”Authority is supposedly grounded in wisdom, but I could see from a very early age that authority was only a system of control and it didn’t have any inherent wisdom. I quickly realized that you either became a power or you were crushed” Joe Strummer
The flower of America’s youth lift and flutter like bees as they skyrocket, soaring like gliders above the sidewalk in front of the Dairy Queen in my small American hamlet. In chaotic formations, high on hearts afire they transmit their pollen of optimism on each other and send me a glorious contact buzz.
They are dressed as soldiers in an army of denim and sneakers hidden under Caps & Gowns that flow; like ersatz apparitions floating on an ocean of idealism, that tasty narcotic designer drug; an alchemical potion hypnotizing only the young before that giant pull to mediocrity descends like a Monty Python hammer out of silvery clouds.
Time again for a fresh hive of oracles to partake of perennial ceremonies where diplomas and degrees are conferred unto them; to commence, to embark on an infinite choice of new beginnings; those designated the honor will select and summon anointed icons of implicit success to lecture young scholars on what grand awakenings lay ahead and on what their commencement; truly meant.
It seems a reasonable endeavor to send the next posse of young scholars, leader’s of a new world they will make for us all, off into the world with a roadmap of sorts and I’m not dismissive of that enterprise. Yet I’ve often wondered whether it would not be more instructive and infinitely more entertaining to have society’s most infamously fallen hold forth on rules for avoiding wrong directions; rather than have its most famous masters of the universe gush their particular touchstones illuminating right directions.
This logic is in service of the view that it’s much harder to stay on top than to get there; perhaps we could arrange a weekend furlough for Bernie Madoff or O.J. Simpson to impart their riveting tales of how it can so easily unravel after reaching the nadir of accomplishment; since its darkness that lay in shadows and it’s hits you don’t see that strike the worst blows.
Or, if the presence of anti-heros on such an auspicious occasion upsets the fathers of academia, maybe better to have more suitable mainstays explain the bullet point set of laws that best kept them from spinning out to an epic crash landing. Maya Angelou, for instance, could impart some of her greatest hits, such as; “Never fear anyone enough to lie”.
The recent fascination with the Millennial, Generation Y, 80 million strong and not only the largest age group in American history but one I have affinity for since it was my generation that spawned them and for added measure my Muse is a charter member, has had written many a ton of overwrought comment and review directed at them, much of it branding our best chance out of this mess; a generation of lazy, entitled narcissists. That stupefying stupidity is not only arrogant horse puccy but more importantly misses the point.
While there’s a fine line between Joe Strummers epiphany and self-absorption much credit for having navigated this cage match maze must be awarded those past the age of twenty-seven for nothing more than surviving an always dangerous childhood and having bested Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jimmy Hendricks, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse; all dead as fried chicken at twenty-seven.
I should stipulate from the outset that I think I’m special as well. I know I’m probably not, but the point is I think I am; just like the Millennial’s; and I give them credit for that. Sure they expect a lot, and feel they deserve even more and what could be wrong with that bit of victorious thinking? After all, it’s not our ancestors that we are meant to make proud; it’s ourselves we have to be proud of; and it’s not possible to enhance self-esteem without humping a thick slice of narcissism.
If this predilection leads to feelings of unmet expectations, they’ll get over it the same as we did. None suffered more feelings of where’s the beef than Baby Boomers and look what our angst gave birth to. Being overconfident trumps its opposite by miles. The Millennial’s are undisputedly the most exciting generation since the Baby Boomers, that greatest generation that brought us necessary social revolution.
The reason for so much criticism and lack of championing for our next best of breed is the existential angst harbored by the presently élite; shaken in the knowledge that our progeny just don’t need us. My generation tried to buck the system and throw the bums out; but this new generation can simply do without any of it and all of us. Hopefully, and most present in the eyes of anarchist everywhere, this attitude will cause the myth of the necessary system to die from an excess of indifference and apathy.
This right thinking sense of entitlement empowers and does not arise from ignorance or arrogance. It arises because young people need to believe they’re worth something; since the world — one where economic instability has led to fewer opportunities, the devaluation of college degrees, and stagnant wages — tells them they’re not.
Again, as Strummer posits, feeling entitled to greatness as a result of our talents causes a shedding of the role of victim and an adopting of the role of innovator, challenger and champion; demonstrating that not all twenty-something’s are lazy and entitled from a sense of privilege.
More than ½ of Generation Y does not ensue pre-packaged mythologies of religion but instead sets their compass of guiding morality on themselves; knowing they’ll just be able to feel what’s right and don’t see that opinion as radical belief or negative emotion.
While I believe we are in good hands and subscribe to Pink Floyd’s notion to “leave those kids alone” I will humbly offer some advice of my own, which is not only a wont particular to me, but is also the privilege of old men. Would it were me at the podium at commencement speech time I’d keep the advice to three things.
Loyalty: The famous author Hugh Lunn once said Friends are god’s apology for relations; but this alone does not say it. So for the first golden nugget I’d offer loyalty as the thing to value the most; because in this world, the reality realm, without it you are nothing.
While science has proved that cynicism hardens the arteries, so to have life shown the unrivaled value of friends; the code most notably useful goes thusly: Loyalty above all else except honor. This axiom extends to bosses as well. When working for a man; work for him. If the day comes when you can not resist the necessity to criticize the leader behind his back; it’s time to move on.
Reputation: Reputation is the gold standard of character. Everyone starts out with one as pristine as arctic ice and no one save the self can sully it. A person with a good one can do anything and legions will line up to follow those who have held it precious.
Advantage: Those blessed with charm and charisma, once out in the world, will find it easy to take advantage of others; don’t. And know that no one will ever be able to take advantage of you unless you think you can get something for nothing.
What our descendants will do in the next transformation of America will make history. It makes me envious; desirous to witness the future they will make. In the words of Hyman Roth’s Meyer Lansky, in Francis Coppola’s famous film The Godfather; Lee Steinberg laments: “If I could only live to see it; to be there with you. What I wouldn’t give for another twenty years”. Damn Skippy Francis; me too.