Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Lost Boys (and Girls)

A couple of intriguing articles in the past two days. The first one is about the "gold collar" generation: 18-25 year olds who spend a lot of money on what I like to call "crap". $250 dollar jeans, $300 sunglasses, yada yada.

The second one is about how most high schoolers would prefer their schools offered them more academically rigorous options.

So, younger Americans are seeking ways to get smarter, and their older brothers and sisters are just frittering their lives away in their parents' basements?

I don't think so.

I don't think it's any different thant the phenomena that has been occuring in society for hundreds of years; some people know that what they want is a long-term goal, and others are far happier living in the moment. The difference is a cultural shift.

People aren't getting married and starting families at 22 or 23 any more. We're doing it at 30 and 35. Combine this with parents who are OK with their kids hanging out in the basement, working go-nowhere jobs, and we have exactly what the first article is talking about.

In fact, I'm willing to push it one more. It's not a question of whether or not young people today are worried about "getting their pensions" like the first article suggests, or are "trying to get jobs" like the second one implies. It's far more about the priorities and standards modelled around them.

A good theatre/actor/investor/lawyer will put in enormous hours researching, preparing, practicing and rehearsing to ensure the "big day" goes well. The thing is, for those who are successful, most of us only ever see the "main event". That's all we're interested in. We don't want to hear about the movie-star who spent years working crappy jobs and missing call-backs before getting a break. We're not interested in finding out how many years a successful lawyer spent bent over a desk in a library at 1 in the morning, or how many years she spent as an assoc. for a slave-driving partner before she finally broke through on her own.

All many of us cares about is "the moment". When success is obvious, and visible, and incontrivertible. Some of us aspire to that success, but we miss the work that went in, and assume that if we emulate style we'll be a success.

One portion of our nation's political discourse is based on the idea that any one of us could one-day be rich. So it's bad to tax rich people. The problem is, most Americans don't think of themselves as getting rich through hard work. Hard work is what you do to hold steady, or make headway little by little until, one day, you achieve "comfortable". Instead, I think most Americans think getting rich comes from winning the lottery--or Joe Millionare.

I don't want this to be a rambling political statement, so I'll just say it like this: until as a society we recognize that being successful (however one defines it) is more important than looking successful, we're going to have a lot of vagabond-ish "gold collar" people running around.

1 comment:

alektra said...

you're so cute. cute as a button!

Seriously, though, I do think that things changed with the idea that people DESERVED to be successful rather than hoping to become so. Not necessarily the Boomers (who seem to perfect the idea of entitlement). But the prior generations?