Victor Davis Hanson // Private Papers
Part Three: Puppydom
The grandchildren of the hippies and the children of the Yuppies? They are a different, a hybrid bunch altogether.
They combine all the worst traits of both leftist eras: selfishness, performance art, the I/me/my/mine self-infatuation (“my story,” “my truth,” “my narrative”), crudity, vulgarity and rudeness of the 1960s, along with the fixation on class, snobbery, elitism, money, careerism of the 1980s and beyond. And like both Hippies and Yuppies, their prolonged adolescence and child-like self-centeredness are signature traits.
Yet in this most recent manifestation of Leftist identity-searching, hyper-sensitive, fragile, and whimpering puppydom lacks even the small reservoir of good from both prior cultures: Puppies do not like 1960s unfettered expression, at least if it stands in the way of implementing Maoist-like woke correctness. And they want to scrutinize and audit all Yuppie pleasures, or rather ensure that the grasping middle classes never enjoy these carbon-spewing, planet-heating entitlements.
Perhaps there is no better guide to the logical, but still exasperating metamorphoses of the Hippie worm into the Yuppie chrysalis into the Puppy moth than the late Tom Wolfe. Compare especially his Virgil-like narration of the descent into the Inferno of the nightmarish Sixties with the Merry Pranksters and Ken Kesey bus tour, as related in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.
His Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers was a brilliant warning of how the guilt-ridden, elitist, white liberal can destroy the underclass by focusing on its connivers, con artists, and grifters, posing as revolutionaries that help relieve white guilt on the cheap.
In 1987, Wolfe published the previously serialized novel The Bonfire of the Vanities. It became the Blue Guide to Yuppie ridiculousness and the strange mixture of Sixties morals and Eighties money and careerism. And Wolfe managed in 2004 to give us another prescient warning of Puppydom to come with I Am Charlotte Simmons. Charlotte is the sort of small-town, lower middle-class white girl, whose hard work and family values earn her a meritocratic spot at a prestigious college—a chance of a lifetime that she would nonetheless have been far better off to pass on. And the result of her first semesters is that the institutional and cultural forces of the Hippie/Yuppie fusion teach her about hooking up, about getting ahead on the cheap, about the need for conformity with the race/class/gender orthodoxy, and the scandal, gottcha culture of leveraging some else’s misery.
Again, our current “Puppies” don’t like freedom and “do your own thing.” They hate free speech. In Soviet fashion, they shout down and silence critics.
Rather than posing as radicals on the barricades, they are whimpering and simpering geeks and grouches who ambush on social media, anonymously and in packs. Yet they melt down when called out (as we see in that teary TikTok video where the erstwhile would-be assaulter weeps that she can’t take being targeted on social media”)
Pups like the free love of the 1960s, but now pose as “how dare you!” when the inevitable premodern coupling goes awry. Victorianism, welded onto 60s-style one-night-stands, logically result in crass indulgences, manipulation, and selfish carnality. Their solution of the dilemma, on campus at least, is to suspend the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments in all allegations of sexual impropriety. Think of the culture of Fear of Flying supposedly married to the etiquette and deference within Jane Austen novels.
They are humorless, unyielding, devoid of facts, vindictive and mostly woke extremists. If they should obtain power? We are assembly-line eggs for their beautiful omelet.
Note, too, that Puppies are Yuppie-like in their snobbery, career fixation, elitism, and infatuation with consumerism, as in the right sneaker, the perfect handbag, the cool casual—expensive—sunglasses and shades look. Puppies are also yuppyish in their New York, Washington and San Francisco-style power marriages as they put their kids in prep schools, scheme to get them into the Ivy League, and embrace helicopter parenting—all put in service to those in Merced, Toledo, and Tampa, who thus can learn how to turn off those air conditioners, dismantle those jet-skies, sell the Winnebago, and take the middle seat only on full flights.
Yet Puppies, unlike Yuppies, are consumed by politics, the greener and more global the better—but not in the old bipartisan tit-for-tat fashion. Again, they have combined the political tics of the 1960s, with the money and careerism of the 1980s. The result is as off-putting as it is dangerous: a multibillionaire Mark Zuckerberg posing in tie-dye T-shirts and flip-flops as he censors free experiences on his social media and pours $500 million into preselected swing state precincts in efforts to warp the 2020 election. Or a Bill Gates, paling around with Jeffrey Epstein as he talks down to us on how well a lying China handled Covid-19. Or we get the smugness of Yuppiedom with Pajama Boy sipping hot chocolate in his footsie PJs and retro glasses, while he spouts off Puppydom Obamacare platitudes.
And as Wolfe knew, throughout these cycles of leftwing cultural upheaval, there are several constants. One, Hippies, Yuppies, and Puppies despise Middle-American, anti-European lifestyles, tastes, cultures, and politics.
Two, the Hippie, Yuppie, and Puppy rarely suffer the consequences of his own lethal ideologies that more likely fall on the poorer—and the country at large. They are all Platonic Guardians who, if they just had the real power, could turn America into heaven on earth—or else.
Three, beware of our collective Puritan, Progressive, and Enlightenment self-betterment traditions: they can create a Karen-like arrogant obsessiveness, an anal retentiveness, a do-gooder sanctimoniousness, and an enormous sense of guilt that has to be expiated by someone else, someone innocent of such neuroses but deemed a useful scapegoat.
Finally, the Hippie, Yuppie, and Puppy cultures originate among the white, bicoastal upper-middle and professional classes, and they share symptomologies, like boredom with their comfortable upraising, romanticization of the poor and non-white as psychological mechanisms to avoid the guilt of wanting to avoid both. A general ignorance of history that has seen all of them and their cycles before: whether the Dryden-Rousseau romance with the noble savage untainted by civilization, or the foppishness of both Versailles and the go-getters among their revolutionary enemies, or the pandemic of childlessness, of declining marriage, of perpetual schooling, and of AOC-like fears, everywhere in the 21st-century world of well-off Western youth.