For her follow-up single to the #1 hit “Royals,” sixteen year old singer-songwriter Lorde has released the song “Team,” with similarly spare music and insightful and clever lyrics. Normally, it would not matter to me how old a particular singer was, given that I write about singers and songs rather often on this blog, but in this particular case, the fact that Lorde is sixteen is highly significant both in its societal and its personal importance. Likewise, the team spirit she claims with her cohorts  is a phenomenon of great importance that has often had a malign impact on my own personal life to a very serious degree. Without seeking to explain the lyrics of the song in detail, I would like to examine the often unexamined importance of the particular team spirit of Lorde and her generation, as well as those areas where it can go tragically wrong.
The generation to which Lorde and her cohorts belongs is called by various names, most popularly the Millennials. As it would happen, I happen to be born at the cusp of two generations. Had life gone another way, I too very easily could have had the optimistic and nourishing group solidarity of my younger peers. As it happened, the savage conditions of my childhood, including horrific abuse in my infancy, the daily torment of ridicule and bullying from neighbors, classmates, and older peers in the congregation where I attended during childhood, and even death threats in my teens from young ladies who thought that the appropriate response to unwanted romantic interest was to threaten murder all combined to leave me rather socially isolated and deeply scarred by the time I became an adult. Despite my best efforts to behave with kindness and concern for others, and to overcome the crippling burdens I have faced all of my days, the curse of my youth still haunts my life to this day.
In light of all of this, it ought not to be surprising that I have not always felt as if my peers and cohorts have been on my team, no matter my desire to be on theirs. It ought not to be surprising that I am somewhat suspicious, that trust is a matter of grave personal difficulty. It ought not to be surprising that social and romantic matters ought to be conducted with great caution and timidity, with high degrees of anxiety and concern; it is more surprising that they are conducted at all, testament to the triumph of longing over fear . It is a source of wonder and daily gratitude to God above that I have not been completely broken underneath the burdens that I have unwillingly carried my entire life. Such grace and dignity and nobility and strength I possess, as well as such ability to get along with others and to show love and concern for others is not due to my strength or virtue alone; I have received a great deal of help, even if it is not the exact sort of help I have requested or desired for myself.
I have much cause to be envious of those younger peers of mine who are all on each other’s team, who encourage others through trials and let them know openly and publicly that they have each other’s back and are not merely looking for a suitably vulnerable place to stab with their knives. The group solidarity of Lorde’s generation is a source of great comfort to those who are on the inside. It has a darker side, however, to those who are on the outside. It is ironic, and perhaps even hypocritical, that the immense hostility to bullying of this generation that is manifest everywhere in the social life of my younger peers, does not translate to a struggle against the tendency to bully others themselves in groups. That which is wrong for individuals to do to other individuals is more wicked to do in groups, especially against vulnerable outsiders. We have to remember, not only in theory and concept, but in daily practice, that the group solidarity we need ultimately includes every man, woman, and child that exists, has ever existed, or will ever exist. The love and outgoing concern we are to have has no boundaries of age or political regime, even if that love is hard to feel and certainly very difficult to express.
So, when I listen to a clever and lovely and immensely talented sixteen year old singer like Lorde sing about the team spirit she has with her cohorts, I feel a tinge of personal concern and envy about that spirit. She draws strength from her friends, as they encourage each other and build each other up. Certainly she would not be as public a success as she is if she did not have a strong support system. If she, and other young people who achieve similar success, is to avoid the pitfalls of our corrupt and wicked contemporary culture, she will need a great deal of support from her peers as well as a great strength of character that is very unusual in this present evil age. She certainly has my prayers and well wishes in that regard. How are we to translate the group solidarity of our youth, which is an immensely noble quality that ought to be encouraged in its benign forms, into a love and concern for outsiders and outcasts who through little fault of their own have been cast out as vagabonds on the face of an unkind earth? How are we to teach and instruct and show that we are all on each other’s team, and that we need to act like it if we are to overcome the serious difficulties we face as a broken people living in perilous and threatening times? That is a mystery I struggle with often, and I am sure I am not alone in that struggle.
 This particular blog entry will make much use of the interplay between two words, cohort and peer. In order to combat ambiguity concerning these terms, this entry will use cohort to refer to those people who are of about the same age, and will use the word peer to describe those who are viewed or treated as an equal. To use a practical personal example of this, my cohorts are those whom I went to school with and who would be in their early thirties, while my peers are a vastly larger range of people from their teens to the elderly with whom I engage as equals in business, church, or social affairs. The reasons and consequences for this distinction ought to be plain by the end of this blog entry.