A number of survey results struck me lately.
First, narcissism had increased greatly over time. A psychological survey painted a picture of a younger generation with inflated senses of self who have "less interest in emotionally intimate bonds and can lash out when rejected or insulted." The personality study asked questions like: "If I ruled the world, it would be a better place," "I think I am a special person" and "I like to be the center of attention." Overall, the incidence of heightened narcissism increased by 30 percent since 1982.
Also, a the Pew Research Center published a survey about the attitudes of the current younger generation. More than two-thirds see their generation as "unique and distinct" and "getting rich" is the main goal in life. Looking across generations, 86 percent of the 18-25 years old viewed money as the key goal, as opposed to 62 percent of the 26-40 group. In terms of "becoming famous", the number skewed 51 percent to 29 percent. Also, large majorities believe that casual sex, binge drinking, illegal drug use and violence have increased over the past 20 years. Their heroes are often celebrities and sports stars.
What explains this? The psychological study points to a number of trends, including "permissive parenting, increased materialism and the fascination with celebrities". This sounds about right. What struck me most about the Pew study was the increasing acceptance of violence, a telling sign of the degradation of culture. And yet many conservatives, while pointing the figure at the culture, balk at this one. Part of the problem is surely the prevalence of the "gangster culture" in popular entertainment. But another part of it is the increasing glorification of the military, and the belief that violence solves problems. It's all entwined in a single problem, a very big problem.