On Saturday mornings my youngest daughter (who was at Beaulieu as a teenager) and I have taken to having zoom calls with coffee, so we can talk to each other about the books we are currently reading. 

She was telling me about the “Intelligence Trap” in which it has been shown that having a high IQ by itself is no predictor of success in life. People can be clever in one area, and lamentably un-clever in other areas which matter in life. 

I have been reading Ellenberger’s “The Discovery of the Unconscious”. I’ve been more and more interested in what seems to be the outbreak of different mass psychoses  in our culture. The early chapters of this book describe how different examples of what we might loosely call ‘group madness’ has taken hold of people.

I suggested a recent example of this had been documented in a number of daily papers erupted a few months ago in a private girls’ school. A sixth former questioned an LGBT activist from the House of Lords about the now difficult relationship between gender, sex,and biology, asking why biology was not determinative.

Everyone agrees there was a polite exchange of differing opinions. So far so good. The teachers initially thought her behaviour reasonable. But her peers surrounded her later in a crowd, yelling, spitting and taunting her. The teachers abandoned their support of her. She left the school shattered. Rather obviously had ceased to be a safe space for her, and is studying for her A levels at home.

My daughter went to ‘herd mentality’, the ‘tendency of the people in a group to think and conform with others in the group’ but then suggested we explore the generation gap. 

“Dad, can you explain why members of my generation regard individuals like yourself as ‘old, white men’?’ 

And after we had talked about it she said -“Can you provide me with an overview, rooted in your experience growing up, of the cultural and historical factors which have influenced beliefs and views in society, over the course of the 20th and 21st century?   

It needed more coffee, but I tried. 

I recounted how in the roaring twenties kids were in serious and contemptuous revolt against their prudish Victorian and Edwardian parents. A generation later, in the next round, during the sixties and seventies, we created rock and pop music, and unleashed sex and drugs as part of a protest against their/our literally shell-shocked parents, traumatised by the Second World War.

We despised their slavery to rules we could see no need of. We felt straight jacketed  in their useless and claustrophobic social conventions. We rejected the bourgeois family values which we thought strangled self-expression and self-discovery.  We thought that the Stones and Lennon and McCartney were infinitely cool and Schubert too old fashioned and buttoned up. 

We wanted what we called ‘free love.” In fact, we wanted free everything. Our parents were shocked and disgusted. We repaid the compliment. 

I remember my grandmother, born in about 1895 saying with some level of barely restrained and pained disapproval “I do hope that I see my son and my grandson actually  marry the women they are cohabiting with before I die.” It was part sneer and part lament.

There is no simple way of describing the generation gap today. The idealism of the younger generation is less selfish than ours was but ruthlessly unforgiving.

The utopianism of creating an equal society has developed a religious streak. Deviants are treated like heretics. Some commentators have seen in the trans v feminist stand offs a new kind of contemporary witch trial. How did JK Rowling tumble from literary princess to social witch?

In Douglas Murray’s new book ‘The War on the West’ he characterises the main characteristic of the new utopianism as resentment. Someone has to be to blame for the ecological anxiety, the perpetual inequality, the terrifying and toxic thought crime.

This generation is intensely anxious. The anxiety lies partly in trying to bridge the gap between the world as it is, and the way this generation has been taught it ought to be. 

It ought to be totally fair, and completely just and uniformly equal, peaceful and safe; and if it isn’t then some group of people must be to blame; and obviously it must be the people who we’re in charge and had power,which equally obviously they must have misused.  Who has had the power? The old white men.

But what if the premise is wrong?

Where does the idea come from that the world should be fair, safe, sane  and people should be equal? What if an undogmatic examination shows that people are not born equal and can’t be made equal? Not in height, intelligence, beauty capacity or virtue. What if no one actually has the power to make things fair or safe?

If the younger generation think that old white men have screwed up and are to blame for not having produced a paradise on earth, the older generation think that the longings of the younger generation seem too much like the cries of unrealistic children who were improperly promised safety and heaven on earth, and who are raging because they can’t get their way.

It is undoubtedly true that some dead/old white men have done the most terrible  things, but not all dead/old white men. 

But maybe the worst thing that some of them did was to tell their children that a world previously understood to be caught in a conflict between Good and Evil could be made equal, safe and fair; and more than that, telling the children that they did not need to bother about Good and evil, because they did not exist. 

These few dead white men are indeed to blame for the fear, anxiety, neuroticism, rage resentment and untrue dogmas many of the young have been sold, which appear to be driving some of them mad.

But the solution is not to indiscriminately blame all dead/old white men. But to ditch the ideas of the ones who were wrong.