(found in his Gmail trash bin)
Subject: RE: Did you see this?
Yeah, I saw it. I’ve read it over a few times, and to be honest, I disagree with most of it.
You know, I think the first thing that needs to be considered is “reality” and how that’s changed over the years. I wouldn’t argue that it’s more fair or unfair compared to decades ago, but I would say that it might be reasonable to expect members of the generation in question to be less happy than their predecessors if half the equation of happiness has to do with “reality.” There was a time – believe it or not – when as little as a high school diploma entitled you to a “secure career” with middle class pay and health insurance and a fully-stocked pension. Nowadays, it’s a tough fight to get an unpaid internship with no guarantee of future employment even with a college diploma and a couple years of work experience, and this is in a world in which the financial, emotional and mental investment of a bachelor’s degree has skyrocketed while its relative value has fallen off a cliff.
So are the yuppies entitled? Perhaps. But they aren’t lazy, and they aren’t delusional. They – maybe I should say we, maybe I should say me – have worked and are working hard in class long before they entered the job market, long before they first stepped onto that career path. And in class they’re under the pressure of thousands of dollars of tuition, pulling all-nighters to cram for exams and finish papers, all the while competing to stand out against a backdrop of people who they know are all the same, who they know will beat them if given the chance.
Yeah, the yuppies chase a rainbow, and yes, we thought there was a pot of gold at the end of it, whatever that gold is – fulfillment or security or wealth or booze or cars. And that’s our fault. I’ll admit on everyone’s behalf. But it’s our fault for believing what others have told us. So only out of spite, I will quote the great poetry of blink-182: “If we’re fucked up, you’re to blame.”
What the author of this piece misses is just how fragile the collective entitlement of the Gen-Y yuppies is, especially in the aftermath of previous generations’ many attempts to destroy the world economy and suck the government dry with Social Security, Medicare, wars all around the planet and the like. As entitled as recent college graduates are, will be and have been, as delusional as some may think that twenty-something year old living in her parent’s basement is, none of them have any responsibility for that.
The world has made very clear to the yuppies, to the GYPSYs, that they aren’t special, they aren’t exceptional. They know they aren’t special. They know that no matter how hard they work, they’ll just fade back into the crowd, but they’ve been taught a certain idea. They are special. Their teachers told them this. Their after-school cartoons told them this. And their parents seem to have put a whole lot of faith in them to achieve this special destiny. So shouldn’t the yuppies at least act the part? They know more than anyone else – I mean outside of the exceptionally delusional who believe they can become bestselling authors and Youtube phenoms and startup superstars – that their lives are and should be just like everyone else’s. But – just as we are told, just as those before us did – we yuppies put on a brave smile in the face of doom.
Not to say that this entitlement or concept of the self as being special is anything new, nor do I think it is fair to consider out of control social comparison to be a new phenomenon that is wildly detrimental to the psyche. “Keeping up with the Joneses” was not coined within the last decade.
And forgive me for only existing as long as I have existed, but I would argue that the first person narrative has been essential to humanity for as long as humans have been conscious and aware. We all think we are somewhat special and deserving of certain things, and on a unique path towards those things, love and friendship and the like. Even the mere discussion of happiness implies that we should all be happy, that we are somehow entitled to it because of who we are.
This leads me to my final point, which I’m sure you will ignore after rolling your eyes with such force that your neck snaps. What is happiness and why should I care about it?
Personally, I am entirely unsatisfied that happiness (or love or any other emotional state of consciousness) is the result of some material equation, the mere accruement of experiences (of course experiences treated as things, as objects rather than actual experiences, something other, something undefined and transcendent and meaningful) and their perceived benefit or detriment.
Happiness is a worthy goal, or at least a worthy achievement, only when it is true, just like everything else. The artificial, conscious happiness, like the one that results from a carefully constructed list of pros outweighing a carefully constructed list of cons, is nothing more than a drop of an anesthetic splattered onto a fatal wound. Yes, it feels better; yes, the pain goes away, but you’re still missing a chunk of your flesh, of yourself. That’s enough for some people, I’m sure.
All I see is sedation. That’s what that equation will get you. So many people engage in this process of contentment, of convincing themselves to be satisfied. They reach out into the world and grab handfuls of things – labels and identities, hobbies, activities and careers – and they jab these things into their bodies hoping they are needles full of morphine. Climb the ladder of your career – secure or fulfilling – and roll around in your grassy field, your meadow of flowers and unicorns. Do something, move forward and keep moving. That’s the mantra today. Keep doing and don’t stop because you might actually have to consider what’s valuable, what’s really joyous, because you might actually have to ask yourself a question that is difficult to answer, a question to which you might not have an answer.
Happiness is valuable when it is genuine, when it exists organically in a quantity so great that it easily overwhelms the conscious mind with its shouts of glee and joy. And that happens. Those moments are real, and they exist, and most of the time we don’t really feel them.
Happiness isn’t smiling. Happiness is not being able to stop smiling. It is, or should be, natural and raw and powerful. And we shouldn’t try to achieve it. We should only hope to be lucky enough to experience it, to be in a position to appreciate it, and we should savor it when it does come along.
It is the experience of these moments and the self-assurance that they will continue to exist – or that their mere memory will be sustenance enough if they do not – that allows for happiness, that allows for us to live our lives beyond the superficial and the material.
So maybe I will be unhappy, with my entitlement and my belief in my own specialness. So I will be unhappy, but I will be quite happy with that.
>Date: Thu, Dec 12, 2013 at 11:50 PM
>From: Paul Biederman
>Subject: Did you see this?
>Biederman Enterprises Inc.