Jonah Goldberg
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Seriously, if your self-esteem is remotely dependent on the year you were born, or on the accomplishments of people who happen to be the same age as you, then you don't have a lot going for you. If you spend your days on your parents' couch, working through cases of Cheetos like they were so many equine feedbags, if bong maintenance marks the outer boundary of your personal responsibilities, then I'm sorry to say your inadequacies aren't mitigated one bit by the fact you were born the same year, never mind decade, as Mark Zuckerberg.

And yet that's the point behind so much generational piffle. Youth politics are the cheapest form of identity politics. At least black people are black their whole lives (Michael Jackson being the exception that proves the rule). Barring surgery, women stay women. But young people don't stay young. Moreover, we treat them as if they're geniuses precisely because they don't know much and have little life experience. Of course there are incredibly bright and knowledgeable young people. But as a rule we're all born stupid and ignorant, and that condition improves only as we become less young.

That politicians pander to anything that moves is hardly a shocking revelation. Nor is it stunning to see the White House treat young people as a homogenized blob they hope to flatter and bribe to the polls come November. To paraphrase H.L. Mencken, if there were a huge bloc of cannibals in this country, the Democrats would promise them tasty missionaries fattened at the taxpayers' expense.

What's dismaying is how much this sort of thing seems to work. Part of what's exciting about being young is the discovery that you are your own person, the captain of yourself. Cheering at the idea that you are a drone, expected to simply "act your age" is a sad declaration of your own self-worth.

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Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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