Too much of a good thing?

April 8, 2014

I am part of a generation whose parents really wanted us to have a better life than they had. As a result, most of us received more education, have jobs with higher earning power, and owned a home at a younger age than our parents could have dreamed. We will probably live longer than they, and, in many ways, have a much better life.
That isn’t to say that we didn’t work – we did. I recently asked a parent who was in court on truancy issues what chores her 9 year old performed around the house. The response was none – her task is to do her homework and be a child. I don’t think I am the only person who recalls doing at least simple chores…cleaning, yard work, or helping in the kitchen…in addition to homework. As I recall, there was still time for bike riding, playing with friends, homework, and day dreaming!
Sitting in the courthouse, and interacting with the people who wander into the office for one reason or another, the differences between generations have become painfully clear. There are, of course, those who don’t “fit” the generalities, but there are enough consistencies to create a pattern.
When I was a child, integration was just starting. Looking back, discrimination was rampant. Life was not as depicted on The Andy Griffith Show or Father Know Best. A rather bookish child, I was not good at sports, not interested in being a cheerleader, and not particularly comfortable with the social scene. (The fact that we moved across the country when I was in High School probably didn’t help) I was teased about that, at least somewhat. When I left the school district and friends I had developed over ten years of education, the support system disappeared. There are, no doubt, those who would claim I was “bullied” when I moved to California. The difference was that I had the resources inside me to handle it. I knew my worth, had family support, and became stronger.
Justice Thomas recently spoke at a University in West Palm Beach. As a child, he was the only black child in his school. It is his belief that we have become a society in which we search for factors we can use to show that we have been “discriminated” against. We have made huge strides toward racial equality, but are quicker than ever to point to other things and complain that we are put upon because of those, and need protection. Human society has always had those who choose to harass anyone they perceive as different. It happens in school, in the work place, and in civic interactions. Is it right? No. Can it be eliminated? Probably not; if so, it is not through sympathy, but through teaching each individual that they have the mental and emotional tools to move through it.
Somehow, we have managed to teach a group of (now) young adults that life will hand them what they want, and if it doesn’t, sit back and it will or complain that what they want didn’t appear because they are ____ (fill in the blank). As a result, I have probationers who see nothing wrong with “waiting” to see if there isn’t a better form of community service that will be offered to them. As a result, they find themselves facing revocation – because they don’t go find it! Friends in academia tell me the same thing – students believe that they can be taught on their schedule, never mind other commitments of the faculty. Employees believe that they do their employer a favor by appearing for work, and that they should be allowed to take off for whatever may strike their fancy, from pep and honk rallies to getting nails done.
Contrary to how it may appear, I am not whining about a segment of society; I am questioning that we may have given too much. My generation came to age in (yet another) day in which we did not trust some of our leaders. Our reaction was to step up and become leaders. Science had given us materials for a dangerous weapons race; we took the science farther and developed techniques what would help build the good in society.
I am SO thankful for my parents. They did motivate me to deal with social pressure, with teasing. They encouraged me to get an education, to think for myself, to be independent of them. They taught me to look at the world around me, see things that can be improved and to take responsibility for moving forward, for helping. They taught me that, while they would always be there for me, I am responsible for my own actions, and my own inactions.
Having watched a 30 year old, mentally capable, defendant look at his mother for guidance on a criminal matter makes me wonder if we have taken the “make it better than it was for us” philosophy too far. At some point, we have to grow up. We become responsible for our own actions and thoughts.
Sadly, many believe that the generation coming to adulthood today will be the first in many not to live as long as their parents, and will not have the standard of living that their parents enjoy. The most common reason being offered is not the state of the world economy, or anything government related. It is simply that they have had too much given to them without having to work for it, they have been taught not to reach – they have had too much of a good thing.

Lisa Peterson is the County Attorney for Nolan County. Comments about this column may be e-mailed to editor@sweetwaterreporter.com.

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