Psychology of Uncaring
The baby boom generation started out as caring for the world and the people in it, then suddenly toward the end of 1970s went to not only being completely non caring, but in fact aggressively so and hateful of those who were. While there may be many reasons for this, I would like to address one that has not been frequently cited. It is found in the works of a highly influential psychologist Dr. Scott Peck.
In "The Road Less Taken," Scott Peck describes a friend of his who was talking a lot about racism and sexism as being fixated upon things that he felt were hindering him. This is of course ridiculous (How can sexism and racism negatively impact the prospects of an American white man?) But in applying this sort of thinking, he started something that has been a major source of great wrong in 1980s and later, and that is as follows:
Misrepresenting concern for the well-being of the world and of other people as blaming or whining, and lack of such concern as personal responsibility.
The 1980s were full of aggressive anti-humanitarian, anti-liberal ideologies. The false portrayal of the liberal and humanitarian leanings as something bad, and of the lack of them as something good, did more than just subvert liberalism and humanitarianism. It also denied the attention of those who had it in them to care to the world - both to the people who needed this attention and to the planet that also needed it. And it also destroyed the good in many, many people, turning their focus instead to the size of their house, the number of SUVs owned, and the brand of shoes worn by their children. These then became universal measures not only of success but also of credibility, not only undermining the character of the people but also diminishing what they had to offer the world.
The baby boomers are frequently described as the "Me generation"; but that was not the case always. In 1960s and 1970s many fought and worked for the well-being of the world and of people from whom they had nothing to expect in return - often while profoundly sacrificing their self-interest in the process or encountering great danger and harm. I have always found it difficult to understand how people who deeply cared turned into people who aggressively did not care. In the psychology of the times is found at least part of the answer.
With humanitarianism and liberal-mindedness misrepresented as something negative, and lack thereof misrepresented as something positive, was created an inverted value system that punished the virtue and rewarded the vice. It was by no means the first time in the history of humanity that such a thing happened; but it is an error from which America and the world have not yet recovered. This original error of Peck - though perhaps not as a single factor - was formative to the worst qualities of the time that followed. And it is time that it be seen for what it is. So when Elvis Costello wrote, in the beginning of 1980s, "Compassion went out of fashion," it is this wrong that he was describing in his work.
Caring about the world is a virtue, and one that deserves to eventuate in positive and constructive action toward global benefit. As for lack of such caring, it is not personal responsibility; it is a vice. It is time that virtues, and vices, be known by their proper name; and that most certainly is the case here. The world would be better if Scott Peck's error had not been made in the first place. But there is no reason why people now should not be able to discard it and to correct its destructive results.
Part of larger essay Errors in Psychology at http://sites.google.com/site/ilyashambatwritings/psychology