Are we to blame for today’s self-absorbed generation?

Another year gone and we are being inundated with “highlights” of the past year, mostly bad news. Why do we tend to dwell on what has been? Why do we think that a new year will somehow magically vaporize all the troubles and frustrations that we had a few days before? On New Year’s Eve I heard a broadcaster in Times Square squealing in delight that the reason almost a million folk venture out to occupy Times Square was because they feel optimistic and they can “wipe the slate clean.” What a load of rubbish. Standing in sub-freezing weather in tight proximity to a million other people for eight hours without a bathroom in the hope that when midnight strikes I might feel optimistic and my life “slate” will be “wiped clean:” is a good example of this generation’s penchant for drama and self-absorption when none is either necessary or desired. How many of us felt uplifted and ready to face the world on the 1st? A few probably started the year with a dirty slate amid puke and intoxication. How many really think that the world is going to be kinder, more courteous, and less inhumane when the clock strikes midnight? This “reality show” mentality is rooted in a generation that cannot cope with failure, bad news, or any type of discomfort. This is the “trophy” generation. Everyone wins. Everyone is beautiful!

I personally do not administer to illusions that a new month or year will make things better. I believe that we are responsible for our actions and fate takes on a life of its own when and if it wishes to. One can prepare diligently for disaster and mishaps, but when that water pipe breaks in the kitchen only the plumber can fix it. I am not invoking pessimism, but a realistic and common sense view of life’s expectations is healthy. However, for the past twenty years, the political correct zealots and loons have rendered a severe blow to self-determination, courage, and endurance. They have produced an impotent generation unable to cope with the slightest failure. This is the “I” and the “I need to love me first” generation. Everything in their lives has been elevated to an “event.” The miniscule and the mundane are now epic and when disaster strikes everyone falls apart. Stoic is no longer accepted because we have been told that we need to literally unburden our very souls to total strangers for validation of our failures. “It will make us feel good.” Failures are no longer regarded as possibly bad choices. Children are being told and have the illusion that they are perfect therefore failures must be someone else’s fault.

My father was not big on excuses and did not take our failures too kindly either. When report cards found their way discreetly under the front door (although heaven knows we tried to bribe the mail man to give them to us) and in his hands, he examined them like a surgeon looks at an x-ray; with intent and resolve. We were finally called in for the “coaching” session which generally went something like this: “If you do not raise your grades forget summer!” That was an incentive. I never heard him blame the teacher or the school. He blamed us for either not studying enough or paying attention in class. I know; his coaching skills were not very empathetic but they worked. Another thing I never heard my father say: “It is a new year, I’m sure things will be better for you at school.” A new year was just the beginning of another month toward growing older and hopefully getting smarter.
This generation is self-absorbed and in total denial. Not their fault. We made them that way. By “we”: I mean society. We coddled them, protected them, wrapped them in helmets, pads, and removed every iota of resiliency. Now a teenager commits suicide or kills others because the girl he has known for a week broke up with him. In our days we considered that an opportunity for other “fish in the sea.” We have opened up technological mediums that give acne-faced teens a stage to flaunt, bully, and debase themselves without accountability. It is easy to be nasty when you do not have to face your adversary. We removed any remorse for bad behavior because it must be someone else’s fault; the teacher, the police, the environment; anything but self accountability for being a thug. We act like dorks: let’s take a “selfie” and entertain the world with our stupidity. We have raised “moronic” to epic proportions and then bemoan the fact that this generation has problems with discipline, morality, and achievement.

I have just finished reading a book about Baby Boomers: those born mid 1940’s to late 1950’s and the grandparents of this generation. They were the courage behind the defeat of Nazism in Germany, and putting America and Europe back to work after the devastation. They were the ones who built a strong economic nation sans computers, cell phones, x-boxes, and social media. They did not “Google” they probably went to the library or bought a set of Encyclopedia and ‘heavens to Betsy’; they read. They did not have an ounce of self-absorption because they were too busy putting their lives back together again and raising families. How then did the off spring of these amazing people manage to divert from their parents’ values and raise a generation of self-absorption? The book identified weaknesses in Baby Boomers; mostly the attempt to provide too much for their children in an attempt to make up for their own lackluster childhoods. So is it possible that today’s generation is not all to blame? Is it possible that the sins of the forefathers materialized and morphed with technology to bring forth a generation of unrealistic expectations and diluted fortitude? Is it possible that Baby Boomers did not want to inflict on their children the same hardships they had endured? Consequently the grandchildren were raised spoiled and given everything without earning it. Is it then possible that the Baby Boomers might be to blame?

My mother just turned 98 and she remains feisty and with strong convictions. She rarely holds long conversations nowadays, not because she is unable to but because she does not want to. She brought up seven children but I do not recall either her or our father ever being lenient to make up for their hardships. That stoic nature of hers keeps her sharp and with little patience for stupidity. I have never heard my mother lament the fact that she had to move to Europe during a war, or that she had to raise seven children practically on her own, or that somehow society owed her family anything. My mother did what most Baby Boomers did: worked hard to raise children, take care of the household, and made sure that we were taught right from wrong. Did any of us suffer major psychological trauma that would haunt us for the rest of our days? Hardly. Did we learn to be self sufficient and successful? Definitely. Did we turn into self-absorbed morons? Possibly: I suddenly have a strong urge to take a “selfie” and post it on Facebook!