What is it about our society, which paints the "something for nothing" mentality in such a beatific light? Is it the wish to have heroes that stimulates this prevalence? I can understand the idea of wanting someone or something we can project our selves onto, I believe that may be ingrained deeply in what makes us ourselves. It might even be a bit biological (think progeny here). The strange thing is how catty we all can be with our hero worship. The dollar can be whimsical and wealth can be easily squandered--wealth can be depleted, income can disappear and time in the limelight passes. We need only think of people like MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice, or Debbie Gibson to realize this is true (These folks for all I know are really quite hard workers, please entertain my example here for illustrative purposes). I know...I am showing my age here by citing these particular artists.
The phenomenon to me worth mentioning is that these people held a fanatical following at some point, and their meteoric rise plummeted just as quickly when the en vogue faded. Why?
Lets look at another example. Las Vegas and it's two cities, Henderson & North Las Vegas own two of the top ten biggest growth rates in the US per the 2000 census. People want to move to Vegas baby, Vegas. No longer is it the "Jan and Dean" or "Beach Boys" era where "Mamas and Papas" are California Dreamin’, people are all about the benjamins baby. They want the big break, the big cash, and they don't want to have to wait for 65 to collect annuities from a lifelong investment.
Another example. Credit is well known as one of the easiest things to get these days. In case you just made an evolutionary leap from our troglodyte brethren, let me bring you up to speed. Banks and Financial institutions can offer bankcards which allow you to draw money against your established limit at a cost. This cost is an interest rate which compounds daily against your original balance. Brilliant right? Lend money easily and people pay you forever. It is a pre-changed Scrooge's dream, and Dickens is spinning in his grave at Westminster Abbey.
Credit has never been easier to get. The companies are trolling for easy fish, offering introductory terms that look as shiny and tasty as they innocently seem, but they contain a treble barbed hook of introductory rates, late fees, and minimum payments.
Add this to the fact that most up and coming Gen-x'ers grew up shell shocked and monetarily oblivious from the sonic boom the Baby Boomers generated, and we have a recipe for disaster. Many of the people in my generation (myself included) don’t really have the know-how to master their own money. Many even are so bemired in their own debts it will take many years to get through it (chapter 7 or 11 anyone?).
So, back to the idea of ethos. The basic etymology of the word means the fundamental character or underlying belief of a culture.
We all know Americans are Capitalistic folk. Generations of people before us have worked hard for the "American Way"--set down some roots, and earned the wealth that came to them by hard work and ingenuity. Sweat-of-the-brow stuff. Instead of this mentality now, I feel we all tend to the prevalence of the immediate payoff--the "play now and pay later" thought process (if you will), and it basically scares the shit out of me. What’s going to happen to my country, my America, when the ideals that help to make it successful are characteristics my generation doesn't care to possess?
Now, I know this is a broad brush, and I am painting the entire country in stereotypical fashion. I may be pulling a chicken little here, but what if? We need to think about these things.
Most likely the folks who followed the old ethos did not even know they had a mentality. That generation just did what needed to be done. They only knew that the thing needed to be done and it fell to no one else so they did it.
Today my generation can do the same thing. Refuse the excuses that I have listed above. Work hard, vote, put off spending your money until it is earned, use a thing up and wear it out. Most of all, don't be afraid of the previous generations of people before us. They were just leek you and I, they struggled with hopes and dreams, with the displacement and interruption of those dreams, and they succeeded in creating an America which you and I enjoy today. It isn't perfect, but it is what they worked for.
One final shot, then I am done on this soapbox. What will you and I leave behind as our legacy? Trillions on debt? Urban Sprawl? War and disease?
Lets invest less in the heroes built up from the almighty dollar. Lets think more green. We don't need to turn into ganja-growing hippies, but lets do something to believe less in this need for wealth and fame. If we can do that, I'd count our generation successful enough to proudly stand alongside the others that came before. We would be doing what needed to be done...