F.R. Duplantier reporting Behind The Headlines
Week of:
July 2, 2000
Resurrecting the Western Tradition

F.R. Duplantier

by: F.R. Duplantier

Are we finally waking up from the national nightmare that began with the cultural revolution of the 1960s?

"Led by its elite institutions -- the universities, the judiciary, the press, the great charitable foundations, even the mainstream churches -- American culture underwent a revolution in the 1960s, which transformed some of its most basic beliefs and values, including its beliefs about the causes of poverty," recalls Myron Magnet of the Manhattan Institute. "When these new attitudes reached the poor, and particularly the urban, minority poor, the result," he laments, "was catastrophic: many of the new culture's beliefs downplayed the personal responsibility, self- control, and deferral of gratification that it takes to succeed. At the same time," Magnet continues, "the new culture celebrated an 'if it feels good, do it' self-indulgence that for the poor . . . too often proved disastrous. The social policy that these ideas engendered," he adds, "compounded the problem."

In the preface to the newly released paperback edition of his 1993 book, The Dream and the Nightmare, Myron Magnet describes how "America tried its grand experiment with the elite cultural values of the 1960s. It loosened its crime and welfare policies," he observes, "it had its fling with the sexual revolution, it remade its mores from top to bottom, it instituted affirmative action, it turned its universities into academies of the new culture. In due course all this produced real-world consequences, plain to see," says Magnet: "cities made unlivable by the crime, incivility, and squalor generated by the underclass and the homeless; children damaged when the 'if it feels good, do it' ethos broke up their families. . . ."

The "dream," in short, became a nightmare, Magnet contends, one from which we're just now emerging. "In the 1990s," he reports, "in a pragmatic fashion without much talk about theory, the nation began to address not the cultural revolution itself but some of its most destructive consequences related to the underclass." Magnet cites "two main milestones so far. The first," he contends, "is New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's campaign, beginning in 1994, to slash crime in what had come to be thought of as the murder capital of the world; the second is the federal Welfare Reform Act of 1996. Both these reforms," Magnet concludes, "had the effect of utterly disproving some of the most cherished tenets of the cultural revolution. . . ."

Magnet says it's time to bury the counterculture and resurrect the Western tradition. "The soul of American society isn't an ancient dynasty," he emphasizes, "or racial homogeneity, or immemorial rootedness in an ancestral fatherland, or welfare paternalism, but an allegiance to a few fundamental ideas. The principles on which our society was built must once again inform our public life," Magnet counsels: "that everyone is responsible for his or her actions; that we believe in freedom under the rule of law; and that we enforce the law scrupulously in all neighborhoods; that the public, communal life is a boon, not an oppression; that everyone has equal rights, and rights belong to individuals, not groups; that we are free to shape our own fate."

Duplantier is the author of the new book Politickles: Limericks Lampooning the Lunatic Left (Merril Press, 2000), available at Amazon.com and other online locations.

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