Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Generation Me and Me
Going to the library today to return arguably the most interesting non-fiction book I have read in the last 10 years. Here it is– at the top: “Generation Me. Why Today’s Young Americans are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled – and More Miserable Then Ever Before”, author Jean M. Twenge. This is a rocking, easy to read book.
When I moved from Russia to Canada I submerged into the American culture. And some things that I heard every day really bumped me. Like for example: “You deserve the very best” – I hear it all the time, on TV both in documentary pieces and in movies. Naturally, it makes me think: and who is that poor sod who gets all the worse then? And another one (usually told to children and women): “You are special, because everyone is special”. Ugmmm… No. By definition of “special” – not everyone is special, but a very few best. And another mantra (parents with small kids are the major source of it): “You don’t need to be first (to win, to get good grades) to feel good about yourself. Be proud of who you are (and you are special just because)!” At first I didn’t even get it. WTF with all this unconditional self-esteem training?… And there is another one of my favourite: “You have to follow your dream no matter what”. Yep, I know this road – it is called denial. I wandered for quite some time along this road. But here it’s some sort of a national ideology!
So for a long time I was under an impression that there is something wrong with the American culture in general. But according to this book (based on extensive studies) this is just a contemporary phenomenon, that is affecting only young generation. Boomers’ children – what an author calls “Gen Me”: bluntly optimistic (“you can be whatever you want to be!”), narcissistic self-focused (“you have to love yourself first to love someone else”), and stressed beyond any norm – because when they come out of the cozy nurturing environment of their home with indulging and always supportive parents and school with no grades (“because grades and competition ruin self-esteem”) and go to the work place they find out that the world is not so accommodating as they thought it was. And the most disturbing part is: in this ridiculous American stereotype I often recognised myself. Crap. A brilliant book.