‘Me Generation’ Blues

Dear readers, I’m troubled. And since we have been told since childhood that it’s good to share, I’m going to share my troubles with you.

Around thirty or forty years ago, people started thinking that children shouldn’t be disciplined when misbehaving.  This, it was thought, would stifle their development, and lead to a depressingly low amount of self esteem. The result was annoyingly noisy children running amok, while mommies and daddies shrugged off their parental responsibilities: “If we spank little Johnny, it will hurt his self confidence.” Thus began the ‘Me Generation,’ which followed the why-can’t-they-be-like-we-were? ‘Baby Boomers.’

Public places such as stores became unbearable, since unbridled children — what’s so bad about putting your little monster on a leash? — would run around, crashing into adults or displays of goods and screaming at the top of their lungs, while parents stood idly by. In the old days, adult strangers would not hesitate to reprimand wayward children with either a harsh rebuke or a well-placed slap. This was generally agreed to be a laudable act for the common good. I wouldn’t try it nowadays if I were you, partly because it might get you arrested, and partly because the parent would consider it an insult to their parenting skills. (It appears that ‘Me Generation’ attitudes get passed on to their children.) Oh no!

Recent international test results point out that while US students score high on confidence, they score very low on subjects like math, science and critical thinking. Pond scum in Romania is better at math than American teenagers. Isn’t there something seriously wrong here? Shouldn’t confidence be based on mastery or achievement?

Then there is the current state of manners and etiquette. I work on a college campus, and have watched college students for twenty years; their etiquette skills are different from previous generations. For example, when I go through a door, I glance over my shoulder to see if there is someone behind me. If there is someone in the ‘close-enough zone’ I hold the door for them. College students, on the other hand, usually walk through, and cluelessly allow the door to slam on whomever follows. Their ‘Me Generation’ focus is on themselves; it is not on others.

When at the wheel, far too many people nowadays don’t give a damn about other drivers; they think only of themselves. The polite use of turn signals — important for safety, believe it or not — has all but disappeared. Why wouldn’t you want other drivers around you to know your intentions when you’re going at the speed of sound? Drivers just whoosh from one lane into another, not caring about other drivers or safety; clearly a small swipe of a finger on the turn indicator is too much trouble, since the other guy isn’t worth it.

In Framingham is an intersection where half the vehicles wish to turn left at the traffic light. There is just enough room for two vehicles going in one direction to fit through, so when the light is green, one vehicle can turn left while another car can go straight through the intersection. But people turning left don’t stay to the left — they drive in the middle, taking up so much room that drivers wishing to go straight have to wait.

Why can’t these drivers think of this? It’s because they are inconsiderate, thinking only of themselves. The devil on my shoulder wishes me to say that most of those who block the intersection are the boneheads who drive the SUV’s that are bigger than Rhode Island, and that if they are incapable of properly controlling their SUV maybe they should buy a smaller vehicle. The angel sitting on my other shoulder suggests gently that some drivers who block the intersection are not driving the new GM Goliath, but are in normal sedans. Sometimes I wish the angel would just shut up.

Yesterday I was in Braintree, MA, and wanted to turn into a Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot to get some espresso. The guy exiting the lot was driving a big SUV, and was in the middle of the entrance. Again, there was room for a vehicle to enter and one to exit at the same time, but this guy felt that he deserved the middle of the driveway. What is with this sense of entitlement?

A cell phone company is airing ads on TV that center on this ‘me me me’ attitude. A professional athlete has suffered a career-ending injury, and the doctor sends texts and shows video which hurt the player’s feelings; the doctor says not to worry because it’s not costing him anything due to his data plan. A couple are at dinner at a restaurant, and the girl ends the relationship by texting the guy across the table, and changing her Facebook status, which of course are severe blows to the guy’s feelings. The girl replies that it’s not a big deal, since her data plan allows these activities at low or no cost.

In both of these commercials someone is hurt, but the person causing the pain is unconcerned, because they are safely insulated from caring about others due to their focus on Number One.

This selfish ‘me me me’ tendency to put oneself at the center of the universe, to the detriment of all others, will have far-reaching consequences, as sympathy, goodwill and philanthropy decline. It also means that I’ll have to shovel all this damn snow myself.

 

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