iGeneration or Generation Self?

Teaching college kids has got me to thinkin’…what do we call the next generation? We probably can’t call them anything, because they are too individualistic to form a group identity. While empowerment of the self is good, my concern is that young adults are deluding themselves into believing that they can, and should, do everything by themselves.

They are learning it from us. All the single ladies have a lot of company these days, because most people in the U.S. are living single. That’s far from the most shocking statistic in this well-balanced Op-Ed by David Brooks of the New York Times, who dubs our new normal as “The Talent Society,” stating that “… we have gone from a society that protected people from their frailties to a society that allows people to maximize their talents.”

By “people” he does not mean children, the impoverished, the elderly, the sick … in other words, only 50 percent or so can succeed, because only half of society is fully self-sufficient. Those who need a helping hand–sorry, try to “maximize” yourself somewhere else.

There is an environmental component here, too, because living as self-sufficient individuals is much more wasteful than living in a family or community. Everyone has their own phone, their own car, their own apartment, their own computer. Soon everyone will want their own planet.

While I have benefited from the cult of individualism in our country, and I would not want to compromise my independence, I’m not enough of a fool to believe that I gave birth to myself, clothed and fed myself, and taught myself to read and write. I pity that fool.

I don’t blame the next generation for worshiping the self, but I do worry that they won’t even know how to share, let alone feel the joy of connectedness. If we took away all their iPods and other gadgets, what would the new generation have left to define themselves? Talent? That definition feels as hollow and useless as a great singer who only performs in front of the mirror.

It’s all about me, iSelf, and the artist known as “I.”



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