A few months back, 20-year old Texan singer and rapper Khalid scored a number one in Australia with his Gen Z high school anthem “Young, Dumb and Broke”. His catchy song popped back into my head again this morning when reading this news story:
In further evidence the young are lurching to the left, a YouGov Galaxy poll commissioned by the Centre for Independent Studies has revealed that 58 per cent of millennials — those born between 1980 and 1996 — viewed socialism favourably. Support was even higher among university graduates, at 63 per cent.
Similarly, 59 per cent were of the view that capitalism had failed society and 62 per cent believed Australian workers were worse off now than they were 40 years ago, notwithstanding the economic data suggesting otherwise.
Yet despite the millennials’ embrace of socialism — a system whereby the government has ultimate control for the economy and society, where the promise of equal opportunity and a welfare safety net comes at the cost to individual freedom — few respondents were familiar with some of its most famous historical figures.
Of the 1003 people polled, only 21 per cent were familiar with Chinese communist revolutionary Mao Zedong, 26 per cent were familiar with Vladimir Lenin and 34 per cent knew about Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. Combined, the trio are responsible for causing the deaths of more than 80 million people.
As the CIS-commissioned study also shows, more than 70 per cent, on the other hand, are familiar with Hitler. I suspect, however, this familiarity rarely extends beyond the association of Hitler with evil, which accounts for the increasingly prominent phenomenon of “Everything/one I don’t like is Hitler”.
It’s a historical truism that the young are by nature more left-wing (radical, rebellious, progressive, open, experimental, etc.) and then they grow up and grow out of it (not all, of course, but many do); “if you’re 20 and not a socialist you don’t have a heart…” and all that. But today’s young people seem to be not only more left-wing but also more ignorant about their politics.
That those who are tertiary educated are even more favourably inclined towards socialism is hardly unexpected, but it’s also a major indictment of our universities – you would expect the graduates to be smarter and more knowledgeable about politics and history than the society average. Yet those whose readings and education should have taught them to be at least sceptical of the claims of an ideology which has never been successfully implemented and instead of a paradise on Earth resulted in tens of millions of deaths and untold misery and poverty are instead those who end their education even more indoctrinated in favour of a failed ideology. Who was it that called Western universities the islands of tyranny on the ocean of freedom?
Not surprisingly, our universities are not interested in hosting a degree in Western Civilisation, which might actually provide a more balanced perspective on these issues. The overwhelmingly left-of-centre academic staff are quite happy to see nearly two in three young people leaving university as fans of socialism (and only just over one in five with an unfavourable view of the progressive ideology). The 20th century socialism of Gramsci and the Frankfurt School has certainly learned a powerful lesson: you can fail everywhere and at everything, but as long as you maintain a stranglehold on education you can perpetuate yourself into infinity. It’s the control of the means of the intellectual production that really matters. No wonder, too, about the excitement at the ever expanding higher education; in a space of two generations we went from hardly anyone to nearly half of young people going through universities. More youngsters you can put through the indoctrination factory, however tangentially, you will end up with even more socialism enthusiasts.
But never mind the intricacies of an ideological and political debate; the Millennials clearly are not even taught basic life skills such as the ability to see things in context and in perspective. No wonder that the generation who believes that history only started at their birth and that nothing beyond their small bubble matters also believes that our current society, however imperfect, is a failure. The younger Gen Ys would have but a vague memory, if any, of the last recession in Australia’s history in 1990-91 and most of them have experienced nothing but an uninterrupted economic growth. It’s perhaps this good and cushy life for the great majority of the Millennials (just how good and cushy they could easily confirm just by chatting with their parents and grandparents) that it’s responsible for creating a completely unrealistic expectations that, when not immediately met, lead the big majority to claim that capitalism has failed. If this is a failure, I’m not sure how our Australian Millennials would cope if exposed directly to socialism’s “successes”, from Venezuela through the former Soviet bloc, to Greece and elsewhere.
It’s easy to despair at the future. As in the past, many today’s socialists and shallow fellow travellers will move towards the centre and the right as they acquire more knowledge and life experience, see more of the world, start paying taxes, have children, etc. But that still leaves a larger than before cohort of people who will drive or at the very least cheer on the efforts to move our political and economic systems and the society as a whole towards the left-wing vision. It’s a sad irony that the system which has helped to give more people around the world longer, better, freer, healthier and more prosperous lives than any other at any other time in human history also helps to create the climate of such longing for its complete antithesis. To try to prevent the mistakes of the past century being repeated yet again will take a major political and intellectual effort of those who “have seen the future and it didn’t work”. Too much – everything, really – is at stake.