Friday, April 18, 2008

"Welcome to 2008 - Everybody's Miserable"


The above quote is from David Brook's column in the NY Times (Thanks to Peter for sending this to me).  Please read this - David Brook's Op-Ed piece in the NY Times .  While I don't often agree with Mr. Brooks, he tends to be too conservative for my taste, his views are, in the words of my friend Peter, "pragmatic and fact based".  This piece is depressing as hell to read, but spot on in its take on what the vile media, the vicious political in fighting had done to this election.  His points about the apathy and vile party politics and what it's done to the one candidate that might actually inspire real change should make us all very angry.. We are TIRED, we are growing cynical yet again because our process doesn't allow quality to float to the top, it's merely a contest to see who can sink to the lowest common denominator.  

Miss Britt's blog today is another take on this same malaise that is an underlying theme in David Brook's column.  Although she attribute generational disaffection as a factor, I do not think it's entirely a generational thing. I think it's much larger:

  • It's a combination of the dissolving middle class, it's much more difficult just to survive these days - acquisition is too easy, but paying for it is too hard - people are exhausted and want to escape.
  • Media does play a huge part in this - the escapism that is prevalent today (call it disaffection if you will) is not new.  In the Depression and during WWII -people wanted to escape, too.  Life magazine showed the glossy lives of movie stars. Light and "sophisticated" comedies staring Jean Harlow, Cary Grant, Wallace Beery, et al. ruled the day. I think the difference was that you had to leave your house and pay to go see them - therefore it was consumed in smaller doses. Now you have to pay money and leave your house to shut it off.
  • Media part two - the constant barrage of information allows for no editing of information and the demand to have something on the air online or in print gives greater opportunity to spin in larger doses. Again, this is nothing new - William Randolph Hearst, anyone?  Yellow journalism, jingoistic appeals that are scarily similar to what we see today.  We just see more of it.
  • America wants to be proud.  I love this country and have voted in almost every election that I was eligible to vote. I believe that you cannot complain if you do not vote. But as a country that has enjoyed privilege for so long, we've become entitled. Yes, there is a significant population in this country that lives below the poverty line - and many more who are just above - but see the first bullet.  We are bloated and overloaded and from that comes a disease of spirit. 

This is not to say that generational attitudes are entirely absent.  I am a baby boomer - I was born while JFK was still alive, and my parents were most definitely part of the "greatest generation" - my father was a WWII vet.  My parents were very socially aware - the joke in our family was that our holy trinity was JFK, RFK, and MLK.  Like many kids in those days, we had a framed photo of JFK in our house.  My parents made sure we had a "better life" than they did, well how could that not happen? I was born during a time of great growth while they were born just before the Depression.  We had multiple TVs in the house and I had a wonderful room growing up, always had all that I wanted.  I think what was different was that information that came into the house was a shared experience, not a solitary one as it is today.  We were allowed to read the paper at the table, because we were expected to discuss and talk about the days news and events.  We were also supposed to express our opinions (politics was the ONLY thing we could express our opinions about, so we did - a lot).   I came of age in the 70s and 80s (Miss Britt was born in 1980, I graduated from high school in 1980), while there were seeds of narcissism being planted then, people were generally still aware and active - No Nukes, post -Vietnam, Watergate, Middle East peace treaty, the Iran Contra scandal....the list goes on.  Perhaps my contemporaries had similar upbringing.  I never knew a time when we weren't "aware".

I see the generational disparities greatly today, but I also see my mom's generation's influence on my children and how that makes them a bit apart of the general malaise.  Ok...we tend to watch the news more than read the news at dinner, but my mom, at 80, still reads two printed newspapers a day, and she passes along stories to my children and me and we talk about them. My kids have been known to come home from school and pick up her papers and read them.  Because of that, they are pretty outspoken about who they support (and not surprisingly, we're in different camps!) and we talk about it, we argue about it.  We've watched the debates and discussed them.  They are different than most of their friends.  My daughter wants to debate politics at school, but most of her friends are like ....."yeah, right, so dull....." or parrot their parents views.  THAT makes me sad and scared for this country.  That makes me very angry at the disgraceful debate that occurred this week - apathy and bitterness will divide us and we need to see the riches in this country not as material ones, but as the riches of being able to have an opinion in the first place. 

Miss Britt, you have every right to be angry and dammit, you should be angry.  You can be angry and cling to hope - it may be a necessary combination to affect the change we so desperately need.


Dagny said...

Beautifully written.

Miss Britt said...

This was awesome, and brought up some really great points.

I think getting people talking about it is a good start. Definitely.

And good for you for passing that on to your children.

maggie, dammit said...

Nice work, girl.

Noble Pig said...

This is an incredible piece.

And I couldn't agree more about the division and the fighting that is going on.

I've forgotten what the election is about...what we're fighting for.

I praise you for discussing with your children what they face in the future and keeping them interested. It is all this country has.