No, not the latest ravings of Charlie Sheen. David Brooks.
On the subject of modesty, no less. But it's not really about modesty. It's really about Social Security and Medicare. Having beaten the "we shouldn't expect to suck at the government teat" to death, he then moves from the anecdotal to perception studies (always a bit dicey, so far as I can see) to show that Americans think way too much of themselves. I'd suggest though that he go to the typical American high school, where he'd find that the students are just as self-conscious, just as self-critical, just as socially and intellectually insecure, as they were when I was in high school. (My father once said that there should be a sign on the door of every high school in the land reading "You look fine. Stop worrying about it." I told him it wouldn't do any good.)
But having read through the junk we get to what Brooks really wants to talk about.
"Citizenship, after all, is built on an awareness that we are not all that special but are, instead, enmeshed in a common enterprise. Our lives are given meaning by the service we supply to the nation. I wonder if Americans are unwilling to support the sacrifices that will be required to avert financial catastrophe in part because they are less conscious of themselves as components of a nation."
Oh, puleese. What Brooks and his ilk really want is to have Boomers give up Social Security and Medicare so that taxes on the Peter Petersons of the world don't increase. For some reason the rich aren't required to be "components of a nation" or "engage in the common enterprise." They've already done enough by crashing the financial system. And they're doing even more now by taking government money at 0% and lending it back to the government at 3.5%.
What Brooks fails to point out is that the Boomers prefunded their own Social Security. That's what the trillion dollars in the trust fund is all about. And now the Peter Petersons of the world don't want to be taxed to pay that money back. Where's Peterson's modesty?