This headline from the Babylon Bee popped up on my feed last week:
“Gen Xers Decide to Split Off from Rest of Society and Form a Utopia That’s All Relaxed and Cool and, You Know, Whatever”
As a Gen-Xer myself this resonated. I do struggle with the angsty, angry vibe of much contemporary morality. I do long for a simpler, calmer, cooler time.
This got me thinking about the generational shifts in public ethics I’ve witnessed in my half century of life. Oversimply, we’ve gone from the optimistic traditionalism of the 50s, through the idealistic libertarianism of the 60s & 70s, then the sheer pragmatism of the 80s, to the radical moral relativism of the 90s & 00s. Now, though, we’re apparently cycling back to confident – even strident – collective moralising.
In short, after a fifty-year break, objective morality is back.
It’s not identical to old school versions of course, but no one is shrugging “whatevs” at workplace abuse any more. No one is saying the idea that “racism is bad” is true for me, but not you. Everyone is saying (or perhaps remembering) that compassion for those who’ve suffered horrific injustice is really, deeply, actually, good.
I wonder whether this is all so stressful because we are out of practice at doing objective public ethics. Whatevs, surprisingly to this Gen-Xer, I’m happy morality is back. It means we can also return to wrestling publicly with why morality is built into the universe.