Why the left hates the old

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Den­nis Prager

The lat­est left-wing tac­tic to dis­credit con­ser­va­tive views is to dis­miss the age and race of con­ser­va­tives. “Old white males” and “old white peo­ple” are the left’s lat­est fa­vored neg­a­tive ep­i­thets for those hold­ing con­ser­va­tive views.

Chris Matthews of MSNBC, Thomas Fried­man and Paul Krug­man of the New York Times, and Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Harry Reid (“an­gry old white men”) are among the many on the left who have used this ep­i­thet.

Last week, on her nightly MSNBC show, Rachel Mad­dow showed a pic­ture of an ad for Wash­ing­ton, D.C. talk ra­dio sta­tion WRC that fea­tured the sta­tion’s talk show hosts. You will no­tice, she said, that they are all “old white Repub­li­can males.” It was brought to my at­ten­tion be­cause I am one of those talk show hosts (and, it should be noted, nearly all of my col­leagues and I are younger than her col­league, Chris Matthews, an old white Demo­cratic male.) What is go­ing on here? The an­swer is: quite a bit. The left’s dis­missal of old peo­ple is much more than another left-wing ad hominem at­tack. There­fore, to un­der­stand it is to un­der­stand much of what an­i­mates leftism. As a rule, the left re­jects the old. The left’s at­tack on teach­ing the works of “Dead White Euro­pean Males” was one such ex­am­ple. It in­fu­ri­ated the left that Shakespeare was stud­ied so much more than, let us say, liv­ing Gu­atemalan play­wrights. As a re­sult, one can now ob­tain a col­lege de­gree in English — let alone ev­ery other lib­eral arts depart­ment — with­out hav­ing taken a course in Shakespeare.

So, too, in art and mu­sic, the new is al­most al­ways fa­vored over the old. New com­posers and artists — no mat­ter how un­tal­ented — are stud­ied as much as or more than the great mas­ters of old. And the old stan­dards of ex­cel­lence are ne­glected in fa­vor of the lat­est avant-garde ex­per­i­men­ta­tion.

Re­jec­tion of the old is a rea­son the left has con­tempt for the Bi­ble. To pro­gres­sives, the idea of hav­ing 2,000 and 3,000-year-old texts guide a per­son’s be­hav­ior to­day is lu­di­crous.

Low re­gard for the old is also a ma­jor fac­tor in the left’s dis­missal of the Founders and of the orig­i­nal in­tent of the Con­sti­tu­tion. Talk about “old white males,” the Founders are white males who are now over 200-years-old. What could they pos­si­bly have known or un­der­stood that a pro­gres­sive liv­ing to­day does not know more about or un­der­stand bet­ter?

What, then, is at the core of the left’s con­tempt for the old, and its celebration of the new and of change? There are two pri­mary an­swers. One is the yearn­ing for utopia. Since Marx, the left has sought utopia in this world. And that means con­stantly trans­form­ing ev­ery as­pect of so­ci­ety. As then-Se­na­tor Barack Obama said prior to the 2008 elec­tion: “We are five days away from fun­da­men­tally trans­form­ing the United States of Amer­ica.”

By def­i­ni­tion, those who seek to trans­form con­sider the old essen­tially worth­less.

The other an­swer is self-es­teem. The left be­gan the self-es­teem move­ment in large mea­sure be­cause of its own high self-es­teem. Those on the left are cer­tain that they are smarter, kinder, more moral and more com­pas­sion­ate than -- in ev­ery way su­pe­rior to -- their op­po­nents.

That is a ma­jor rea­son for the left’s prob­lem with the old: If the old is great, then they and their new ideas are prob­a­bly not that great.

Just about ev­ery­one who is not on the cul­tural left knows that all the great mas­ters were in­com­pa­ra­bly su­pe­rior to Jack­son Pol­lock and other 20th-cen­turies artists who pro­duced mean­ing­less and tal­ent­less art. And be­cause there are so few artists at any time who mea­sure up to the old stan­dards (stan­dards that are syn­ony­mous with stan­dards of ex­cel­lence), the old stan­dards have sim­ply been aban­doned.

This ap­plies equally to mo­ral­ity. The left doesn’t want to be bound or an­swer­able to a higher moral au­thor­ity. Rather, one’s heart and rea­son are the best moral guides. Here, too, the old codes, es­pe­cially as em­bod­ied in tra­di­tional re­li­gion, must be over­thrown.

Prior to the as­cen­dance of the left, it was as­sumed that the old had more wis­dom than the young. In­deed, even ev­ery left­ist I have asked, “Are you wiser to­day than 20 years ago?” has an­swered in the af­fir­ma­tive.

Nev­er­the­less the left has trans­formed “old” -- a ti­tle that com­manded re­spect in ev­ery civ­i­liza­tion prior to the pre-1960s West -- into a pe­jo­ra­tive.

As a re­sult we live in the age of new mu­sic, new art, new fam­i­lies, new mo­ral­ity, new ed­u­ca­tion, and now new mar­riage. If you think all th­ese are good, then “old white males,” like al­most ev­ery­thing else old, do in­deed con­sti­tute a threat. If you think the left’s be­lief in “new” and “change” hurts so­ci­ety, “old” sounds good.

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