Thursday, November 4, 2010

Gen Insta-Grat *

* That's "Generation Instant Gratification," for those individuals with minuscule attention spans, or who lack an ethics of commitment to anything that requires, like, work, to comprehend.

It's no secret that our society is moving -- with lightning speed -- toward abbreviated forms of communication. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, of course: Anything that expedites modern-life processes, in this age of overwhelm, is a good thing. So, I have no problem with using or receiving "text-speak" in, say, my tweets, text messages, Facebook posts or informal e-mails. LOL!!!

But what does bother me is how this ethos of instant gratification has crept into our general behaviors. The Today show this week has been doing a series on the loss of civility in our society -- and what the ramifications of this loss might mean in a larger context. They've talked about problems like rude cell-phone users, and people not holding doors open for others or saying "please" and "thank you" -- that sort of thing.

Unfortunately, we're creating a culture of me-first, short-term thinking that does NOT bode well for our long-term survival as a society. For, where there is no civility, there is anarchy. The biggest culprits of this behavior are, of course, the younger generations. And guess who's to blame for that? The PARENTS! These are the generation that have raised these youngsters with such a huge attitude of entitlement and self-importance.

Now, in some ways, the parents aren't totally to blame --they bought into the "self-esteem" movement by so-called parenting experts, which told them to give nothing but positive feedback to little Johnny and Susie, hyping their "achievements" at every turn -- and thereby diluting the messages of effort, team work, diligence, resilience, etc., that they should have been receiving in order to become productive and cooperative members of society.

Still, common sense should have clued these generations of parents -- boomers and Gen Xers -- that, maybe, telling Sallie that she's the center of the universe and can do no wrong, was doing her no favors as she approached adulthood. Some of it was pure laziness, no doubt, and some was likely borne out of desperation: It's much easier, after all, to gain cooperation from children via positive reinforcement or even outright bribery.

I recently witnesses first-hand the repercussions of this kinds of ethics, however, and it wasn't pretty. As I took a walk/run around my neighborhood the day after Halloween, I was struck by the number of discarded candy wrappers littering the road and people's yards. I must have seen at least 100 during my 45-minute walk. Huh? Whatever happened to waiting till you get home to eat your candy?

I'm assuming -- hoping?! -- that the majority of this litter was created by older kids not being chaperoned by an adult (parents wouldn't countenance their kids gobbling the candy and then littering, right? Right?) and thereby being utterly careless and disrespectful in their behavior. I mean, really, kids: These people just GAVE YOU FREE CANDY, and this is how you say thank you -- by creating garbage that they have to pick up?

The most ironic thing about this orgy of littering, of course, is that this kind of uncivil, careless behavior is only going to bite them in the ass down the road, because they are going to be the ones who have to clean up such messes in the future!

So Gen IG (for those with even smaller attention spans!): You've been warned.

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