My friend Billy came to me at work the other day with a shocking development contained in some massive tome with results from a comprehensive study of young people aged 15-25. The results of the study amazed the scientists and marketing people who ran the study: apparently young people are stupid. And ignorant. And sexist, racist, limited neo-conservatives with little ambition beyond getting a shitty job that requires little training so they can buy a house and raise broods of stupid children.
You see, Billy has ideals and she hasn't been paying attention to what the young people think because her gen-X children are neither stupid nor lazy. She therefore believes that her generation fought the good fight in the 60's and the 70's and made the world a better place to live; or at least presented a template outlining how the world can be made a better place. She can't believe today's young people have no interest in a better place; that they don't give two shits about the environment. That what they do give a shit about is culture garbage like IPODS and Hurley Jeans and Jessica Simpson.
What does she expect? The parents of these children are not permitted to physically punish them and compensate by rewarding them for increasingly negligible levels of good behavior. The kids have to do less and less to be rewarded and eventually get whatever they like by merely doing nothing - knowing full well that the threat of bad behavior is all they need. The teachers of these children cannot hold them back or fail them anymore for fear of applying negative stigma to their delicate constitutions during these all-important formative years.
The consequence? Lack of consequence. These kids do not fear failure because, in their coddled developmental environment, they have never failed at anything (even the video games have become easier; imagine a fifteen-year-old you know finishing "Metroid"), no matter how little effort they applied to any given task. When they hit adulthood and its requisite challenges they are poorly adapted to coping with the demands grownup tasks place upon them. They have not ever had to assume responsibility in the face of adversity.
Does this mean failure for our delicate sun-dappled flowers? Hardly. If they got into University (thanks, Sylvan Learning Centres!) under the lower entry requirements, they need only achieve a grade in their courses for the first year to cash in the RESPs their doting parents put away for them. Not a passing grade. A grade. After the first year, they don't even need to do that - they just have to register and need never attend another class to have their living expenses covered for the school year.
If they leave school for the work force they can now earn more money than their parents by driving a truck in the oilpatch or answering the line at the phone company, where there really is no requirement that they be nice to people they don't know. And the aging baby boomer generation, now that they have reformed the world (they believe) for the better, are looking for the door and their increasingly desperate exit strategy depends heavily on the soft shoulders of the "me generation" to take the workload. The boomers have reformed the workplace to provide a gentle, caring work environment for the youngsters where their well-being and general level of happiness becomes paramount. Espresso machines and comprehensive benefit packages to cover the wee-me's masseuse needs become standard renumeration. The lunchroom at Telus has leather couches, pool tables, foosball, HD TV, X-boxes and a stack of pc's so everone can check their hit-counters on MySpace during breaks. The wee-me's are made to feel important in even the most entry level jobs, where their appalling lack of competence makes them drains on corporate resources, rather than contributors.
It gets better. The environment? Fuck that. Parents who bemoan their kid's desensitivity to violence on TV and in video games only look at one side of the coin. In a world where the sweet young daisies will never be allowed to go hungry, homeless or shirtless (except at the beach, of course) they can no longer accurately separate want from need. Thanks to TV and the internet, they learned young how to interpret social code and that in a world where nobody needs anything, what matters is the strata into which they fit, according to that skewed social code. That means status and that means money. Cheap t-shirts by expensive designers confer that status. Remember Degrassi Jr. High? The kids were ugly, had spots on their faces and bad hair, and they dealt with shit like getting knocked up at 14 and racial profiling in adolescence. In the new Degrassi TNG, the kids are all uniformly hot, there's not a pimple among them and they spend most of their time stressing about who fucks whom and for what petty slight betrayal becomes justified. Marshall Mcluhan told you so: kids get the message. They don't listen to the script, they absorb its presentation. So when some pretty, spotless youth yammers at them about the environment, wearing Hurley Jeans and giving them websites to visit on their cell-phones, they tune out the speech (which might disturb their slovenly equilibrium) and focus on the presentation. They don't become so much de-sensitized as re-sensitized.
So what do they need? Moto-razrs, Ipods, Clearasil and clothes that push the fat around their stomachs up to their chests and into their pants without making them look like little Michelin boys and girls. And when they say they need these things, they're not kidding, pun aside. Employers will hire the ones that best look the part they apply for. Boyfriends and girlfriends are shopping for them right now on LavaLife and they damn well better look good at first sight because otherwise the first look will be the only one. And exercise is hard, so they'll likely need a little nip here and tuck there, because they eat like wee piggys and have the plump tummy rolls to prove it.
The best part is that they will likely never have to change. If they look the part, they will get the job - they need never get particularly good at doing it - and if shit goes wrong, they never need to take responsibility. They can sue someone, instead. They can (successfully) sue the restaurant for serving them hot coffee. They can (successfully) sue the bar for getting them impaired and leading them to the ruthless auto-slaughter of the neighbor's kids crossing the street. Our wee blossoms can (successfully) sue their mothers for not getting them orthodontics and chest implants, so they stand a better chance of "fitting in" and attracting mates and livelihoods. They can (successfully) sue the company when they get hurt while working without their safety equipment, they can (successfully) sue the car maker for not protecting them when they crashed without wearing a seatbelt, they can (successfully) sue artists and TV producers and movie makers and poets for disturbing their sensibilities.
Thus, they remain at the mercy of the marketing companies, who produced the TV shows they watched growing up, who find imaginitive solutions for helping them become exactly like each other and who train them to alienate any others who fail to assimilate correctly - the kids saw the after school specials and, rather than learn that hurting people who are different is wrong, they correctly learned to become the hurters and that punishing difference is proper protocol. These kids are sheep who have been told all their lives that they have a particular wolfish charm and, having been carefully maintained in their pens since birth, they remain simply too stupid to know better. They plug our classrooms and offices with their blissfully unaware "brilliance" and we're shocked to find out that our little treasures have rotted into trash.
That's a pretty general statement - I know many exceptions: for instance, you - if you managed to read through this much unrelieving text to the bottom, rest assured you're doing all right. No flash simulations or youTube videos to break up the nearly three minutes of monotony, here. Now go to work or to school and smack someone who's behaving like an ass - not the program-resistant ass; the making noise-without-meaning one. Then throw your Ipod in the trash, you fucking ass.