Wednesday, May 13

In the Weeds

White Iris

Desert Onion

Desert Honeysuckle

California Poppy

"Charlane McGregor: Why don't you get a job at the Burgerrama? They'll hire you! My Lord, I saw on the TV - they had this little retarded boy working the register.
Lelaina: Because I'm not retarded, Mom. I was the valedictorian of my University!
Wes McGregor: Well you don't have to put that on your application."

 - from the movie "Reality Bites" (1994)

I remember watching the movie, "Reality Bites" when it first came out in 1994. Those were the days of the Gen Xers, kids who witnessed the dreaded nightmares of the Boomers: a nuclear meltdown at Three Mile Island, AIDS, and a government betrayal in the Iran-Contra scandal. These kids grew up with Ronald Reagan at the helm of their ship of state, a president who proudly worked to advance the interests of his mentor, General Electric, and the corporate takeover of America. Through this president's charisma and his genius propaganda machine, the old master/slave economic theories of the 1900s returned, better known as "trickle down" economics.

In this movie, Winona Ryder's character comes face to face with the real world in which the angst and self-obsession of post-grads mean nothing. She documents her self-obsession, along with the obsessions of her roommates and comes up with a messy and boring video. Her MTV producer and wannabe boyfriend, played by Ben Stiller, finds a way to turn her psychodrama into a marketable piece of eye candy, something corporate vs. indie. Keep in mind, these were the days when MTV had music videos and very few "over the top" reality shows. 

Anyway, the 20-somethings live-and-learn that the true center of existence is security (i.e., shelter, food, transportation) all of which require cash. That's the reality part and the "it bites" part is the classic scene above, in which Lelaina discovers that her university education does not guarantee the high-paying job she was promised. To add insult to injury, she realizes that flipping burgers/waitressing, all of these jobs that seem so menial, are actually hard. She's not prepared for the humiliation of distrust, of being monitored, of being forced into a background of subservient scrounging. The biggest humiliation of all is the pay. She is expected to endure all of this difficulty and ego pounding for poverty wages and it bites.  It bites hard.

Fast forward to 2015, over twenty years later and those crafty corporations have solved the problem of post-graduate angst. They own the political process and have waged war on public education, particularly in red states. The trick is to uneducate America.  Remove critical thinking from the landscape.  Promote believing, faith, "trust me" mental blindness.  Let the propaganda machine achieve the corporate dream of a third-world America.  Go back to a place where the world is flat, where children do better homeschooled, where worker's rights are radical, where war is perpetual, and the  right to vote is useless.  And, let's really put the clamps on worker wannabes and saddle them with a lifetime of student debt just so they can submit a resume for one of the few remaining jobs not shipped overseas.  The old-school boomers waste time searching for the logic in this topsy-turvy tea party.  The Red Queen in Alice's wonderland requires that workers must have a degree, but she withholds any rational means of acquiring one.  The old ways of navigating through chaos using logic and reason are gone.  Cutting is the operative word. Read any news article and count the number of times the word "cut" and its derivatives are used. No wonder kids are self-mutilating more than ever. Reducing, cutting down, eliminating, scrimping and saving are today's American signposts.

We are now into the "Millenial" generation. Today's resilient folk, these dumpster divers, tiny house advocates, tech nerds have witnessed Columbine-type school shootings, 9-11 terrorism, multiple Middle East wars, a worldwide economic collapse in 2008, and the FoxNews fear mongering noise machine. They are pessimistic about the future, impervious to criticism, tethered to their iPhones, removed from social contact by their germaphobe parents, yet insightful, supersmart, and non-judgmental. Perhaps their disinclination to judge causes them to avoid politics, religion, marriage, any activity that requires a decision and a commitment. For millennials, blind faith, is an old rock band their grandparents listen to, not a thought process. This skepticism has resulted in an unprecedented rejection of organized religion and a loathing of politics. It is clear that all generations are absorbing the new reality of a waning American imperialism, but none have been more negatively affected than today's youth and young adults.

Like a swamped server at a popular bistro, millennials are in the weeds in America. If our society hopes to have a good future, boomers, genxers, everyone must help them deal with overwhelming negativity.  One step toward sanity is to promote competent and effective community leaders concerned with economic and social opportunity for all. Another step is to shun the false "dream" of aimless excess exemplified by those wacky, selfie absorbed, Kardashians.  The best forward movement is to acknowledge that reality of 2015 hasn't changed much from 1994; it is still a world of inequality verging on a dog-eat-dog harshness that demands serious attention.

“In dreams you don't need to make any distinctions between things. Not at all. Boundaries don't exist. So in dreams there are hardly ever collisions. Even if there are, they don't hurt. Reality is different. Reality bites." ― Haruki Murakami, Sputnik Sweetheart