Wednesday, April 3, 2013
I always admired my tae kwon do instructor, Master Lorenzo Gibson, for always making us work hard. There were no short cuts. If you didn't have the skills, then you didn't advance to a higher belt. Becoming a black belt at age 9, the youngest ever in our state at the time, is still one of my proudest accomplishments. However, I had a friend named Jared, who for lack of a better term, was basically the runt of our school. He worked hard, was positive, but simply did not possess the physical gifts needed to become a black belt. Our teacher never gave us a free pass because we were owed a black belt, or entitled because of our effort, or how many years we trained. If you couldn't pass the tests, you were held back. Jared never earned his black belt, and in a way, giving him an undeserved rank, would have been a disservice to both Jared, and every other student in our school. I'm glad I had teacher like Master Gibson in my youth, because I don't think their are many like him today. The difference is that we were ALLOWED to fail. No handouts, no bailout, but rather finding unique ways to dust ourselves off from our failure to find success. Success was not a right, or entitlement.
Ah yes, today. Today everybody on the team gets a trophy for participation. That's fine with me, we did it back in the 80's and 90's, and I certainly didn't mind getting all the extra bling as a kid. However, nowadays I hear and see parents getting upset at coaches and teachers for their child's poor performance. I'm not sure who is supposed to be raising kids these days. Is it the teachers, the coaches, or the.....dare say....parents!? If the kid sucks at sports, blame the coaches for not doing a better job. If the kid struggles in school, blame the teachers for not coddling to their inability to focus and take their education seriously. Not to sound old, but back in my day when I did poorly in school, it meant there would be a parent/teacher meeting, and I was getting reamed out later on by my dad first, then my mom. But, it always made me take things more seriously and sooner than later I worked to improve. Maybe it's wired in my personality, or maybe I am the tail end of a dying generation of youth that was taught to work hard for success. Parents today, 60% of which will divorce between ages 38-45, seem to be so focused on their two income households, that they spend significantly less time focused on their kids. With all the equality struggles and fighting over gender roles in marriage, I find it unsurprisingly ironic that parents are failing to define any role, or identity in their households. I hate to say it, but today's parents are wimps. People are getting married without understanding the weight of their marriage vows. Marriage today almost seems like the equivalent of dating, but with bigger repercussions. We are told, if you are unhappy, divorce. But, I digress. Or, do I?
I don't think it's always the parenting. Technology and pop culture are all about what we deserve. What is rightfully ours. Me, me, me ME! What's in it for ME? We seem to communicate more through our technology then we do face to face. I believe we are on the verge of seeing a collapse in interpersonal relationship because of the great technological divide. How ironic is it that in a world where we can communicate instantly on a mass scale, that we have a harder time talking with someone one on one? Let's face it, how awkward would it be to sit in a doctor's office waiting lounge if there were no TV's or magazines to kill the time? God forbid we acknowledge the other people in the room, or elevator, or coffee shop. Everything from facebook to twitter focuses on instantaneous response time. It can be a great tool, but the speed at which we can acquire things, I believe, is making us less patient and more high strung. We are a nation literally wired to our mobile devices, caffeine, and non stop instant gratification. We are impatient with the speed of our computers, we rush relationships, we lose the ability to calmly work through things with deeper levels of introspection and relational building. Our society world view ultimately comes down to two questions these days. What's in it for me? Is it convenient?
Today is a generation of wimps, and I'm not afraid to say it. Kids from age 1 to young adults my age. It's just amazing to think as our technology has progressed, our humanity has proportionately regressed. Back in the 1800's visiting a friend 200 miles away meant a one week wagon ride. You probably mailed a letter a few months before, they rsvp'd (like anyone does that now), you traveled at the risk of losing your finest oxen, then your visit may last for weeks, or months. Dinner was at a table, and late night conversation was by a fire. There weren't people texting in the middle of a conversation, or checking work e-mails during a meal. There was value in having somebody with you, and even if you didn't like them, you couldn't just block them, or unfriend them. You had to deal with them, and even if it meant a duel at high noon, you at least didn't avoid interaction. People lacked diversions from other people, and they had no other choice than to be intentional and focused on the people they were with. Now it seems people yearn some form of distraction because of how uncomfortable they feel interacting. People show up to cocktail parties hoping to God there is a cute puppy to play with, or Wi-Fi access. Lord, please let there be Wi-Fi, I don't know how to talk with these people!
I think the baby boomers might have truly bean the last generation that was raised in the nonconformity of the technological era. Baby boomers themselves were raised by war hardened parents who believed in rolling up their sleeves and going to work. It was a time when everyone wore suits to sporting events, Sunday was truly a day of rest, and 30 year olds looked like how 45 year olds today look. I think my grandparents would look at today's youth and smack them in the face. They'd laugh at our first world problems, which have recently driven people to the brink of madness. But, they wouldn't be surprised how kids, and young adults, can't seem to work through tough times, or even times that really aren't that tough, they just haven't lived through truly tough times to know the difference. People are having tantrums because their internet is slow, or because starbucks is out of their favorite coffee. My heavens! How do you endure? During world war two, my grandfather was on a boat (the HMT Rohna) where 1138 troops died on November 26, 1943. But, you never heard him use that as an excuse in life. No, his generation dealt with unimaginable circumstances and went on to their careers and families. My grandpa would not have given a crap about the fact your little iphone dropped a call.
It's no wonder we have a growing number of anti social youths committing suicide at alarming rates, and why every day it seems like there is another violent mass shooting. Society want to point the finger at gun control, and video games. But in the end, it's like the parent blaming the coaches and teachers. We never want to dig down to the root of our struggles, because we don't want to acknowledge the truth. We are a society of weak people in need of deeper intervention. We think duct taping the dead branches back on will be a quick fix. Sure, and if you paint the tape green the tree might actually pass for being completely healthy. That is until the next powerful storm comes along. And if the winds are strong enough, that duct taped tree will get ripped from the ground.