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What History Says About Nature vs. Nurture

Michael Drew 12-17

Nurturists would argue that our values come from our parents. I think it’s in our very nature to define our own. For one thing, nobody likes to be told what to believe. If you’ve got a working brain and the tiniest spark of independence you want to decide for yourself. It’s also completely natural to become bored by a mindset (or car or house or job or diet). The soul yearns for change. A break in the monotony.

The last 400 years of human history seem to side with me. Since (at least) 1584 (events that year included  the English expedition to Roanoke Island to establish an English colony in the New World), society has been rocking back and forth on a pendulum, forty years at a time. Idealism builds for twenty years and then burns out for the next twenty. Civic-mindedness swings the pendulum the other way for twenty years and then undergoes a twenty-year cooling off period. Back and forth and forth and back for as long as you care to research it.

Rewind forty years from now to 1970. The Baby Boomer generation was in full swing and the thing its members valued most was individualism. Boomers made judgments and decisions based on their own standards, refusing to conform to the community-driven principles of their parents. And now, four decades years later, people in the Millennial Generation are swinging the pendulum back in a direction their grandparents can be proud of. Whereas Boomers thought of “me,” Millennials think “we.”  Whereas Boomers bought the idea of “I’m OK, You’re OK,” Millennials come more from the “I’m Screwed Up, You’re Screwed Up” camp. It’s raw, it’s real and, if you ask me, it’s extremely refreshing.

Why You Should Care

This renewed sense of civic duty comes with a sense of responsibility to look out for one another. Couple that attitude with all the technology that today’s generation has access to and you’ve got word-of-mouth at a universal level. If your audience suspects even the slightest bit of shadiness your approval rating will drop faster than President (insert name of your choice).

The Key to Being More Relevant Than the Competition

Separate yourself from anything that so much as flirts with hype or pretense. Drop any charade and let people see you be real. What do you believe in? What do you stand against? How are you making a difference? Do you have any flaws? What are they? Tell them what they want to know. Be honest – more transparent than you’re comfortable being – and you’ll continue to be a part of the conversation.

Our natures respond to civic-idealistic swings. It’s not so much nurture as where we are on the pendulum.



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