Until recently I always believed that it was possible to succeed in America with out making a lot of money. This seemed especially true in this day and age when all the people I associate with have at least a B.A. and can compete at about a AAA level when it comes to mental acrobatics. I was taught that money is easily found and there will always be sales jobs or whatever out there where the potential to make that all mighty dollar is almost limitless for those that are able to sell themselves. This may seem attractive; making a lot of money is pretty much the universal goal. Make money to buy shit, consume and you will be happy. Not so fast my friends, the money, the car, the hype, the fringe benefits are all consolation prizes for getting eaten alive. I could care less about moneys and live on something like eight grand a year. I am ok with this. However, my generation, the so-called millennials or gen y-ers, is in danger of becoming the most self-obsessed and despairing adults the world has yet to breed and i don't think most are even aware of it.
Right now I have the potential to start making a somewhat comfortable living; I have a degree and am in grad school at a supposed good school. But who cares. Not long ago, last fall to be exact, I was dejected: jobless, continuously drinking, my relationships were falling apart, addicted to television, living in a vacuum. The personal here was a mess and everything I did to try and fix it proved unhelpful. Significantly, I think, at this time I also came to the realization that salary is the only yardstick of cultural authority that matters to anyone and everyone and I would never make it the full yard. This comes as a crushing blow to my self-esteem. I know I do not have what it takes to be successful in the economic world of business where mercenaries get paid to trade hot stock tips. Film and books, places I could always escape to in times of despair, proved even more depressing. Remember that Will Smith movie that came out Novembers 2006? The Pursuit of Happiness? The “pursuit” in this piece was equated with getting a high paying job and basically shit.
This should be enlightening to us on the social level. This film's thesis would be something like make money, consume, be happy: the capitalist mantra. Is this what we are reduced to? Do we really want to be sending this type of message? Apparently so. Our parents for the most part, the baby boomers, are the ones that started this trend of consumerism as a type of social control with televised commercials for an infernal machine that is freaky and depressing. Even worse, look at the first children to spring from their loins. These children grew up and were responsible for the 80s. This time should be looked on as some of our darkest days—blind spending, sex crazed, 20something year olds that were reckless and cost us more than anyone cares to see or admit—and basically who cares. The 80s were the first time in American history where the young and irresponsible started making bank. Airlines have never had such success (not convinced, look at Pan. Am.) than in that ten year span; Reaganomics where supposed to end poverty, and we saw our first AIDS crisis in that decade (whatever the fuck that means, I am just saying).
Fast-forward past the gen x-ers and you get us, for Christ’s sake, the blind, illiterate, and culturally unengagable. What exactly has happened to the upper-middle-class-American-child? Part of this has to do with our unwillingness to read or listen. This is due to some extent to the fact that we are having a hard time getting past the personal and into the social. We see the world as being here for our amusement: alone. Our beliefs are the only ones that matter and we cannot even comprehend how anything can be interpreted in any way but the right way—which is to say—our way. This all happens while those with answers, the poet, the novelist, the what-have-you, have more and more to say while we have less and less desire to listen. We need our entertainment instantaneously, it has to be immediate now a days. “Technology attacked religion a long time ago and then it affected our fiction,” as the Jonathan Franzen saying goes.
The average American sees him or herself as totally unique. Cannot see what they possibly have in common with someone from another part of the country or someone across the street. But—news flash—we are all pretty much the same. There in lies the problem. We see in our selves something hollow and missing but we still fail to connect. It is way fucking easier to just roll your eyes and not give a shit. Still though, are any of us really happy? I have met few genuinely happy people and on the rare occasion I have it has been hard to take people like that seriously; you can’t help but look at them with a cynical eye or write them off as insane. So anyway, what happens is everyone consumes to the best of their means and look for remedies for their unhappiness in places that are diverse yet promise the same goal—ah la ending this existential nightmare. Zoloft, Ativan, therapy, changing majors, changing locals, changing appearances, getting a high paying job, etc. and you are still the same piece of shit only now with a dollop of whipped cream on top. Observations on human behavior: we all pay high prices, loss our hair, buy old products we think are new but just differently labeled. Looking through ads, you on Times Square, her in teen Vogue, me in everywhere I look, for solutions to problems we think are treatable by spending money.
Last year, I had been communing via e-mail (a media I hate) with a friend from college who was English major. When I asked her what she was reading she said not a thing. This is a girl who I always thought of as a life-long-reader but has now lost her drive, and we no longer have anything to talk about. The world has fallen on dark days when even the lit major has no need for books. The world is slowly and surely in decline due to a great deal to my generation but think of it as tough love because we are the future whether that is a good thing or not and we can’t really do anything about it. Or can we? Who knows? It all gets too depressing to even think about. So don’t if you don’t want to. I am just saying.