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A paratrooper at Fort Bragg told a TIME correspondent that he had nothing against premarital sex: "Before the property is yours, I don't see why anybody can't use it." But a buddy added: "After marriage, some guy taking my wife would be like taking my car and putting on a few extra miles. It might improve through use, but I like to drive my own." A student editor at Emory University states a widespread phenomenon among American women: "There are few who have any strong moral feelings against having affairs. They may be afraid. But if they kid themselves into falling madly in love, then it's all right."
Considering that its parents gave the younger generation few standards, few ideals, and an education increasingly specialized, i.e., without cultural breadth, youth's morals have turned out far better than anyone had a right to hope. Almost of itself, it has picked up the right instincts from an American tradition older than its parents: it wants to marry, have children, found homes, and if necessary, defend them.
They Expect Disappointment
Intellectually, today's young people already seem a bit stodgy. Their adventures of the mind are apt to be mild and safe, and their literature too often runs to querulous and self-protective introspection, or voices a pale, orthodox liberalism that seems more second-hand than second nature. On the whole, the young writer today is a better craftsman than the beginner of the '205. Novelists like Truman Capote, William Styron and Frederick Buechner are precocious technicians, but their books have the air of suspecting that life is long on treachery, short on rewards. What some critics took for healthy revolt in James Jones's From Here to Eternity was really a massively reiterated gripe against life. But Jones is not the only young writer to wallow in a world of seemingly private resentments. Most of his fellow writers suffer from what has become their occupational disease: belief that disappointment is life's only certainty. The young writers of the '205 were at least original enough to create personal styles. Today the young writer's flair sometimes turns out to be nothing more than a byproduct of his neuroses.
Educators across the U.S. complain that young people seem to have no militant beliefs. They do not speak out for anything. Professors who used to enjoy baiting students by outrageously praising child labor or damning Shelley now find that they cannot get a rise out of the docile notetakers in their classes. The only two issues about which the younger generation seem to get worked up are race relations and world government; but neither of these issues rouses anything approaching an absorbing faith.
Many students and teachers blame this lack of conviction on fear-the fear of being tagged "subversive." Today's generation, either through fear, passivity or conviction, is ready to conform.
Marxism seems dead among the U.S. young; belief in democracy is strong but inarticulate. The one new movement that has begun in the younger generation is what Poet-Professor Peter Viereck calls the revolt against revolt-an attempt to give youth a conservative credo to stand up against the bankrupt but lingering political radicalism of the '203 and '305.