If you are my age, now twenty-seven, or younger, you can probably remember a time when an older authority figure called you a slacker, lazy, or perhaps even, spoiled rotten. We did, after all, come of age in the blinding light of mass media, where both rural and city life meant exposure to the secular world via cable television and the Internet. Convenience and instant gratification were the right and left legs that our generation learned to walk upon. To us, racism seems totally uncalled for, ethnicity perfectly acceptable. Traditional American life, during our formative years, became eclipsed by the mélange of pop culture, injected into our collective bloodline like a steady drip of IV fluid.
As the general American economic picture continues to wane and flag, it seems clear that the corporate culture that we knew during those formative years will likely change in the near future. Companies like Starbucks, Countrywide, Citibank, Ford, General Motors that seemed indefatigable for decades now find themselves imperiled, in a do-or-die struggle for fiscal survival. American banks, rarely before seeing FDIC insurance as more than a formality, are now faced with extremely limited choices, if they appear undercapitalized. In short, economic institutions seem far less permanent than previously envisioned.
However, this younger generation, the advancing front line of our great nation, represents the next chance for hope at a time when the general outlook appears grim, uncertain, and in some areas downright bleak. Ironically enough, it will be our lifestyle of convenience, of instant gratification, in this hyper-consumer culture that will save the economic prosperity of this country.
As Starbuck’s closes locations, laying off jobs and cutting people off from their caffeine sources, the young will demand new jobs, new sources of caffeine. As gas prices test and retest previously established ceilings, we will demand hybrid cars and politicians willing to positively impact market forces on a global scale. As fraudulent lending practices begat artificial demand, followed by higher home prices, we too will seek home ownership after prices have corrected from egregious market manipulation. All the trappings of traditional American prosperity shall, in time, be ours.
We came of age knowing economic prosperity and a relatively calm political climate. As our entire generation continues to expect the lifestyle we were brought up in, the surviving elements of corporate and political America will have no choice but to continue to cater to that lifestyle.
While some may contend that the United States, in its current position, appears almost Roman, an empire of declining stature, the reality is far less dramatic. Ironically, the comfort, ease, and speed that my own generation grew accustomed to, will continue to fuel the fires of our gross domestic product. As instant gratification shaped our respective lifestyles, so will it prop up the future of our country’s wellbeing, with social security and home values buoyed by the growing tide of demand from this younger generation.
Faith, in even the most revered and trusted institutions, remains difficult to maintain during times of tumult and panic. Although this picture may get worse, before it gets better, the future remains in the capable, hungry hands. Change is the current watchword of our presently choppy American seascape, but as my generation ripens to maturity, it seems apparent that the more things change, the more they shall stay the same.
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