As the Back to School season is now in full swing, I find myself pondering the chasms that exists between generations. (As an aside, I came across this fascinating site that describes the characteristics of generations over the past 100 years.)
Of course only history (or our collective perception of it) will be revealing but I am somewhat concerned about what is not dubbed the “trophy generation”. In this August 22, 2012 issue of the Wall Street Journal, there is an article title, Firms Bow to Generation’s Demands. Some things jump out at me – many concerning, a few encouraging. One organization profiled promises promotions in the first year. Exactly what does this accomplish… beyond maybe self-esteem issues? Of what significance is it when everyone is promoted? Moreover, growing oneself into a manager or a leader has little to do with titles and everything to do with relationship intelligence and self-awareness. What is encouraging is their ability and willingness to question the status quo. This is admirable but only if “for the sake of what?” can be answered with something meaningful. If questioning the status quo is done only for its own sake, what social good does it do?
I guess the dichotomy that seems so glaring to me is that which exists between today’s coming of age generation and those that came of age during the early-mid 20th century. Those of that generation wanted nothing more than the opportunity to work hard in the pursuit of happiness and a better life. Remember our founding right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness? Today, that has been dangerously twisted into the right to happiness, sans any pursuit. Let me ask a question, does doling out rewards as a matter of procedure really lead to happiness? If it does, we have utterly failed in instilling intrinsic self-confidence in our newer generations. In our never-ending pursuit to give our children better lives than we had, we mistakenly strived to lesson their need to struggle to the point where we tried to remove it. We wanted them to enjoy the glories of life without the pains necessary to truly appreciate those glories.
With the U.S. Presidential election in full swing, we are hearing again the tried and tired rhetoric about being better or worse off than four years ago. Sadly, I feel that very long ago we, unknowingly began a journey of gradual decline. Over time, we began to assume that progress was our right and with it came the entitlement of ‘more’, and ‘bigger’. We passed that along onto the children who are now coming of age. In decades long gone we shared a common vision for the collective. We now seem to focus more on our own individual dreams without concern for the whole. This will, in my view, be the fertilizer to social decline in this country.
We used to be the nation of hope and promise for over one hundred years. Now we are becoming the nation of hubris. Humility seems to be frowned upon and in a review of history, it is attitudes like these that shepherd in the decline of a society vis-a-vis other societies. History is not lacking for evidence to suggest that such hubris often precedes the downfall of a society.
In closing, I am not writing this to be a doomsayer of the West’s prominence in the world. – though I do hope we never completely abandon at least some humility. I am, however, asserting that without an inward look at ourselves, we are eroding that which made this nation so great in the first place. The word’s of JFK’s inaugural speech are as full of richness and timeliness now as they were when they were first spoken. “Ask not what your country can to for. Ask what you can do for your country.”
As always, I welcome your thoughts and comments.
Thanks for reading. Have a Great Day!