catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 10, Num 12 :: 2011.06.24 — 2011.07.07


A lazy generation?

I’ve noticed a theme in recent conversations that I have had with people older than I am.  I often hear older people speak of their experiences of growing up and the hard work they endured as something they were required to do in order to survive.  They speak of a work ethic as if it was something instilled in them from an early age.  In a discussion with my aunt, who is a teacher, we spoke of the problems with education in this country.  In our discussion, she said that people in and before her generation often grew up without having much; for their generation, there was a feeling that they struggled, that they had to work hard, that they had to strive to make life better for their children.  For many, it has been a selfless act to work so hard to make it a better future for their children, but my concern is that young generations don’t grow up with an awareness of or capacity for hard work.  If we’re not careful, they will never learn that everything they have, everything they have not earned and all the luxuries they enjoy were gained through strenuous work.

There is nothing wrong with parents providing for their children.  The danger is when we go from providing necessities to providing luxuries that children haven’t earned, and therefore do not deserve.  Children can begin to feel that they are entitled to everything they receive from their parents.  If it isn’t taught from an early age that you have to work to gain anything in this world, then I’m afraid that we may start seeing younger generations becoming lazier than the ones before them.

One thing that I have recently noticed, now that I have left the Marine Corps and finally gone on to college, is that more and more young people enter into college without working their way through college.  And I get the sense that it is their parents who pay for their cars, their gas, their insurance, their meals and maybe even for their nights and weekends out with friends.  For my parents’ generation, such indulgence would have been rare.  When my dad and his parents went through college, they paid for it themselves and, whether they received scholarships or not, they worked for their way through college.  I am well aware that, these days, the cost of living is different, the economy is not great and we rely on a lot of new, expensive technologies that we feel we are required to have.  Perhaps my parents and their generation didn’t have it so hard because they didn’t have cell phones or personal computers.  But at the same time, I feel that these things can be attained through our diligent work as teenagers.  I can only say for myself that when I was in high school and I worked a part-time job, I didn’t think to save that money because I was still depending on my parents for so much.  The money I made working at that job was my play money, and that was how I spent it.  I didn’t save it toward college, or my first car; I spent it — carelessly.

One place that I feel this lurking sense of entitlement the most is on a college campus.  Attending college this past year was an odd experience for me because, perhaps unlike some of the people I shared a classroom with, I had earned my college experience.  I worked very hard for it by serving this country.  Some of my fellow students will work to pay for their education later when they have a job and start paying off college loans, or their parents will work for it by paying off the loans.  Regardless of how their college experience is paid for, I feel baffled by the callous way some approach their education.  I feel as though more than a few take it all for granted.  Perhaps they don’t realize how many people struggle to work jobs that involve more physical labor than brains, and perhaps they are ignorant to how many people can’t find a job regardless of whether they hold a Masters or Bachelor’s degree or a high school diploma.  It’s a dangerous market out there, and I’m perplexed when I see young people with no passion, no excitement to learn and no driving force within their being to push themselves to do more, to learn more and to exceed everything that is expected of them. 

As a society, we are entering into a new era of struggle.  When World War I ended, the economy grew and life was good for many, for a time, and then it utterly crashed and the world was hurting.  I feel as though our generation is facing a time in history when we are going to have to learn the hard way that we are not entitled to anything.  All of these fancy lifestyles made of money don’t come to us for free; we have to work for them.  And it’s not even as though we should work for fancy lifestyles.  If anything we need to be a generation that learns to be less lazy, to work hard, but to live humbly, to live a life of simplicity rather than extravagance. 

Perhaps there isn’t much of a difference between generations.  It all depends on how we look at it.  I really believe that much of the diversity among generations is shaped by circumstances.  An older person might commonly say, “In my day, we…,” and they go on to say how different the times are.  But when we look at the range of differences between generations, I don’t see much difference overall as far as human nature. 

My lasting hope is that my generation will be a generation that grows from hardship, and that we would learn to cope with difficulty and live simply.  We need to change the cultural view that we need more, that we deserve more — we need to become a generation that learns that we are not entitled to anything.

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