I was really caught by an Associated Press article on what (AP) called YAWNs (Gen-Xers and Ys that are 'Young and Wealthy but Normal'). People in their 20s, 30s and 40s who are OK financially (wealthy, is a relative term), "socially aware, concerned about the environment and given less to consuming than to giving money to charity." They are identified as people "who want nothing less than to change the world and save the planet."
I was born at the beginning of 1961, right on the cusp between the 'boomers and Gen X. I saw....but I was too young to take part in, the "tune in, turn on and drop out" social revolution of the '60s. And I didn't even hear about Gen X until I was in my early 20s, and then only from the little brothers and sisters of the people I was partying with.
My graduating class - as if I graduated, at least 'on time' - was fed the "sex, drugs & rock 'n roll" ethos that the '60s mantra of "peace, love and understanding" had to a large degree devolved to by the time we made it on the scene. And while the majority of the cohort that came of age in the '60s morphed into the yuppies and 'boomers we are all all-to-overly-familiar with, while a smaller band of counter-revolutionaries stayed on in the San Francisco-area to kickstart Silicon Valley, the internet and this whole digital revolution thing, I was stuck for many years chasing them one way or the other, being blown this way and that in the winds of change with a whole bulging lump of 'boomers queing up in line in front of me. It was damn near enough to knock the wind right out of me, or at least out of my sails.
When by my late 20s I realized I had missed the whole party and had shown up only in time for its dreg ends - when the remaining partygoers were getting woozy and sick of it all, and the true lights of the party had long moved on to more inspirational or materially rewarding endeavours - I too morphed. I went back to university part-time, then law school and in one career move went from blue-collar factory worker to pin-striped corporate lawyer - just in time to see the dot-com bubble burst. I had more material stuff than ever - was wealthy, I guess - but I was running on empty and sure didn't feel "normal" whatever that is. For people around my age - post-boomers, pre-busters, or perhaps of any age - I think "normal" is always a moving target. Chasing "normal" must inevitably cause suffering in the end, is my experience.
Now . . . Finally . . . I discover the truth . . I'm a YAWN! I may not be wealthy in the conventional sense, but I've always been sort of unconventional. But, I live in the West, ergo I am wealthy by default.
(Note: it's hard to starve to death in Canada - or even in America, for that matter - unless by choice, handicap or disability you slip through the social safety net. You might not have all that crap you would think makes people, especially those 'wealthy', most privileged 'boomers happy, but you won't starve to death.)
And that's the point of the (AP) article: All of our STUFF can't make us happy! It hasn't for the 'boomers, the most privilege generation a culture or the world has ever seen. By and large, they're not happy - just chasing more stuff and desperately trying to hold on to what they've already got. Turns out the Beatles were right - Money Can't Buy (Me, you, or any of us) Love! It just buys or rents a bunch of crap - stuff that we don't really need, and can't hold on to in the end anyway!
Stanford University sociologist, David Grusky, says recent history has demonstrated that we pendulum back and forth between materialist and anti-materialist cultural phases. But this time it might be different. "Society tends to follow cycles" according to Grusky, "with anti-materialist periods like the hippie movement generating a pro-materialist reaction - the yuppie period, and so on."
But perhaps . . . just perhaps . . . this time the pendulum will not swing back. Perhaps, we have come to a place culturally where materialism (a) is no longer desirable, and more pointedly (b) is no longer sustainable - what with global warming, species going extinct at a rate not seen since the last really big meteor hit the Earth, 'boomers, yuppies and Gens of all type (X, Y, Z & ?) no longer able to even borrow a buck to continue the feeding frenzy, and with global food riots breaking out as we finally turn to burning what should be their food in our oversized-luxury cars and SUV's that are melting the icecaps. Look what is happening as India and now China chase their very own "American Dream" in a belatedly unfashionable fashion.
"It is a cultural and demographic 'perfect storm'", Grusky says. A storm that "may well push us decisively toward an extreme form of post-materialism in the upcoming period." Let us hope so. Let us hope that we are entering into a cultural storm that will propel ever more of us to a spiritual awakening and a clear, conscious awareness of who we really are in the depths of our being.
Let us hope these winds of change will allow us to see, with compassion, what we have done to the world we will inevitalby leave behind us - a damaged world that not only our children and grandchildren will have to try to save, restore, redeem and live in, but a world that will have to sustain the children and grandchildren of our brothers and sisters in Africa, the Middle East, India, Asia and all across the so-called 'developing world" (the children and grandchildren of all those who have not been able to enjoy, but have only been plagued, victimized and deluded by, the West's myopic frolic with materialism).
It is liberating (and I mean that in all of that powerful word's finest sense) to see that people of my generation - perhaps it should be called Generation ? - are starting to realize that the cupboard is bare, but need not be. "The green thing is just a part of it" consumer trends expert, Pam Danziger, says. "Our closets are full. Our attics are full. Our garages are full. Enough already."
"Go into your dark closet and pray or meditate on that," an ancient Rebbe would have said. If you have room that is! Hopefully, if anyone of us takes the time to do so, he or she will come out of that dark closet self-transcendent, and spiritually awake to the winds of change that may herald a "perfect storm".
Spiritual awakening? Self-transcendence? . . . Who Cares? . . . YAWN . . . zzzz-zzzz-zzzz . . .