Saturday, June 19, 2010

Here's a little gem my son created when he was a youngun' entitled "At Sea", and I believe it was portentious. It serves as an appropriate introduction to the subject of the younger generation and some recent research on the differences they experience as they attempt to become self sustaining adults in today's world. I recall innumerable conversations with friends about our respective kids that always seem to include the complaint that kids today seem to be quite a bit more behind the curve of maturity than "we" were, we being the boomers. I mean, I had my first job at 13 and was self supporting, up until I had my second child, by the time I was 19 when I dropped out of college. (I had saved for, paid for, borrowed for and dropped out after two years of college only to return decades later to complete a degree in essentially the same major. Way to make your life harder, girl.)

Now, in these conversations with the friends with kids who didn't seem to be "getting" the grown up thing (still needing infusions of money from home, or a car, or living at home now and then for economic reasons, or being wishy washy about jobs or school, or just, well, just plain retarded about, say, living on a budget or saving money or maintaining a significant live- in relationship), we all of us always blamed ourselves. We figured it was our "smothering" that caused this lapse in our kids' personal responsibility, otherwise known as growing up. Of course when I say "we" I'm talking about women. Men, I find, are fiercely reluctant to blame themselves for problems. With them, it's always the other guy (see BP oil spill, Abu Ghraib prison, Blackwater, Halliburton, Katrina, Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, Republican party, Democratic party, ex-boyfriends).

Well, ladies, take heart. It turns out that either we did a good job – considering the cultural odds against raising decent human beings – or that collectively, that is, on a global basis, we have all failed miserably as parents. The evidence seems to point to the former. And an article in the NY Times reassures us that this is not solely an American phenomenon, this "lagging maturity", this "lengthening road to adulthood" in our kids. Meaning, they're not leaving home, marrying, having kids, getting settled til way past the time we did, and when they do, fewer of them marry. There are reasons why, and the article and study are well worth your time.

I feel compelled to comment here that I have not witnessed much of this lagging maturity among the children of my more well heeled friends, especially the ones with gay (one member called it "fake") family gatherings with dozens of people, and few serious aspiring artists in the mix. But maybe there's something to be said for that faux gaiety and publicly paraded noblesse oblige. It tends to constrain the young to suck up and deal perhaps? At least until they get out of the house, are on their own, with good benefits that will pay for their breakdown later on and leave mom and dad off the hook. Money in the bank and a two parent supportive household can help insulate kids from the battering less fortunate kids take as they try to make their way in today's absurd (for the average worker) economic world. True, some of those well off kids are total screw ups. It's a crap shoot. But there are trends at work here, and we should be aware of them, and that we are all "At Sea" on an oil filled cultural ocean with a more immediate and invasive presence that the Cuban Missle Crisis ever was. And I seem to recall that being pretty intense and threatening... with longterm effects on the collective psyche.

Those "kids" in their twenties who were running the VeeBar ranch in Wyoming knew what was what. No one needed to tell them how to manage their lives. They live connected to a past and present of meaning and immediacy, no time for lolling about. If you screw up, someone or something loses a leg or dies. For most kids today, the only thing remotely close to that kind of responsibility is feeding the family pet, even then they know Mom is there for backup. It's token responsibility, and kids sense that once they get old enough. That's when they start to resent 'chores'. "This is something a moron can do" they tell themselves. They don't see how it fits into a meaningful plan for living. They want work that has the dignity of meaningful outcome, no matter how small. America is a nation of people who are really just longing for the dignity of meaningful work.

I feel that sometimes for young people this dilemma is really about what John Le Carre called lack of "impact", as in "The impact defines the shape." (From The Naive and Sentimental Lover) Kids now in their late teens and twenties live such insulated lives, even poor kids. They suffer from lack of "impact", coming up against something real enough (guns do not count) to test their mettel and thereby define who they are to themselves and in the world. Nothing builds confidence like meeting a challenge, a real challenge, not that "good job!" crap new parents tell their kids when they manage to brush their teeth. Brushing your teeth isn't a JOB, it's what you do so your teeth don't rot! Next thing you know they'll want to be paid for brushing their teeth!

... sorry. got off on a thing for a minute.

I dunno. I sense that kids (meaning, the under 30 group) today, for all their attitude of entitlement and obnoxious lack of civility and self-centeredness and bad manners, are sadly lacking something. The chance (and you can buy this for your kid if you have a few grand for Global Crossings, Outward Bound, internships) to come up against nature, against the world's real cultural challenges, to feel that impact and be "impacted" , i.e., formed, by it, and to have an impact themselves as well. It oughta be part of some gubmint program, peace corps/ VISTA for high schoolers. Give em something REAL to deal with. (Why I still support Scouting. Unfortunately the world is full of paedophiles. They could probably use a meaningful program as well.)

Jeez, how did I get off on that one?

On a lighter note: Here's an example of the kind of inspiring, open-minded pastor we need more of in the world. Found him on Gail Collins piece today about the crazy Texas Repub congressman who was close to tears the other day whining about how BP was a victim of Obama's "shakedown".

On a not-so-light note: This commenter No. 21) on Gail's piece stopped me in my tracks. He's someone who put two and two together and made four. Who knows more than the public is supposed to know about the BP/Bush- enabled "oil disaster". It's worth your time, but only if you're ready, as they say, to face the music. I don't think this guy sounds like an alarmist. It's what we're all really thinking but don't want to think could really happen. Like someone else said, it's our Chernobyl. So what do we do now? I mean, really. What should WE do?

"This isn't an oil spill. This is an oil geyser. This is a rupture of an oil migration channel at the bottom of the Gulf. The media is using the propaganda of BP to not upset people. An oil spill is a oil tanker, filled oil, that sinks, and then spills oil into the water..etc..Oil spills dont last this long, once the tanker or ship sinks all the oil in it will spill then its over! It doesn't go on for moths or years. We dont know how long it will take to cap this oil rupture ... The Gulf sits on one of largest oil migration channels in the world. This oil rupture could go on for years. What are the contingency plans to save us? How many people will die? Dont you think these are reasonable questions, that our government should provide us with?... Maybe some people dont care? The Obama administration conspired with BP to hide the extent of the oil leak, according to cited federal and state sources. This is treason. Submersibles monitoring the escaping oil from the Gulf seabed are viewing television pictures of what they describe as a “volcanic-like” eruption of oil. This is a volcanic oil eruption out of the sea floor! My God, this is an ecological catastrophe of unknown dimensions. The White House has been resisting releasing any damaging information about the oil disaster. What are they hiding? Arent you scared? Coast Guard and Corps of Engineers experts estimate that if the ocean oil geyser is not stopped within 90 days, there will be irreversible damage to the marine eco-systems of the Gulf of Mexico, north Atlantic Ocean, and beyond. At best, some Corps of Engineers experts say it could take two years to cement the chasm on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico. If this can't be stopped it could cause worldwide catastrophe and extinction of most life forms on earth, including humans. Obama's administration and BP, have been hiding the true nature of this oil volcanic eruption out of the sea floor."

I'm so tired of being lied to. Addiction is a state of being unable (unwilling) to quit something that's bad for you for fear of/without incurring adverse effects. We really are the nation in denial. A nation of junkies. Addicted to comfort, convenience, bad food, oil... We should know better by now. And we will pay for this willful ignorance. I'll wager not one person watching the geyser on TV sees themselves as responsible, or has vowed to cut way back on their energy consumption and get everyone they know to do the same. (Just a little more oil, please? I promise I'll go renewable tomorrow. ) As I read the comments from No. 21, I was taken with the image of a giant arm, the addict's seething, insatiable greed, a huge syringe full of oil plunging into a bruised vein, mainlined, overdose. Blackness.

Yet we simply can't believe that with all their money the oil companies can't fix this one. Ain't no rehab for this problem, folks. You shoulda been payin attention here all those years you were distracted by Osama. All you "small government" types out there? THIS is why we once had regulations and enforcement! Government regulations. The government the Republicans are out to dismantle and appear to have succeeded doing to a greater degree than anyone seems to realize or admit. All except a few lefty bloggers and honest GAO employees of course.

These boys are bound and determined to make me get my shoe out...

Gonna be a long trip back. Better trim the sails...

1 comment:

  1. Hi Cat!

    Glad to have found your blog! You are certainly a woman after my own heart- love your thoughts on our children growing up today, and especially the oil spill, i.e. volcanic eruption. It has weighed heavily on my mind as of late, we must be talking about it alot in our house as my 4 year old told me the other day, "Mama, never put that oil in the ocean. It kills the dolphins!" Sometimes it seems our kids are growing up in such a catastrophic time. I often struggle with when and how much to explain something, and when to just keep it to myself. The other day I found myself attempting to explain outsourcing to my eight year old. Uggh.

    Anyway, I look forward to keeping up with your blog and reading your work. A novel! My dream! I have been quite negligent with my blog lately, but have been busy with re-writes-right now I am writing children's picture books (no luck in publishing them yet), although a novel lurks in my future I'm sure.