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The end of the Generation of Self Centeredness

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POSTED February 8, 2009 4:40 a.m.
The e-mail was short and sweet.

It read, “I’m a Manteca Unified student and it is not fair that we have to go through these cuts.”

I had to smile. The 15-year-old who sent it had no idea how lucky he really is.

I don’t mean lucky in that there are teens his age right now across the globe that don’t have the opportunity to go to school nor do they have access to computers, e-mail, and tons of other things we do in this land even amid a severe economic downtown triggered by the  forces of  greed and dishonesty.

He’s lucky as these challenging times might make him realize that the life we have today is all made possible on the backs of people who we have never met.

This was understood by The Greatest Generation – those who came of age during the Great Depression, then fought to save the world from going dark at the hands of the Axis Powers of tyranny, and then charged full speed ahead and laid the foundation for the space and computer age. The science, health, and agricultural know how they gave us as well as a sense of commitment to civilization plus the birth of the civil rights movement is what will save the planet.

The teen sending the e-mail may look back one day and realize he came of age just as the Era of Self Centeredness was starting to come to a close. There has been all sorts of names attached to various periods of the era - Baby Boomers, The Me Generation, Generation X, The MTV Generation, i-Generation, and the Generation Y to name a few. Whatever the moniker, the bottom line is the people who are identified with such labels was to put self above community a little bit more with each passing year.

Maybe it was the end result of it not being the norm that multiple generations lived under one roof. It could have been the decreased dependence on churches, fraternal or community improvement organizations to provide for the general welfare. Back then everyone realized they were in this together. If one man’s crop failed, you pitched it as your crop could fail next year. If someone was down on their luck you gave them a helping hand with personal contact that fostered a sense of an obligation that doesn’t come when getting help in a check from a faceless government.

People back then were the government. They banded together to build passable roads, took up collections and donated material and labor to build schools, and they came running when a neighbor’s home caught on fire.

The farther we have traveled in time from the philosophy and spirit that germinated in the great experiment called America that has ultimately changed the human condition after millenniums of the  masses being viewed as chattel and not individual souls the more lost we have become.

The mildly rude awakening that we’re going through now will hopefully keep a generation or two from falling off the wagon and spending themselves into a financial stupor while depending on government to pop out programs as if they were pills to cure all of our ills.

Just like over prescribing penicillin ultimately makes it infective when we get extremely sick so it is now with government.

Much like a junkie who is begging for another fix or someone who has opted not to invest the time and effort in their own health and look for a doctor in one office visit to make them healthy, we look to Washington, D.C. to save us when we really need to look is the mirror.

It outrages us that someone like State Controller John Chiang can go ahead and buy $2 million of new furniture for his department while state workers are dealing with forced furloughs and California is $42 billion in debt. How many of us, though, who is now watching every dime just had to buy the newest electronic equipment whether it is big plasma screen TV or the latest i-Pod when what we had before were working perfectly fine?

Government per se is not the enemy. A hundred years ago, people would have thought they died and gone to heaven if they had the sewer system, the water system, garbage collection, transportation system, access to electricity to power machines that reduced the need for manual labor, and a host of other things we have today as the result of the community working in concert through government.

At the same time those same people would be horrified at how we’ve come to depend on government for everything from supporting the arts to saving us from the follies of our addictions.

Times are not as tough as we make them out to be.

With a little luck the 15-year-old e-mailer as well as the rest of us will realize government is not the answer. If we want a better tomorrow we have to rely on ourselves to build it. That also means we don’t squander what opportunities our community gives us such as free schools regardless of how they are hit with cutbacks.
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