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Despite somewhat encouraging reports, there seems to be a kind of suppressed sense of uncertainty and general uneasiness not totally tied to the economy but with affairs in general — that it’s up-and-down, nothing’s really sure any more or that not just here but everywhere things appear to be coming apart. Why the downer? A few weeks ago I read the recent Me-Me Generation issue of Time Magazine and the Atlantic Magazine’s The Touch Screen Generation issue describing how youth today begin to turn off into their own worlds from about age 2, glued to little electronic gizmos in their hands, and wondered what occurred to bring us to what they described. Making neither positive nor negative judgment, the articles portrayed a superficial, narcissistic next generation, more concerned with being noticed than with achieving, who aspire more to be the followers and loyal assistants (think “associates” instead of employees at Wal-Mart and Target), cogs on a wheel rather than drivers and, what really hit hard, who in one-on-one “real” conversation more and more find it difficult to make eye contact. The human connection is apparently becoming lost in a battery-dependent world.
Then, a week or so later, heading a Common Dreams selection on the Internet, there was a quotation from an Indian, Rabindranath Tagor, made way back in 1917, who might have been forewarning us of the scenario described in both magazines: “History has come to a stage when the moral man, the complete man, is more and more giving way, almost without knowing it, to make room for the … commercial man, the man of limited purpose. This process, aided by wonderful progress in science, is assuming gigantic proportion and power, causing the upset of man’s moral balance, obscuring his human side under the shadow of soul-less organization.”
For me, this quotation puts much of the current anxiety in a fairly logical perspective: since man was never intended to live by bread alone, what we experience are reactions to being blocked or lifted off this premise. Pro or con, consider the row over government surveillance and secrecy, the meaning and importance of truth in any activity versus a possible overemphasis on safety, security, the reactions to Edward Snowden called whistleblower or traitor, next add the jittery Dow Jones, the monthly employment numbers or whether “consumer confidence” is up or down, then the pooh-poohed global warming that’s now real. On top of it all, add our new corporate personhood, national debt, things like the shift that occurred in the definition of entitlements — from for deserving higher-ups to the undeserving poor — and, finally, rapidly expanding invasive corporatism itself. The pieces begin to fit together. Is the next generation acclimatizing itself to simply endure what we leave them? If political candidates in the future honestly stump for positive change they could do well to target with a new slogan: “It’s the organization, Stupid.”