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26 October 2007 @ 09:04 am
Random musings from a car ride with Kris  
So any of you who have talked to me for a bit about it knows how much it irks me that there are articles and articles talking about how terrible my generation is: the entitlement, the laziness, the disloyalty to companies (look at the economy and shrinking benefits packages and ask, is that really our fault?)

But one of the biggest charges is that we are spoiled; years of being told we can be anything we want has led us to believe that the world will drop it at our feet.  Not only do I think the premise is untenable, I think the logic that arrives at that conclusion is flawed, just trying to prove questionable preconceptions about our generation.

First, this "you can be anything" idea is hardly new- it is just a retelling of the backbone of the capitalist myth (yes, it is a myth because it is not universally true).  The Horatio Alger rags to riches story- work hard, and you will someday be rich.  You can be anything you want.  So how can you argue that its only our generation?  Because its not limited to white males anymore?

Second, look at the wording.  It's you CAN be anything you want.  Not you WILL be.  In other words, the establishment will not prevent you from following your dreams.  Frankly, it doesn't give a shit if you want to be an astronaut, be you male, female, black, white, upper crust or blue collar.  In other words, the onus is on you.

In fact, its the opposite of entitled- it is assuring you that if you screw up, it is your fault.  Its the ultimate in existentialism- a philosophy that people would describe as the opposite of entitled.  And if you think about it, this makes sense.  More and more people are going to college.  GPAs and SAT scores are getting higher every year, and an application that could get you into an Ivy 15 years ago is becoming tier 2 material.  People are working more jobs, getting better internships, making more sacrifices for the future.

And thinking your sacrifices, internships, good grades are worth something further down the line?  That certainly isn't entitled, it is rational.
 
 
 
LeperUncleanleperunclean on October 26th, 2007 08:43 pm (UTC)
Second, look at the wording. It's you CAN be anything you want. Not you WILL be. In other words, the establishment will not prevent you from following your dreams. Frankly, it doesn't give a shit if you want to be an astronaut, be you male, female, black, white, upper crust or blue collar. In other words, the onus is on you.

Which is also in part a myth, since the establishment takes the "We don't have laws against the black/women/immigrant/etc. folk anymore, so obviously there's no additional difficulties for those types to be whatever they want to be." And I think if anything, it was the end of the 60s that really taught future generations, "Guess what? Nothing you do matters, HAHAHAHA!" Hunter Thompson has a great quote about a high-water mark in Fear and Loathing.
symbot on October 30th, 2007 05:59 am (UTC)
Second, look at the wording. It's you CAN be anything you want. Not you WILL be. In other words, the establishment will not prevent you from following your dreams. Frankly, it doesn't give a shit if you want to be an astronaut, be you male, female, black, white, upper crust or blue collar. In other words, the onus is on you.

While I generally agree with you on this subject, I think you strike a pretty dramatic reversal in this suggestion. I don't think "You can be anything you want" is really equivalent to saying "You're on your own, it's your responsibility." Offering an open space, as the self-esteem movement tried to do, is very different from refusing to provide support, as hard-liners and Darwinists are wont to do.

I have another thesis, related to yours, but coming at it from a different direction. I think the "self-esteem" movement arose in parallel to, and in reaction to, the rise of the 80's high-pressure parent. For every new-ager saying "You can be president some day, if you want!" there was a father, a teacher, a coach saying, "You can do better than this! You're letting your whole (family / class / team) down!"

In response to this high-powered 80's tendency, I think the self-esteem movement wasn't such a bad idea. It certainly wasn't serious enough, nor insidious enough, or even convincing enough to result in all the defects that old people like to bitch about. Its success was to break down the petty pressures of a self-absorbed generation... its failure was to provide those baby-boomers with an excuse to judge and blame the following generation. After all, they couldn't treat their kids like helpless children forever, and they really got off on that, while they had the opportunity to do it.

But we found our independence. Every generation does, somewhere.

Words of agreement from your neighborhood Miksic.
Rachelfianasylph on October 30th, 2007 01:13 pm (UTC)
Very good point....

And to bring it all together, who is it that told us we were letting their family/team/etc down? Who said that we would be a failure if we made less than a certain salary or got into a subpar school or didn't make dean's list?

The baby boomers. The same generation who is lamenting how fucked up we are. My mom used to always say, "how can you go out like that, how can you do that? It reflects on me. What will people think of me, I'm your mom and responsible for you.

Yup. You guys are responsible for us, good or bad.