"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."


Sunday, April 07, 2019

Western World Raises Most Boring Generation In Over Two Centuries

Oy! Kids these days!

Grand Lodge officers like to fret over the coming generations of young men who will (or will not) be knocking on doors of Masonic lodges in the coming years. Admittedly, most Masonic leaders tend to not recognize generational differences until at least ten years too late to actually respond to the issue. Some of us like to joke that we want to be in a Masonic lodge if the Apocalypse happens because everything happens in lodge ten years later. The current too-late obsession is about 'Millennials' and how they behave like a different species than 'Baby Boomers' and 'Viet Nam guys,' who were likewise a different collective animal than the WWII generation. 

The truth is that if you want to get the jump on how this fraternity will adapt itself by 2038, you need to look at the under-20's right now who will begin to knock on the West Gate in greatest waves in their 40s. And when you look at studies being done throughout the entire Western world from which we will continue to draw most of our members, you'll find that the children born around 2000 at the dawn of the new Millennium (when we were agitated over the Y2K Catastrophe) are turning out to be... boring.

A good cross-section of global surveys being done with teenagers today can be found in The Economist from January 2018 in an article called 'Teenagers are better behaved and less hedonistic nowadays':

Young people are indeed behaving and thinking differently from previous cohorts at the same age. These shifts can be seen in almost every rich country, from America to the Netherlands to South Korea. Some have been under way for many years, but they have accelerated in the past few. Not all of them are benign... 
To cut to the chase, here are some takeaways from this and other sources. They drink less and later in life, and are far less likely to take up drug habits. They tend not to fight and are already showing less inclination to wind up in jail. Teenagers report that it's easier to have a heart to heart discussion with their fathers than earlier generations. All of that seems to be good news. They're also dating and having sex much less frequently and later in life - if at all. And that's where some sociologists are sounding an alarm bell. 

These are the first children raised with a smart phone in their pockets 24 hours a day, and they seem to have already lost what has long been supposed to be the natural inclination of teenagers to 'rebel,' when they learn the parameters of their own abilities and limitations. They live at home with their parents longer than ever before. They don't want to get drivers licenses. They don't go out and get minimum wage jobs, or ANY summer jobs. They socialize less - almost an alarming rate. They communicate by text, not face to face. 

They're more emotionally and physically isolated than any other previous generation, and that means they don't develop close personal bonds with other people or understand the nuances and basic skills of interpersonal communication. As families have become smaller and single-child households are more common, that means they have no siblings to learn the very essential skills of constant interaction with peers. They are even losing the ability to interpret facial expressions in others. They're exceedingly and almost painfully polite in an effort not to hurt feelings or inadvertently offend - what Charles Murray calls 'ecumenical niceness' - which makes them timid when dealing with others. They consider themselves lonely in a crowd in greater numbers than ever before.

From the Economist:
Whether it is a consequence of phones, intrusive parenting, an obsessive focus on future job prospects or something else entirely, teenagers seem lonelier than in the past. The OECD’s PISA surveys show that the share of 15-year-olds who say they make friends easily at school has dropped in almost every country (see chart 2). Some Western countries are beginning to look like Japan and South Korea, which struggle with a more extreme kind of social isolation in which young people become virtual hermits.
Perhaps they will get round to close friendships in time. One way of thinking about the differences between the youth of today and yesterday is that today’s lot are taking it slow. They are slow to drink, have sex and earn money. They will also probably be slow to leave home, get married and have children. What looks to older generations like indolence and a reluctance to grow up might be, at least in part, a response to medical developments. Babies born today in a rich country can expect to live for at least 80 years. Goodness knows at what age they will be entitled to state pensions. Today’s young people have all the time in the world.
Predicting the future is always a fool's errand. Face it - we still don't have those flying cars and robots making breakfast they told us about at the 1964 World's Fair. Mentioned in the Economist article is UCLA's Jean Twenge, and her book iGen is a good look at what some of this new research into teenager behavior is looking like.

Freemasonry has always adapted to the society in which it resides, and it will adapt to this generation by the 2030s. But the questions naturally arise: what changes will this next generation trigger when they begin arriving at Masonic lodges? Will the traditions shucked off by the Baby Boomers like proficiency skills, memorization, strong leadership expectations, and especially personal mentorship bonding make a comeback to teach these Masons the skills that they missed growing up? Or will they become even more isolated than so many of our current members seem to be today who pay dues and never attend lodge functions or communicate with their brethren?

An equal question is whether Freemasonry will again become the sort of organization that high achievers and natural leaders like captains of industry, government standouts, artists, writers, military heroes and other respected 'great men' will gravitate to, as they did back in the days when Denslow wrote 10,000 Famous Freemasons.


  1. Life seems to follow certain patterns and cycles. Hopefully, young 15 year old males will eventually become interested in the joining the Craft when they come of age. It is possible they will if they meet Masons who continue to set a good example, help them clarify what they have read about the Craft, and offer strong guidance.

    Despite the drivel passing for politics these days and religious intolerance, I am proud to see Freemasonry is staying true to her purpose thanks to our leadership and the support of our members.

    This month's "H" (History) magazine is a reissue of a Special Edition on " Secret Societies " which was first published in 2016. It is flying off the shelves on a Naval Base where I do business. Approximately 40 copies sold out in less than two days at $14.00 a copy. Now some might say, well, Sailors need reading material while away at sea. That may be true. But some may also be hungry for what we have to offer.

    1. I’ve been very curious how that magazine has been selling, so thanks for the anecdotal experience.

    2. This is why it's so important to get young people involved in the Masonic Youth groups at a young age: 1) to expose them to something greater, 2) to give them a positive introduction to Masonic values and entice them to join when they have attained "lawful age," and 3) to preserve the Masonic organization for the next 25 to 50 years.

  2. Cut to the article in six months where they're destroying the economy and are rife with behavioral problems. Millennials are the multi-purpose boogeyman to the mid-life masses. Guilty of ALL the deficiencies.

    1. But this article isn't about Millennials. It's the next generation after them who are just turning 19 or 20 today. Odd how this post keeps getting branded in discussion forums as being insulting to Millennials - not at all. It's talking about sociological observations and trends of the NEXT generation, which is the first to be raised entirely with smartphones in their hands.

    2. Should've been an 'and post-' following that Millennials. I must've deleted it while I was attempting to clean up my punctuation. Whether you were born between 1980-2000 or after 2000, the same moving stereotypes are being heaped on all of us under the age of 35. And to answer your question; a group of people so digitally inclined aren't very likely to have any interest in an institution that can't even decide if it wants WiFi in its meeting spaces without multiple business meetings and some broken friendships.

    3. A lot of of people still seem to use "Millenials" as a short-hand for "Kids These Days" even though most millenials are in their 30's by now.

  3. Speaking as a teacher, students are much more concerned about their future jobs and careers than they were years ago. It's hard to interest them in things that don't have a vocational flavor. Brother Jefferson, the reality with many lodges is that they lac relevance for young people and the absolutely disastrous decline in membership is continuing.

  4. Just as a placeholder for future reference, have a look at a survey taken by OnePoll for a bowling alley chain in 2019.


    "A survey of 2,000 Americans finds that for the average adult, more than a third of their year is spent mired in boredom....

    "Full-time, “adult” responsibilities, particularly work and parenting, appear to be sucking the fun out of American adults’ lives.. The results showed that 60% of participants believe their life is just too “grown-up.” In fact, 73% miss aspects of what they remember from childhood, such as spending time with friends (50%), fewer responsibilities (52%), and attending birthday parties (25%)... About two in five (39%) respondents agreed they’d prefer a night out bowling instead of going to an exercise class. A quarter would rather spend the afternoon at the arcade than at brunch. And one in five would choose to have a sleepover with friends than going to the movies...."

    The article and summary both miss the most crucial aspect of their own study - those respondents uniformly are craving HUMAN INTERACTION. They want face to face contact with people they like. Friendships, not just being in a room with other warm bodies doing solitary things (like exercising).

  5. Another placeholder: Two good starting references for recent examinations of the post-Bowling Alone era breakdown in social capital and the current results on US society are Charles Murray's Coming Apart, and Timothy Carney's Alienated America. There are many more, but these are good beginnings.

    And every Masonic leader needs to be conversant with the General Social Survey, taken since 1972, which is the baseline study for almost anyone with an interest in studying the attitudes and activities of Americans.



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