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It’s Friday afternoon. I’m driving home in light traffic thanks to the new two-day-a-month furlough. It’s been a long day of dealing with the eager minds of our next generation, their energetic lust for life, their creative means of expression, and, of course, their total spoiled, slacker attitudes. I pull up to a red light and bide my time in line with other workers fortunate enough to still have jobs. Before me stands the Nameless Homeless guy, holding a sign his predecessor held for a day and left on the corner. It reads: “I’d rather be WORKING” in big, bold, Sharpie-drawn lettering. I take a closer look and realize his shoes aren’t that worn, his beard not that scruffy. The Sharpie is still stuck in his t-shirt. So the man isn’t the Nameless Homeless after all. He’s the lower middle class Everyman. And, according to his sign, which now appears he created himself, the last place he thought he’d be was on the corner, holding this cardboard, looking for more than a handout.
 
It’s a harsh reality many of us are facing in California. The state is dealing with the highest unemployment rate in 15 years.  Budgets are being cut across the board, from public transit, health care, and my favorite - education. While an older, wiser generation would say they’ve seen this before (though they may not have thought they’d have to forego retirement and return to work as paid annuitants due to difficult times), a younger 20s, 30s and even 40s generation is still scrambling to recover income they once thought secure. But there is an even bigger problem, one I see every day in my (not so secure) position as a permanent substitute: the complete lack of appreciation, self-discipline and forethought from the privileged Generation-Y students. I teach at a performing and fine arts school and I know these students and their talents. I’ve seen their skills firsthand. Their exceptional ability to derive mature concepts from literature, tell deep, meaningful stories through theatre and music, create technically-advanced masterpieces on computer programs I had never even heard of until college. And with such tools at their fingertips, such opportunities to succeed and teach and contribute to society, I still witness, on the whole, the spoiled nature of a placated teen.
 
Blame the generation before them. Blame “me”, Generation X, for creating a monster when praising the gifted and talented student - telling them they were capable of anything and then never making them work for it, never making them sweat for it. Blame me for teaching them that gain can come without pain. Or do what we do. Blame it on the generation before us, the Baby-Boomers who lived through the depression and always had to sweat for their daily bread and consequently chose to spoil their children (because no one should have to go through that). Blame anyone else but the individual, because we all know it’s not his or her fault.

The problem lies in blaming everyone, and yet not holding anyone responsible. It’s the classic “victim mentality” and it’s plaguing not only our generation, but now our youth as well. Run out of money?  Don’t worry about going without or working hard to earn it back - we’ll bail you out.  Didn’t do your homework? You have a good excuse – so-and-so didn’t do their part of the project; you can turn it in tomorrow, no penalty involved. Get fired?  You were only exercising your right to speak your mind. You didn’t really love that job or need it anyway. There are thousands of other jobs… uh… hundreds of… wait.
 
We’re spoiling our children by spoiling ourselves. Youth is terribly clever when mimicking the behavior of others, especially those they consider their leaders. Why would they ever take responsibility for their behavior if they never see the consequences of those who don’t? The unfortunate truth is that they are seeing the consequences – bailouts.  It’s become the norm to expect someone else to shoulder the weight of our problems. But how will that ever encourage people, the youth especially, to be wise with their time and energy, to be diligent and push themselves to excel?  There seems to be a severe lack of determination when it comes to setting goals and reaching them. Perhaps it’s a lack of understanding just how much work reaching those goals will actually take. We’ve replaced the mantra, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” with “It wasn’t meant to be,” and “It’s not worth it anyway.”
 
I’D RATHER BE fishing camping WORKING!
How Economic Downfall Has Encouraged A “Victim” Mentality In Our Youth
By Susan Fore
March 2009
My conscience tells me we will one day see the bottom of this self-indulgent thought pattern to which we’ve all fallen victims (see?), and the result can only be apathy.   And then where would we end up? How much more vulnerable would we become?  After all, who will be willing to stand up and fight for freedom if the fight becomes too difficult, too much work, or require too much sacrifice? I see hope in the Sign Man, who, amongst hundreds of thousands, feels the direct consequences of these financially challenging times. For him, there is no blame-game, no name-dropping as to who is responsible for his unemployment.  There is not even an expectation of pity, only a simple plea for an honest day’s pay. So what will it take to instill that self-governed determination in our “victimized” youth? The Answer: hard work.
 
 
vhcle-09:life
 
Susan Fore is a freelance opinion writer from Sacramento, California. She is currently working as a permanent substitute teacher at a Performing and Fine Arts School while pursuing her passion for acting, play-writing and modeling.
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