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What has our generation done?

I have watched the smartest graduates of our best schools, one after another, year after year, enlist to become corporate vice presidents and managing directors. I have watched them spend their money on velvet curtains. I have watched them stop reading books, stop voting in local elections, stop reading pages A-2 through A-10 in the daily newspaper. I have watched my generation let money/salary become a proxy for respect, and then a synonym for respect, and then the only kind of respect that counts.

I have seen us judge books we have not read, politicians we have not heard, musicians we have not listened to, referendums we have not debated, and fellow citizens we have not met.

I have watched members of my generation lie to each other, pretending with a nod that they have been to such-and-such hip restaurant because they do not want to appear so unhip as to have never been. I have seen them pretend to have seen so-and-so in concert, pretend to have "once or twice" gotten high on vogue illicit substances, pretend to have tried sexual variations that have occurred only in their minds, pretend to have friends of certain races or ethnicities when they are no more than acquaintances.

I have seen us let being a voyeur count as participation.

I have seen my generation adopt an unspoken creed of "culture consumption," in which one really hasn't lived unless one has consumed a little of everything, life as Dim Sum.

I have seen us be torn apart by jealousy for what others our age have accomplished rather than celebrate those accomplishments.

We have learned to define ourselves to each other only by our external accomplishments, undervaluing and drowning out what we learned about ourselves, or could have learned.

And I have seen members of my generation struggle, at cocktail parties, to describe what they do in such a way that attempts to alleviate their guilt for choosing a career path that is so utterly conventional.

I have seen us glorify those who make decisions over those who enact decisions. I have seen us prefer being a consultant to being fully engaged, being an investor to being invested in, being an advisor over being politically involved, being an expert over being partisan, being a news analyst over being a news gatherer--all in fear of the inflexible boredom of commitment.

We have used stimulation as a synthetic substitute for other types of gratification that can be ultimately more rewarding and enduring.

If a traditional coach-class slacker hops between temping, waitressing, record stores, telemarketing, and more temping, Upper Class Slackers hop between esteemed grad schools and fat corporate gigs and prestigious fellowships, looking like they have their act together, but really having no more fucking clue where they’re headed than anyone else.

I have seen us afraid to assert and to fight for what this country stands for--opportunity for all--for fear of offending those we have neglected.

I am urging us to take responsibility--not for others, but for the full consequences of our own choices. I am urging us not to be afraid that we will be unable to provide for our new families. I am urging us not to feel threatened by each other's vision. I am urging us to tell our story in respect of our internal accomplishments. I am urging us not to fall prey to jealousy.

If you have read this far down the page, it is either because these words absolutely enrage you or because they speak to you, but either way you must look inside yourself and ask if you have forgotten to follow your passion. Don’t put your dreams in lock boxes, and don’t invest years of your life into a day job for the wad you expect to have at the end.

We have a unique opportunity to exercise our free will and to make of the world what we can. We wake up every morning, all of us, to this opportunity. Are we seizing it, or letting it pass us by?

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