When I was a young man, I worked. I always worked. It was not out of necessity, I was a lucky boy. I had parents who loved me and who cared for me. They, too worked. I had thought that everyone did.
My father wished for me to be “tough”. He was frightened by my interests in poetry and art, lest I become less of a man, as though intellect was a feminine trait, and femininity a detriment to a man, who surely must harbor only the constituents of elements of manliness. He was certainly manly. He was probably disappointed when I failed to be interested in football. It concerned him when I was first published at ten. Why should a boy care about poetry and writing. Still the Iliad, the Rubaiyat, and the Odyssey filled my brain.
Men have inherent fears. Even infants fear spiders and snakes, wolves and “monsters”, the night. Each of these must be confronted to be overcome. Some simply live with them forever. I have grown to overcome my fears. I find fear constraining and uncomfortable.
I was afraid of dead people. I now know that dead people produce little liability compared to the living. Still, this is one of those inherent traits of men. He “helped” me to overcome this fear by letting me plaster the ceiling of a morgue at night in the clinic of my home town. I hated being left alone with the corpses in the night, but my pride would not allow me to escape my responsibility and so the ceiling was completed (perhaps the fastest plaster job ever).
My father, and many of his generation were tough. Dad left high school and lied about his age to join the navy and go to World War II. He was afraid that he might “miss it” and, perhaps be thought a coward. He was never thought of as a coward. He was fearless and strong. I loved him always and I always shall. He was a good man in every way, kind and caring. He lived through the depression, shooting squirrels and rabbits with a single shell. If he was successful there was meat in the soup, if he failed there was none. He slept on a couch. His sisters had cots in the kitchen. His life started tough, but through hard work and perserverance, he built a life of luxury and stability for his family. As an old man he once said to me “when I was a boy I didn’t have my own bed, now I have fifteen of them”.
He exemplified a generation of great men, responsible and strong, selfless and brave. My generation was softer. We hadn’t the difficulties to overcome that our fathers had, and we wished to elevate the quality of the lives of our children, as our fatheres had done for us. We shielded our precious spawn from the difficulties of life, from confrontation, from the hurt of losing, until they no longer had to confront those fears that we had to address.
The resulting generation, the millennials, have been told that they are responsible for nothing. They have been comforted and protected and cared for. They seem to feel that the world owes them something. Surely, they are in for a heck of a ride. The world is a cold and a hard place. It is the high wire – and there is no net.
Many are trying to accomodate the millennials, to find what they like, to support and to sell to them. They write Linkedin blogs, professing to understand what is necessary to pull the money from their wallets, or to gainfully employ the seemingly unemployable.
History tends to repeat itself and the errors of the past are passed forward to the future. So many social experiments have failed before, like the classes of aristocracy which resulted in the decimation of the Jamestown settlement, the model fails when many refuse to pull their weight.
The millenials will succeed or they will fail. With them may, well, go our society, perhaps our nation. It is only the confrontation of one’s self that produces growth. The millennials will grow, sooner or later. Daddy cannot protect and the inevitable will occur, sooner or later to squeeze productivity from them. Let us hope that they do not find themselves shooting squirrels in the park for stew. We have failed them by crippling them with our kindness. Let us hope that they can overcome this hurdle.