Obama is cool; conservatives are not
New posters have made appearance in the London Tube: Barack Obama waving to passengers, with a large “10” in the background. I have to admit it was not until the train pulled out of the station and the candidate’s infectious smile vanished from view that I figured it out: the “10” had to stand for a certain Downing Street address. The message conveyed had to be, Obama Is Good for Britain.
It is unclear why the British and the tourists needed to be convinced of this, but even so 10 Downing Street is not the best ad material: it has been entered by many a terrorist and dictator protected by their diplomatic passports. More pertinently, the first reaction to the ad is that this must be the cover of a glossy magazine, which features Barry O as a Top Ten celebrity. Why not? The smart set wears its political sympathies on its Prada sleeve, and this goes beyond the Britney-Brangelina crowd; Bruce Springsteen - the Boss himself - is endorsing Obama, too!
Let’s take it one step further. What does the Asbury Park graybeard have in common with the Dem cheerleaders besides his star status? Perhaps it is the teenage protest against adults that holds true at all times. Conservatives are boring adults, forever dwelling on responsibilities (as opposed to Liberals, who are all about the rights.) Conservatives demand orderly bedrooms and impose curfews. They want you to study what they think you will need in the future, rather than something that is really fun. And how do they know what the future is going to be like? Anyway, why bother? Live in the present – in the moment – now, that’s cool!
The Adults-Conservatives say you need to learn history to learn from the past’s mistakes – bo-ring! They are so careful and distrustful towards the “other,” towards everything that’s new; they see danger lurking everywhere – why can’t they just open up and have fun? They keep erecting walls, which should be broken once and forever! We want change, we want to rebel (or at least look like rebels). It all goes back to Marlon Brando in 1953:
Hey, Johnny, What are you rebelling against? - What've you got?
Those stuck-up Conservatives don’t let you hang out with “bad” boys and dangerous older guys, like hardcore Russian Mafiosi, Cuban or Venezuelan revolutionaries, or Iranian and Hamas jihadists. The Conservatives don’t get it: danger is fun! With their oil and gas and hashish, the hoodlums are more fun. We are grownups ourselves and can do anything we want: we can break the wall between Texas and Mexico, or between Israel and Hamastan, or between Europe and Maghreb. In other words, let’s break the fence between our house and the street where these cool guys hang out and bring them home to party! This way we can stay Forever Young.
Tea with AhmadinejadThe politicians of the Left are in a sense like rock stars (whom they court so arduously): their teenage-ness is unrelated to their physical age and stems from the need to keep up their image among their fans – that is, voters. Shimon Peres, “Still Crazy after All Those Years”, is still calling for peace with Palestinian jihadists, as if his Oslo process had not led to thousands of victims. Another eternal teenager, Tony Blair, proposes that we pump hundreds millions more euros in Near East dictatorships.
And now Barack Obama, the youngest of them all, intends to sit down for tea with Ahmadinejad in order to solve all the problems about the Coming of Mahdi. One of these problems is that hundreds of millions of Shiites have a good mind to commemorate the said arrival with an Armageddon. (Some Obama critics claim that his main argument with Ahmadinejad will be “But I am the Messiah! I am the one you have been waiting for!”)
This is not to defend all the Conservatives or all their actions. Both the Tories here and the Republicans in the US have committed and are committing grave errors, both of moral and geopolitical nature. One recent example is President Bush’s half-assed strategy for democratizing the Middle East - a laudable intention in itself – which can lead to new tragic challenges for the West. But at least Conservatives cannot be faulted with unwillingness to know, to learn, and to understand history, and instead base your perception solely on your opponent’s mirror image (while presuming he shares your “common human values”.) And it is this perception, profoundly naïve and romantic, that is a part of the teenage worldview. It is an unwillingness to regard human nature soberly. It is the desire of instant gratification, where everybody likes you and everybody is cool and everything is peaceful, just like at the party – Here and Now. In fact, Peace Now is the name of the largest Israeli peace organization.
Inevitable teenage waveWe should also factor in a profound failure to appreciate the value of human life, despite the loudly proclaimed humanism. Parents always keep bugging you: don’t stay out late, don’t go here, don’t go there – you could get robbed and even murdered. The teenager snubs them: he doesn’t know the value of health, life and even money. So what, you’ll say; that’s what growing up is all about.
Ah, but the graying teenager politician drags the entire nation to the party with the bad guys. His pacifism – his refusal to fight the bad guys – does not stem from understanding the value of life, but, rather, from his opposition to his parents and his teenage petulance; once in love with an idea, he would hold on to it till he pops the last pimple in his face, refusing to see the danger of putting this idea to practice. If it rains, it doesn’t matter how much his parents would try to tell him about getting drenched; if his classmates don’t think umbrellas are cool, he will forego one – and then turn around and blame the parents for messing up the environment and making the rain inevitable. If War is bad, it doesn’t matter what is at stake and why it is being waged.
This wave of graying teenagers in politics may be inevitable for the entire West. It is rooted not so much in the Enlightenment’s side effects and neo-pagan cult of fitness and youthfulness as in demography. The Western electorate is aging; people live longer and grow up later. The voters in the group bracketed by the age of eighteen and the age of starting a family, which has by now shifted to forty-plus, do not give much thought to coming generations. And this is the target group for the politicians, with its fashions and trends and its teenage psychology.
This is not to suggest that we should live shorter lives, but, rather, that we should wise up earlier. Yet wisdom is formed by education and mass culture, which are controlled by the Forever Young. The only thing left is to pray, and surely no one teaches Western teenagers that.
Dr. Dmitry Radyshevsky is the Executive Director of the Jerusalem Summit