people of different beliefs would care about each other, and most importantly, that this would ever change. The reason for distrust, I think, is just how Brooks put it: we, the people, have every right to be mistrustful right now. The government and politicians whom we pay taxes, hold elections, petition, and designate a part of our identities for, during this time have failed to combat the pandemic, respond to the protests and pain of the oppressed, bring justice for Breonna Taylor, or restore public morale; our institutions, as Brooks puts it, have “betrayed” us, they've failed in unity and cooperation and citizens have followed them and suffered for it. But is this exactly a new phenomenon? Brooks refers to a time where “America was the greatest success on earth, a nation of steady progress, dazzling achievement and growing international power,” but all I can think is that this boast is too one-dimensional and lacking in substance. I don’t think America is or ever was the “best” nation — I think there were problems with discrimination and oppression that the United States perpetuated and that many of its citizens profited off these injustices, and, in this way, were able to achieve. I think Americans had that trust and pride for their government leaders because they valued nationalism more than examining truths. I could only say I have the privilege of living in the states because I have access to its resources — for many Americans, and others around the globe, our nation is their worst nightmare.


COVID-19, as well as the killing of George Floyd and resultant protests, have only brought to light the cracks in the foundation of our nation. We think our pedestal is tall and proud, but its base is falling apart because we never actually addressed the issues we’ve always needed to. We never chose humanity over “the politics” of issues, we never rectified racism institutionally and socially, we let our economic gaps grow wider and wider so that while billionaires grow richer in crises, young people are left with nothing. With current events and our ability to see the effects of our neglect, it is only natural that we have no trust in our own society.


The fear, however, has spiked to levels I didn’t know were possible. I think that in our society, it’s been easy for young people to be fearful, even before the pandemic. Seeing the rising costs of college tuition and rent, the lack of national or legislative response to mass shootings and neo-Nazism, and the effects of climate change have all made youth very afraid. In this way, we have had to mature dealing with disappointment. Yet, despite this, young people were still heavily impacted by the pandemic mentally because we all feel isolated and alone. The state Emile Durkheim calls ‘anomie’ fits in with this because we have seen that our concerns aren’t valued, we feel helpless to the greater issues and utterly invisible. I think the fear which has built up definitely had a role in breeding distrust. However, fear has struck older generations too. Adults who are impoverished have faced compounded effects of the virus, and those adults who usually are not fearful now have a reason to be. Resulting from this fear I think is a “fanaticism,” as Hannah Arendt described, and citizens are more polarized than ever. As Brooks notes, people now follow leaders who “tell group-versus-group power narratives” and seek “closed, rigid ideological systems,” which can presumably provide more stability in times of fear. I think we’re all becoming less likely to cooperate, and therefore, less likely to extend compassion toward one another.


I think it is hard to classify the period we are in now because I think Brooks is right when he says we cannot go back to a collective culture, where we all share common values and approve of the same leaders. Yet, I can’t make myself believe we are going into a decline either, I just don’t think it’s in our nature to give up. Perhaps we really can “pivot,” and deconstruct and rebuild all our institutions, and even though we might not have confidence in our government in the same way generations before us have, we will find ways to support each other so that we all have enough to thrive, or at least stay afloat. This is my hope. I feel like in many ways the system has disappointed us. We younger generations especially think, they’re failing us, because it feels as though we’ve been born into problems that we had no hand in which aren’t being fixed effectively. But I would not agree that we see ourselves as “outsiders” to this system and to this effort. What many people don’t realize is that for every repeated disappointment, there is hope for better and desire to bring about those outcomes. Young people are engaged in civic matters not because we enjoy feeling disheartened every time a news story breaks, but because we know silence is worse than disappointment, and involvement is the key to change. I think we can all be part of the massive effort to create a pivot, not a decline — we just all need to start putting in the work.
iluvcows
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 8

Societal distrust

This article was very interesting and insightful to read and led me to think about many new things. I believe that people have begun to distrust society greatly, but understandably so. Since 1964, when around 77 percent of Americans stated that they trusted the government to do the right thing the majority of the time, many bad events have taken place and we have witnessed many wrongdoings under the government. This has made many Americans think of the government as unreliable and untrustworthy. Witnessing a failure in dealing with these issues from many political figures has contributed to this distrust. Today, people have watched President Trump deny the rising racial discrimination taking place in society as minorities are still being denied the same opportunities and rights of others. These individuals have a legitimate reason to distrust society and the government and it is justified through what they have struggled through under their watch. A rise in social media and news outlets have exposed various injustices that have taken place both in the past and in present time. This has resulted in our generation standing up and protesting against this inequality in society which is overall a seemingly positive adjustment.


This leads to Brook’s question of whether we are living through a pivot or a decline. I would like to think that it is a pivot and in the long run we will overcome these struggles and improve as a nation. In all honesty, we simply don't know how this will affect us in the future and whether it will result in a further decline or if this is a pivotal moment in history. I believe that Gen Z is utilizing our access to technology to protest against the many injustices and that we can create change in the United states and stop the decline in society.


When I hear the phrase “the United States is the greatest nation in the world” I automatically find myself saying no. During these past few months just witnessing all these horrible occurrences have frankly made me embarrassed of the society we live in. However, if I take a step back and compare the United states to other places in the world we have been very successful in certain aspects. The level of freedom we provide is certainly more than other nations and economically we have soared over the years. On the other hand, in terms of our government, unity, and equality we are far from the best. We continue to struggle with racial inequality and discrimination sontinues to be a prominate issue within the United States. How am I, and others in society supposed to witness all of these flaws in our nation and say it is even close to being the greatest?


I agree with Brook’s statement that we are living in the age of disappointment. As @user1234 stated, “How can we not feel disappointed when everyday we’re being taught that racism is a thing of the past, and then we see black people being murdered by white police officers for no reason.” We constantly are being reminded of the terrible events happening in our society today. I believe that a major reason that we are living through this is because as @thesnackthatsmilesback said in their response, our access to technology has opened our eyes to the many issues in society as well as gave us immense knowledge on the happenings in the world that previous generations did not have access to. I think that because of our awareness of the world's problems from such a young age, we have more of an opportunity to have disappointment towards our society.


BLStudent
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 7

moral convulsions

Yes a-lot of people in this moment are acting out of distrust in established institutions and a-lot the time this distrust is justified because of the repeated failures of these institutions. The BLM movement as Brooks pointed out is a great example of rightful distrust being displayed, the police are supposed to protect and serve the people but as we've seen countless times cops abuse their power and then the entire system does everything it can to protect them, Brooks also mentioned how the George Floyd incident wasn't the first like it but it definitely propelled the movement to the point its at now and for a lot of people the death of George Floyd was a wake up call despite this cycle of violence going on forever. I think currently were in a decline but were close to a pivot soon, right now with everything going America seems to be at a very low point but it seems like we are on the verge of making dramatic change with a growing awareness of various issues and the election of more progressive candidates specifically like Brooks mentioned AOC and Bernie. Most of us absolutely see ourselves as outsiders to the system right now because the system has failed. While Trumps presidency is part of this failure i believe its a symptom rather than a cause. For years under both Republicans and Democrats we've seen endless wars, economic instability, corruption and all types of misconduct so it really should come as no surprise that a so called "outsider" won the election. I would say the age of disappoint was more felt by millennials and because of that Gen Z had much lower expectations going in and a-lot of our low expectations turned out to be true. America is certainly of the richest and most powerful countries in the world but it also has countless issues that need to be resolved before it can even argue for the title of greatest nation. Fighting over greatest nation is generally a waste of time but if you were to then the best response would be the happiest nations in the world like Finland and Denmark as opposed to the US which is often not even in the top 10.

BLStudent
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 7

reply to Blue Whale

Originally posted by BlueWhale24 on October 13, 2020 21:40

Mr. Brooks’ article was extremely well-written; the depth in which he probed the psychological aspects of American society was insightful, and the parallels drawn to the cyclical pattern of history were profound. After reading, I was left wondering about the past, present, and future of America. Here are some of my thoughts.

First, I believe that Americans are operating currently as they seem because of the country’s recent shift towards a society that is distrustful of itself. Mr. Brooks is correct in his assertion that the past few decades have not provided much reason for Americans to strengthen communal connections, like that of the 1950’s-1960’s. However, he believes that the reason behind this loss of communal trust lies behind the values of individualism, rebellion against authority, and liberation ushered in by the Baby Boomer generation. While I believe that those values did play a factor, the larger reason behind this distrust lies within a long history of polarizing ideology and a growing division within societal classes in the United States. If we analyze why 1950-1960 was the last time American society was cohesive amongst itself, it’s easy to see the reasoning behind it: coming off the heels of the Great Depression and World War II, Americans had become one as a nation. The American people had struggled together economically, and rallied together against a common enemy. People were much closer to each other in terms of societal status, meaning that the wealth division between rich and poor had not yet reached the astounding heights of today. Nonetheless, as America progressed post 1950’s, the country lost the sense of unity which had been created by the Depression and the post-war environment, choosing instead to emphasize individualism. In addition, the country became increasingly wealthy as a result of it’s free market economy, but an inherent byproduct of capitalism was the stretch between societal class gaps. After many decades of continued economic growth, save for a few years, the gap between each economic class (upper, middle, lower) has become almost unimaginably large. People have lost faith in social mobility, and the American Dream continues to be out of reach for those who seek it. Alongside this, the political stage of the United States has begun to become increasingly divisive. Over just the last few decades, America has been negatively impacted by the war in Iraq, the 9/11 attack, and the 2008 Recession. This, alongside growing negative perceptions of political figures and institutions (including the Monica Lewinsky scandal in the Clinton era and the conspiracy that George Bush was involved in 9/11), began to polarize the state of politics in the United States, with many people taking different stances on whether the government was reliable or could be trusted. In recent years, Donald Trump has contributed greatly to this issue. Overall, these factors have led to a sense of distrust within the American society, as the country’s landscape has become a battleground for each individual striving to attain personal success while feeling as if insidious political agendas and external competitors are constantly fighting against you. For this reason, I believe that we, in the United States, are currently living through a decline. The state of improvement in our country has always come following an event which unified the populus; this includes the American Revolution, the post-Reconstruction era (1895-1914 era in the article), and the World Wars. Division within the population cannot sustain growth; if everybody is fighting for the good of themselves, then nobody is fighting for the good of the country.

When I hear others proclaiming the statement that “the United States is the greatest nation in the world”, or anything of that sort, I ask the question ‘in what ways’? In terms of economical status, over the past century, no country rivals the dominance of America on the world’s market. The victory of capitalism over communism demonstrates the significance of American economy on a world scale. However, in terms of government structure, political unity, and societal cohesion, I do not believe that America reigns dominant over all other countries. There is no denying the influence which America has had around the globe. Being the dominant Western power in the world, it has exerted some degree of influence over nearly every corner of the Earth. Personally, I do not take it for granted that I was born in and currently live in the United States. I understand the privilege that citizens of our country have, yet I am not ready to anoint America as the greatest country simply for our constitutional rights. The country’s deep rooted issues, including a social class chasm, centuries of inherent racism, and a pattern of political unrest, cannot be ignored.

Mr. Brooks’ argument that Millenials and Gen Z grew up in a so-called ‘age of disappointment’ revolves around his assertion that more and more families are losing the rigid values of their predecessors. Factors like single-parent households, rises in divorce rates, and many more have caused the younger generations, in the opinion of Mr. Brooks, to develop a sense of distrust for society. I would agree with this statement, but not for the reasons that Mr. Brooks claims. In my own experience, my parents shaped my understanding of the world and those around me; their mindset, like many others of their generation, was much more critical of the government and society than many of those before them. In eras like the 50’s and 60’s, the government seemed to be the ‘good guy’, always looking out for the American people. Yet time and time again, recent struggles and tests have shown my parents’ generation that the government could not be blindly trusted like in the eras of before. I would argue that the growing distrust of society by Millennials and Gen Z’ers is not a result of the “age of disappointment”, but merely a reflection of the growing distrust of their predecessors, who found it increasingly hard to pursue individual success with the presence of an overbearing government and the difficulty of relating to those around them. I do not believe that familial values and experience have any major influence on how government is perceived. In relation to this, I agree with Yuval Levin’s point that contrasted the “what can we do” mindset of high-trust eras to the opposite “they’re failing us” mindset of low-trust eras. Extreme individualism and a strong sense of self-identity tends to be the mark of low-trust eras. As I alluded to earlier, the current state of society in the United States is marked by individual climb, and not collaborative effort. We tend to feel that outside forces are constantly pushing us down, leading us to ask: why are they failing us? However, vice versa, when a society has trust within itself, the good of the country is prioritized because that leads to the good of the individual. One of the quotes that stuck out to me within the article was, “Institutions get caught up in one of those negative feedback loops that are so common in a world of mistrust. They become ineffective and lose legitimacy. People who lose faith in them tend not to fund them”. This statement truly shows the issue with the current American state; how can institutions be allowed to improve if nobody has any faith that they can even do so?

I also wanted to respond to @thesnackthatsmilesback‘s post; I believe that their insights into how access to technology has shaped our generation was extremely profound, and really made me wonder not only how the “age of knowing” has impacted us, but how it will impact future generations as well. I did however disagree with their point of view that modern generations are facing the issue of shrinking job opportunities. To connect back to their previous point, technology has opened thousands of new doors for our generation; although in theory “9-5” type jobs are shrinking, the work force continues to grow. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ projections (link), the labor force continues to grow, albeit slowly. The innovation of new technology and the continuous turnover of retiring workers will open up new opportunities regardless. I believe that our generation is not weighed down by the challenges that lie ahead, but rather spurred on.

Finally, in a country shaped by the devastation of COVID-19 and the unrest following the death of George Floyd, the issue of America’s societal divisiveness rears its’ ugly head. Now, more than ever before, it is transparent to see how the country is split amongst itself. Extreme individualism, a trait which has been long celebrated in the United States, has proven to be the hidden danger to our country’s advancement. America is divided by the fear of individuals, who are afraid that they will be the next to fall victim to the challenges that grip our country. Because of this, it is crucial that we truly understand the importance of the collective good. History has a pattern of repeating itself; America’s history is especially cyclical. It’s up to the collective being of our nation to decide how we will face the remainder of 2020, separate or together, and how we will proceed forward into the future.


I have a very similar reaction when someone claims that America is the greatest nation in the world, my first thought is always how? How can America be the greatest nation in the world with all of its blatantly obvious problems many of which have fairly simple solutions if people were just willing to participate; for instance covid would be at a much lower rate if people just wore masks and followed simple guidelines. Usually the counter argument to these questions is the US' economic dominance like you mentioned and while the US is an incredibly rich country, wealth is often measured as a whole rather than on individual level so in the richest country on earth we still have people living on the street barely able to afford to eat which is incredibly discouraging given on the resources at our disposal. I also like the point you made about Capitalism defeating Communism because like i mentioned before while we are an incredibly rich nation we dont use our resources for the greater good which is considered one of the fundamental flaws of the capitalist structure. You also briefly mentioned the cultural influence America has over the rest of the world and I think this would be an incredibly interesting point to delve deeper into. Nearly every American cultural movement eventually reaches the rest of the world and one of the prevalent examples of this is Rap music which has spread everywhere simalar to how rock music did in the past. Part of what makes American culture so powerful is its diverseness as it draws in the best of countless different cultures and creates an entirely new one. Americas Culture is in my opinion one of its greatest strengths.

squirrelluver123
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 9

The Age of Distrust

As a country, and as a world, we are in a very unique, and a very different place than we were in a year ago. This article was very interesting to read and made me think about the place our country is in in a different way.

Although the percentage of people that distrust the government has been steadily going up, I would not be surprised if the number is higher now than it was last year at this time. Like Brooks states, the ongoing pandemic and the killing of George Floyd did not create the “moral convulsion”, but they did expose more problems. This pandemic has not only revealed flaws in the healthcare system, but made even more clear the flaws in law enforcement and judicial systems in this country. In times of need, citizens of a country look to their government, and their president for guidance and leadership through it. If their own president ignores the problem, and chooses to do nothing to protect the citizens, why should anyone still trust their government? Americans rely on their government to protect them, and if it fails them, they begin to lose trust in society. The killing of George Floyd, and the lack of justice for Breonna Taylor and too many other innocent black lives has revealed a fundamental flaw in our society and caused many people to lose trust. When the government doesn't provide adequate healthcare for everyone, or when it denies justice, people lose faith that it will treat them equally. People are protesting and standing up for their rights right now because the system has failed them and so many others, and they want better. They have lost trust in their society and their government, but I do not believe that people have lost faith in each other to do the right thing. There will always be people to fight for what is right.

While I do not want to believe that our country is in decline, it could very well be. I hope that we are living through a pivot, and I do not think it is too late for the country to change directions and improve. However, if the state of the country continues after this election, and the current president remains in power, the country could be on its way to a decline. The way that things have been going has not been inspiring for the future of the country. With the rapidly growing COVID cases, the unsure state of the economy, and the growing threat of global warming, creates an optimistic view.

As children we are told to believe that America is the greatest country in the world. That it is the land of opportunity and equality, and that if you work hard enough anyone can achieve the American dream. But America has never been the greatest country for everyone. It has only been the greatest country for straight rich white men. It has never been the greatest country for anyone who is not wealthy or in power. Those who have neither of those things are left to fend for themselves. While America definitely has a lot of achievements, those achievements only benefit a small group of people within the country. As the country grew, and continues to grow in wealth and power, those with power gain more and further secure their control over those below them. America became known as a strong international power, with a strong military, but we are beginning to lose that respect. Other countries no longer view America as the greatest country in the world either, they recognize the systematic issues that plague our society.

I do think that I have grown up in the age of disappointment. I grew up thinking that I did live in the greatest country in the world, as we are taught to believe that. As I grew up and actually learned about the government and this country’s history, I did in fact become disappointed. I was disappointed in the country for being the way it is, but also for not being educated properly in the extent of the issues in this country until later in my life. These times of social unrest are all that we have known for most of our lives. We are also the first generation to grow up with a heightened awareness of everything going on around us because of the internet. Not everything shared on the internet is good, and a lot of it can be wrong, but it has given us bigger connections and knowledge. It allows us to learn a lot, and a lot of what we learn can be disappointing. However what I do not find disappointing is this generation's desire to protest what is wrong, and stand up for what they believe in.

I agree with Levin’s statement that people are more willing to help in a high-trust society. I think that when people trust their society, they believe that they can help change it. Even if something is wrong, they have faith that they can do something to help or fix the issue. They trust that people in power will listen to them, and things will change. If people do not trust their society, they will most likely believe that there is nothing they can do about it, or at least not easily. In today’s time, people have been speaking up for so long and little changes have been made. It is easy to lose faith in a system that does not listen to it's citizens when they speak up, and is very slow to make changes if at all.

boricua1234
Roslindale, MA, US
Posts: 8

Why would I trust society?

Right now is a turning point in history. A lot of different things are coming to light and forcing us to address the inequalities that stem back to the foundation of our country. I personally am not ok with anything going on in the world and I have a large distrust in society. It's hard to find good when this country is set up to see people who look like I do fail. For a long time videos of Black people's lives have been going around all social media platforms and for some time I had to avoid social media because I couldn’t help but break down every time I saw another black body abused. For a lot of people including myself, like the article said, George Floyds death was the last straw. Everything is hypersensitive and that includes my general distrust, to the point where I even began questioning all relationships with white people around me. People who for my whole life I had considered friends and still do but every time I am with them I cannot help but notice our differences. How they can do things that I can’t just because they look like that and I look like this. Their privilege and my own making me feel worse about the world and less like I wanted to be a part of a society like this. An interesting point brought up in the article was how people are now shamed for their privilege and I felt this because I know a lot of the time I am ashamed of my privilege which makes everything worse. Right now I know many other people of color are feeling this distrust in society because it feels like this society wasn’t made for us. We aided in making this place, fertilizing the ground with our blood, sweat, and tears and now we are repaid with more of our blood being spilled and mothers, fathers, friends, shedding tears over the fallen bodies of their sons and daughters. So yes, I am growing up in the age of disappointment. Disappointed that we still have such a long way to go to equality. With that being said I do have hope. I have hope in my ability to make this world a better place and hope in my friends and fellow Gen Zers that we will make a change. This hope is mostly shown in AOC who I look up to immensely, but also in my friends who have created clubs or have been sharing petitions and articles to help me get further involved. Because we (Gen Z kids) know that the US is in fact not the greatest nation and that we have a long way to go to even be close to it. It made sense to me that Gen Z had little to no trust in the government as mentioned in the article because there is not much to have trust in especially with the president we have right now who really just seems to amplify the distrust and to me is everything that the country does not need right now. I never understood that trust played such an essential part in the creation of a stable government and life but after reading this article I realize just how key it is. There is a lot of fear and this fear is due to the instability that a lot of us are feeling and although the solution seems simple “ build the trust” I know that this is going to be the struggle of my generation, equality and building back the trust. I hope in the future I develop more trust in society and government but I don’t think that will happen for a very long time but here is to hoping. I also hope that poc can heal because we are damaged, and hurting right now so please, make sure your poc friends are ok. In fact, make sure all your friends are ok because that level of trust is something we all need right now because if we can’t have faith in our government the least we can do is have some faith in eachother so that one day we can make a difference together.
squirrelluver123
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 9

Originally posted by iluvcows on October 14, 2020 19:52

This article was very interesting and insightful to read and led me to think about many new things. I believe that people have begun to distrust society greatly, but understandably so. Since 1964, when around 77 percent of Americans stated that they trusted the government to do the right thing the majority of the time, many bad events have taken place and we have witnessed many wrongdoings under the government. This has made many Americans think of the government as unreliable and untrustworthy. Witnessing a failure in dealing with these issues from many political figures has contributed to this distrust. Today, people have watched President Trump deny the rising racial discrimination taking place in society as minorities are still being denied the same opportunities and rights of others. These individuals have a legitimate reason to distrust society and the government and it is justified through what they have struggled through under their watch. A rise in social media and news outlets have exposed various injustices that have taken place both in the past and in present time. This has resulted in our generation standing up and protesting against this inequality in society which is overall a seemingly positive adjustment.


This leads to Brook’s question of whether we are living through a pivot or a decline. I would like to think that it is a pivot and in the long run we will overcome these struggles and improve as a nation. In all honesty, we simply don't know how this will affect us in the future and whether it will result in a further decline or if this is a pivotal moment in history. I believe that Gen Z is utilizing our access to technology to protest against the many injustices and that we can create change in the United states and stop the decline in society.


When I hear the phrase “the United States is the greatest nation in the world” I automatically find myself saying no. During these past few months just witnessing all these horrible occurrences have frankly made me embarrassed of the society we live in. However, if I take a step back and compare the United states to other places in the world we have been very successful in certain aspects. The level of freedom we provide is certainly more than other nations and economically we have soared over the years. On the other hand, in terms of our government, unity, and equality we are far from the best. We continue to struggle with racial inequality and discrimination sontinues to be a prominate issue within the United States. How am I, and others in society supposed to witness all of these flaws in our nation and say it is even close to being the greatest?


I agree with Brook’s statement that we are living in the age of disappointment. As @user1234 stated, “How can we not feel disappointed when everyday we’re being taught that racism is a thing of the past, and then we see black people being murdered by white police officers for no reason.” We constantly are being reminded of the terrible events happening in our society today. I believe that a major reason that we are living through this is because as @thesnackthatsmilesback said in their response, our access to technology has opened our eyes to the many issues in society as well as gave us immense knowledge on the happenings in the world that previous generations did not have access to. I think that because of our awareness of the world's problems from such a young age, we have more of an opportunity to have disappointment towards our society.


I agree with you that many people have a good reason to distrust society and their government. Why would they trust the government if it has done nothing to help them? While in theory they should, minorities and people of color still do not have the same rights and opportunities as white people. Racial discrimination is not a thing of the past, it is still happening everywhere in the country. As you stated, we are constantly being reminded of this as well because of the growth of social media and the internet. People often believe that racism is suddenly coming back, but it never went away, there have been countless acts of discrimination in the past, but we now have increasing documentation and sharing of it from the internet that creates greater awareness. The government has failed people in so many ways and has proved itself “unreliable and untrustworthy” as you stated.

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