Thursday, May 15, 2008

Notes on a generation of weaklings and my first free summer in a decade.

Well this week has been a blur of paperwork, packing boxes, stressful student deadlines, frustrations with car repairs and money/paycheck mixups.

I realized that they took the $700 bucks cash advancement out of of this paycheck that I got last August. Then I paid an unfathomable amount for car repairs on my Subaru back home in Washington. After student loans, car payment and plane ticket off the island I will be about $500 bucks in the hole this month before fun times, gas, and all back in Washington.

This bothers me. And, it bothers me even more that it even bothers me. I am doing just fine money wise, I've been saving like a little chipmunk for the winter (or in this case summer). But after a steady stream of months where the bank account was heading in the positive direction, the fact that I didn't even break even this month kind of ticks me off. Why? Why do I care about money? I don't really really really care. But each dollar in that account is one more amazing adventure I can go on with a friend or relative, every dollar in there is a Concert or Show ticket, every clamshell in there is another tank of gas or plane ticket to go see my friends somewhere far away, every shilling in there is one shilling closer to traveling full time for a year or hiking the Appalachian trail, every peso represents another square foot of my forest cabin land in the woods or beach property somewhere someday, every penny represents some good I could do for someone in need.

I don't like money because it gets its hooks in you. It expands your possibilities of entertainment. When I was a flat broke college student I didn't have to worry about what I was going to do, there weren't many options, just get by like the rest of us. You know there is a famous rap song "Mo Money Mo Problems." I believe it, I really do. So what can I do? What do you do with these freaking things, dollars. Bleh! Earthling Economy.

Last night I listened to NPR's Podcast of "This American Life" w/ Ira Glass (5/11/08). It was entitled "The Giant Pool of Money." It was all about the housing loan crisis taking place in America and all the back story on how we got to be so desperate as an economy that we are looking at a Jimmy Carter's in the 70's administration type recession soon to come. That may not be a big deal to most people my age because you know what? We've never lived in an economy that wasn't growing. We don't know what its like to save pennies like people have had to do in the past.

And by "we" I guess I have to lump myself into a category, middle class whitey to be precise.

In fact, we've never lived through a giant war/catastrophe either. Iraq 1, 9/11, Katrina and Iraq 2 are still important events and millions of lives have been effected and touched by our situation right now. But, no one has got drafted, 50,000 U.S. soldiers haven't died, its not Vietnam, its not Korea, its not WWII or WWI. To add to that we have a commercially flooded media entertainment system that desensitizes us and lullabies us to sleep from the cold realities of these things. My generation hasn't really faced anything face to face. We haven't faced any sort of obstacle of note.

That is why I see the things I do. You can pick any topic of our generation. I mean people 14 to maybe 30 right now. We have had it given to us. We spend hours a day on the internet doing myspace, facebook, blogging, and shopping. We live at home with our parents longer than any previous generation. We have the worst sleeping and eating habits of any generation in history. Parallel to that, we are the most unhealthy, obese, diabetic, depressed and medicated generation in history as well as the most frequent drug and alcohol users and abusers. Basically, we have it too easy, and we are bored into apathy, self medication and sadness.

Even our music reflects this. In the 90's the alternative music movement represented a paradigm shift in rock music and a whole generation of middle class white kids. Greenday, Sublime, Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Pearl Jam were the first bands in history to just openly whine and complain and throw temper tantrums about how "sad" we were. Shortly out of that movement came the now ever popular genres of teen culture such as "indi" or "emo" or "goth" or "indi punk" or "goth punk" or what ever, its all a bunch of kids who have no idea about their roots or what it is like to truly struggle.

On the opposite end of music was the hip hop, rap, pop and dance movement where people who represented some of the poorest demographics in the US were flaunting and parading the money that they didn't have prior to their success. "Growin' up street" "Ghetto" and "in the hood" is still a marketing megalomaniac.

In either case, they were a product of a generation generally uninterested in anything going on in America. We are the me generation and we're gonna complain about it, not vote about it, party, flaunt our new found comfortable life or complain that it was meaningless. We don't have to worry about survival, we are simply upset by our lives not going as planned, myself included.

I think that time is passing. I think the reason I'm starting to feel bad about not saving money is because I can feel it coming. I can feel the tough times ahead. All we hear about these days is resources management, hybrids, electricity bills, gas prices, diseases, global warming, money market crashes, its all coming up man. Can you dig that kids? I think the scariest thing about my students here, or in Washington is how incapable they've become, screw that, how incapable I've become. How fragile we've become as a generation. We don't really know how to work hard, do anything, take care of ourselves, persevere through uncomfortable times, break our backs at work, make ends meet. Our happiness is not contingent on survival, its contingent on entertainment.

We've never had a depression. We've never had a BIG war. We've never had a shortage. I hate to be negative but I think we will soon. Everything I do, every person I meet, every book I read, seems to continually affirm that we are up for tough times. I just feel like we're in for something big. I don't know if its gonna be "Global Warming" or a shift in global power of economy or a divide in our country's politics. But something is happening.

Now up to here this all seems pretty grim I think. The only redeeming thing about my outlook on our existence as human beings is that I also sense something happening to the spirituality of the world. I don't want to rip off the "Celestine Prophecy" "The Secret" or any of the new age philosophies that are also proclaiming the change for a more positive global spiritual uniting, but seriously, amongst the wasteland of apathy and compassionless people the positive people are quietly sitting, waiting, watching, listening, and preparing for the moment when being sound in the heart and actions of life will come to fruition. People are starting to eat well again, natural foods, sustainable foods. People are conserving. People are providing aid. People are educating. People advocating.

I am a product of this me generation. I have been and still am very selfish about my plight here on earth. I still want my experience of life to be good. But I have also learned that I feel better when I'm helping people, eating well, and staying in shape. I still have a lot of work to do, always will. I still need to help more, I still need to eat better, I still need to be more involved, I still need to conserve more, but I'm finally on the track towards this type of life. It just took a long time. I had to go through all that self loathing, and self centeredness that I see in my students, peers, and friends.

I think my generation is hitting rock bottom soon. And from the bottom, there are only two options, death or resurrection, as frightening and sad as that is. Either you figure it out (positivity, well being, spiritual centeredness) or you perish. That is the way it goes. The real goal of education, in my opinion, should be to facilitate this change of perspective towards the new world we will all be participating in soon.

Maybe I'm crazy, maybe I'm blabbering, maybe I'm totally off base, but maybe, just maybe, I'm on to something. This summer is very important to me. Its a vacation of sorts, but its also a school of sorts. I'm going to be with the people I love, doing things that make me happy, and dammit, I'm gonna spend all this stupid freaking money making every second worth while for my life and especially for the ones who are in it. Partly because I need to make absolutely certain of what direction I'm going to go in next and partly because I to see there is any redeeming qualities in being 100% selfish in my pursuit of pleasure. For the record this is the first summer in 9 years I won't be working. In fact I'll be doing the opposite of working, I will be getting paid to not work. Wrap your head around that one.

This is the most important summer for me in over a decade. Will you be part of it?

1 comment:

Christina. said...

I have had these thoughts before. *sigh* And while we're at it, as educators, are we simply creating a society of worker-bees? Creativity doesn't get you a 300 on your SBA.

Have you see "The Color of Fear"? It's intense. I think you'd love it.

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