Don’t Fence Me In: Claim The Inheritance

How sad is that? Almost makes you cry, doesn’t it? We all like the fact that reports say the Millenials are the most conservative generation since the ‘Greatest Generation’, but there is nothing to celebrate in an American generation being risk averse. Ben Domenech wrote about it in The Federalist, and it’s worth commenting on.

Space is the next frontier. Throughout the history of America, we have been a nation driven by the idea of the frontier—a place where law was slim and liberty was enormous, where you could make your way in the world based on your own ambition and abilities, not fenced in by the limitations of society. The idea of the frontier is a stand-in for the idea of liberty. The danger for the millennial generation today is that even as they inhabit an era providing utopian degrees of choices, they have become too fearful to actually make those choices and seize the future liberty allows. In so doing, they deny their inheritance as Americans.

OK, a break, I simply can’t resist…

We have an abundance of evidence on this front. Millennials are extremely reluctant to invest or risk their capital. UBS found that in the wake of the financial crisis, millennials appear more risk-averse than any generation since the Great Depression. Brookings has analyzed the sense of displacement driven by technology, seeing Spike Jonze’s “Her” as a prediction of the world as it will be when millennial values drive society. And Megan McArdle has written eloquently about the fear of failure of any sort, even in the smallest ways, that animates young Americans. […]

Once there was a country born without an inheritance. It was a civilization carved by the rejected refuse of the old world, by the religious freaks, criminals, bastards, and orphans. They were the type of men and women willing to risk all to cross the wine-dark sea in search of their fortune. They came from all the corners of the world, and in this land they worked the good earth and made their way. In time they built marketplaces and cities and governments, and threw off the shackles of their far-off, old-world rulers to make their own law. Where other revolutions had been crushed, they prevailed. They risked it all, and won.

Still, some were restless. So the risk-takers pulled up stakes and moved further west, finding the edge of civilization and making their homes there, and bringing their language and their law with them. They were called to the promise of the golden light of the horizon, so they journeyed west and further west, from sea to shining sea.

But the risk-takers never stopped. Their families had come from nations where inheritance was all—where blood was royal or serf, and the class of those who sired you charted your future, not the ability of your mind or the strength of your will. This truth they denied, and out of this audacity was birthed a society that, slowly but surely, through march and blood and slaughter, embraced the equality of all under law. […]

This is an American inheritance, but it is not a birthright. It must be claimed. And it is an open question whether the children of the children of those who rescued the old world will claim it. […]

There is comfort in the safety gained. But, slowly and surely, there is something lost, too—an idea that once lived here, in this new world. It was a belief that we are not prisoners of our destiny, that the world we pass on can exceed the one we were born into. This is not a uniquely American belief, but a human one, although not all cultures acknowledge or honor it. It was here in America where this belief was uniquely understood from our inception in our creed. We are born with an equal claim to life, to liberty, and to the pursuit of what lies beyond that far horizon. To deny this is to break faith with our own humanity, rejecting what is best in ourselves.

I don’t have a lot to add except that if you care about America, or especially the idea of America, you need to read Ben’s article and apply it to yourself, and especially encourage those coming after us to take the longhorn by his horns, and risk it all. That is what won America. My life hasn’t been what I dreamed of as a boy – I didn’t get rich, nor did I marry Ann Margeret. But I have had a hell of a good time, and while I never worried overmuch about tomorrow, I made due allowances and did what I perceived to be my duty. No man can do more, nor should he ever wish to do less, to paraphrase Robert E. Lee.

I’m reminded of an American girl from Brooklyn, about 150 years ago, or so. It seemed she had it all, a doting daddy, a reasonable education, and more money than she knew what to do with. As it happened she went to England, and rumor had it had an affair with the Prince of Wales, and married the son of the Duke of Marlborough, and they had a son, who became perhaps the greatest Prime Minister of Great Britain. In the very dark days after Dunkirk, he quoted a poem, which pretty well summarizes the American experience.

 

For while the tired waves, vainly breaking,
Seem here no painful inch to gain,
Far back, through creeks and inlets making,
Comes silent, flooding in, the main.

 

And not by eastern windows only,
When daylight comes, comes in the light;
ln front the sun climbs slow, how slowly,
But westward, look, the land is bright

It still is, if we make it so.

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5 Responses to Don’t Fence Me In: Claim The Inheritance

  1. Reblogged this on Boudica2015.

    Like

  2. the unit says:

    So the next Frontier is open with the blessing of the Congress with passing of the Commercial Space Launch Act. I guess the pioneers and frontiersmen/women moving West in the old days had to wait for the government blessing of some Westward Ho Git-er Goin’ Act? I bet both times the government was just trying to catch up. 🙂
    I don’t know what generations the founders, investors, and participants of SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic represent. They certainly not risk-averse.

    Liked by 1 person

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