A crisis of purpose  


Photo by    Aaron Burden    on    Unsplash

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

In recent years, many Americans, particularly young ones, have become obsessed with the push for larger government, intrigued by promises from politicians to give them everything they’re simultaneously being told cannot be achieved without government. The allure is unsurprising given that the transition into adulthood is, for most, an exceedingly trying time, one defined by a unique lack of resources and influence.  

The fear of poverty, whether material or spiritual, can strip a person of his sense of purpose. Human beings are sentient enough that our ambitions interfere with our primal nature, leading us to desire more from life than merely survival and reproduction. So we search for deeper meaning, and an easier path to reach that end. 

The search for purpose has led many toward religion. Others have acquired the taste for nihilism, believing frequently in the absence of a god which gives intrinsic meaning to life and pursuing ruthlessly their most hedonistic urges.  

Many forget the importance of sacrifice, opting for immediate gratification, focusing only on the self and little on the aggregate. But humans are uniquely social creatures, requiring for survival acceptance in groups and cooperation from others. Perhaps our extreme reliance upon others has born the conscience we exhibit, which is absent in animals. A conscience, by the way, is good to have.  

It’s important for people to want to provide relief for those who are suffering and to offer support for the communities we must form for survival. But the keyword here is “community.” The crucial realization is that government cannot replace community.  

For decades, Americans have been growing less religious, more isolated and increasingly selfish, voting to give charity with others’ money and demanding our neighbors pay for our own endeavors. Further, one of the most fundamental tenets of a community is the ability of its members to, at times, leave each other the hell alone. Our romanticizing of strict social conformity betrays more than just our neighbors: It belies the tolerance we preach.  

Tolerance is not the same as acceptance. It’s the peaceful coexistence with people whose beliefs you do not accept. But we’ve managed to convince ourselves that those who are “intolerant” of certain viewpoints or lifestyle choices are deplorable and must be ostracized. 

Rather than hash it out with our community, we seek for like-minded authority to validate our worldview and destroy the opposition. Take, for example, the Canadian government mandating the use of preferred pronouns or many universities barring disagreeable speakers from campus. This all leads to a devolution of relationship and an increase in the scope of a government which cannot adequately replace us.  

It’s our responsibility to endeavor for one another, to care for ourselves and our families and to pull our own weight so as not to drag down the community. If we don’t fulfill our responsibilities, others lose trust and respect for us and the community breaks down.  

Ultimately, young Americans have little respect for the accomplishments of others—frequently attributing them to racial privilege or social hierarchies—and no belief in themselves, often blaming institutional discrimination for their failures before they’ve even tried.  

Progressive politicians have promised an end to institutional discrimination (of which the evidence is scant), an increase in tolerance (except for those who disagree) and freedom from personal responsibility, while substituting government for the purpose achieved within community and through tribulation. They seek to fill the role of God themselves, rectifying perceived injustice and solving all our problems for us. And when the government inevitably fails miserably at this task, it isn’t because we didn’t pray hard enough, but because the government didn’t have enough control. Sacrifice more of your personal freedom at the altar of intervention and you shall receive.  

The next generation fears for its uncertain future as did every generation prior. The difference is that the government didn’t promise to shoulder the burden for our ancestors. They had to endure the struggle themselves. Their actions had consequences and, therefore, their lives had meaning. 

While the ultimate nature of our purpose may be indefinite in some respects, meaning cannot be derived from life without taking on more responsibility and conquering the adversity which ensues. The radical progressive agenda may be highly impractical, but our problem is more of attitude than policy. If life were easy, what would be the purpose? Further, life is not so simple that the government can solve its complications. Perhaps finding our purpose is in this burdensome realization.  

Kevin Catapano is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at kevin.catapano@uconn.edu.

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