Monday, May 06, 2013

The Myth of the Lazy Youth

As we have seen time and time again in our exploration on this site, one of the challenges of modern myths is their relative invisibility. It is the outsiders of any age, those who are alien to their own times, that make the best artist shamans, and the same goes for mythic explorers. If you are too close to a culture, you will very frequently mistake the truisms of culture, the myths, as a fact. This is true with "human nature" (as we have seen), and it is also true with our myths of labor and work.

Let's consider the example presented when one generation judges another,
"Twenge and Kasser analyzed data from the Monitoring the Future survey, which has tracked the views of a representative sample of 17- and 18-year-old Americans since 1976. They compared the answers to key questions given by high school seniors in 2005-2007 to those provided by previous generations.
To measure materialism, the youngsters were asked to rate on a one-to-four (“not important” to “extremely important”) scale how vital they felt it was to own certain expensive items: “a new car every two to three years,” “a house of my own (instead of an apartment or condominium),” “a vacation house,” and “a motor-powered recreational vehicle.” They were also asked straightforwardly how important they felt it was to “have a lot of money.”
To measure their attitudes toward work, the seniors rated on a one-to-five scale the extent to which they agreed with a series of statements, including “I expect my work to be a very central part of my life,” and “I want to do my best in my job, even if this sometimes means working overtime.”
The researchers found a couple of disturbing trends. ..."
(Full article on Salon.com.) 
It isn't particularly difficult to smell the distinct scent of bullshit in this article. This is the same gripe the elder generation has had since time began about the younger generations: they are lazy, they dress funny, they aren't concerned with the same things, they represent the end of 'the old ways,' and so on.

Furthermore, it's become quite apparent to people that the game is rigged and that it has fuck all to do with how hard you work whether you are materially successful or not. So why kill yourself to make someone else rich? Is it possible that the younger generation has just become disillusioned with the idea of breaking their back so that they can wind up on the street? "Success" has everything to do with your family or the connections you make or the people you fuck over.

Myths often emerge from anecdotes. The myth of the lazy youth does, and so does the myth of the lazy rich. For instance, Bush Jr. didn't work hard to become president, and those that did work hard to become CEOs are generally such workaholics that the rest of their lives are totally out of balance.

Even numbers lie, or at least, numbers need to be interpreted within the context of a narrative. But if we're to believe numbers, then systemic workaholism is also at an all-time high in the US and yet employers and the rich keep touting these myths of the lazy youth.

I'm personally dubious of any claims leveled toward an entire generation, much as such claims toward race, nationality, class, or gender.

However, sometimes generalizations can be applied that are more true than untrue.

If the claim posed by the "lazy youth" myth is true, it's only because these ne'er-do-wells were deluded their entire lives by parents, system, media and peers alike -- and nothing is going to easily undo that.

As we've discussed, the best way to get youth to learn things is through play. Even cats know that and they have brains the size of a walnut. Humans have an inborn creativity and ingenuity that only systemic rubber-stamp education and employment could quash.

So I would say-- work hard by playing hard. Not that everything is always pleasant, God knows. But if you're engaged with your passion, then it won't matter so much.

If anything I'd claim the real issue with "this" generation in question is not laziness so much as idleness through distraction. It isn't a lack of myths of work, but rather a lack of myths of passionate play. Our education system is failing, and that is in part because it seeks to work against our own nature, rather than with it.

[Where is the fucking counterculture? Mythos Media.]

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