A good friend of mind recently commented that his own kids and their friends are a lot less materialistic than our generations were, and that numerous surveys show that Millennials don’t want their jobs to interfere with their family or social life. He went on to say that, “Some say this is laziness, I tend to believe that Millennials have their priorities a little better aligned than their parents and grandparents.”
These kids, I believe, are smart, and cognizant of their challenge in America. With social programs being dismantled and safety nets disappearing, they will be on their own, which means that unless they are capable of making lots and lots of money, maybe making it into the top ten percent of wage earners, they will not be able to keep their heads above water, or even afford basic health care which will skyrocket in the near future. Why struggle to save money all your life when the first serious illness means that a hospital or doctor will sue you and take your home and life savings? The enthusiasm to become a part of this is shrinking.
Then there is saving for their kid’s college, and they just can’t see how they are going to afford all of this. And how about retirement? Reagan with his reckless tax cuts partnered with Greenspan to loot the social security fund when his deficits got out of control, and now the fund is going broke, and many want to dismantle it calling it socialism.
So the Millennium kids can look forward to either fending for themselves in old age, or living with their kids, which in independent America doesn’t work too well. So instead of a peaceful old age with Social Security, which this country once promised and which we all paid into all of our lives, and which then was stolen from us, they can look forward to constant struggle and stress to pay for health care, drugs, and food just as their body begins to fall apart and they can no longer work.
In the news recently, doctors are dropping patients unless they pay the doctors $1500.00 a year just to see them. This includes no tests, no hospitalization, no catastrophic coverage, only a chance to see a boutique doctor. This means that in the near future, we will need both an insurance policy plus $1500/year for a doctor. Medicare and Medicaid patients will be left out in the cold.
But there are alternatives for young adults and their futures.
Presently, it’s all about money from every angle of society, more and more money is needed, but there is only so much money with the pile slowly decreasing, which means that those on the lower rungs of society will suffer greatly in the future because the wealth is not being spread out in this country. Distribution of wealth is considered un-American, and wealth is therefore hoarded. The income distribution regarding the lower and middle classes has been in steady decline since Reagan was in office.
If our educational system continues to ignore these kinds of things and fill young adult’s heads with false promises of economic stability when those promises can no longer be kept, (and how can our educational system not ignore these things when moneyed interests and wealthy politicos pressure them?) then we can expect nothing to change and conditions to worsen.
And parents, out of naked fear, signal their kids that they had better be ready to make a killing in the market place, or else! The pressure on these kids result in early high stress levels in an educational system that has lock-stepped into this whole competitive thing (the intense pressure of test scores) instead of teaching cooperation and the value of good character.
The drop out rate increases and the teen suicides skyrocket due to the worry these kids feel, worry which is justified because many times kids can see more clearly than their mentors, who have become hopelessly enmeshed in the whole illusion. The fact is that young adults will have problems down the road, even the successful ones let alone the “average” (where most of us are), which will be left economically in the dust.
Every kid has dream of making it big, playing in the NFL, making lots of money, but the reality is, fifty percent will end up average, which means that their income levels will be not be able to keep up with the wealthy, and the wealthy will not care. This is how it is playing out. And we wonder why gangs are increasing at an alarming rate. How else can people who are discriminated against keep up? Lawlessness and anarchy are always the result.
But there are other ways to live that sidesteps all of this angst, depending on how sincere a person is regarding making fundamental changes in their lives and inside themselves, and changing their future.
It’s all about clearly seeing what truly makes us happy, and conversely what promises happiness only for it to disappoint later. Who teaches kids about that? Isn’t that as important as any other subject currently in high school and college curriculum?
Lasting happiness, by its very nature, must come from satisfaction within, because outward dependent happiness cannot last due to the law of entropy, or in Buddhist terms; anicca (everything in the material universe including us is in constant flux and always changing).
If we don’t change our values, it will only worsen, and it all begins with each one of us. If parents work on themselves internally to changes their values, which means paying less attention to making money, and more attention to their kids, then the kids pick up on that contentment and fearlessness and feel more secure that they can achieve happiness notwithstanding their position in society or what they have regarding material possessions. Then the parents can stop the guilt trips and the ramification of guilt trips which equate to substituting love with toys, which although is more time-expedient, only leads to more and more pressure to make more and more money.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Values can change, but only when we wake up to the fact that this is not working; we are not happy inside, only fearful all the time. Even the wealthy, once they realize how internally unhappy they really are, will more freely help those less fortunate because without generosity, there is only a tightness that leaves no room for expansive love. And compassion, opposite of money, increases within oneself the more one freely gives it away to others.
So here is one real alternative for young adults, and there are many others: It is a little known secret that in Thailand Buddhist monks and nuns are supported entirely by laypeople. Show up at almost any forest monastery (wat) in Thailand and display an attitude of respect and sincerity, and you will be fed and housed as long as you behave and follow the rules; i.e., one meal a day (with plenty to eat) and a willingness to help out; sweep paths, etc. This means that if you can get the airfare together, it will cost you nothing to live in Thailand as long as you remain at the monasteries and behave accordingly. If you decide to ordain as a monk or nun, which is relatively easy and encouraged by the Thai people, then you would get assistance regarding visa extensions and health care. Many times even sincere laypeople at monasteries receive this assistance.
Unlike America, where people who dedicate their lives to spiritual growth are considered lazy and a drag on society, Thai people respect those who dedicate their lives to goodness, to meditation, and understand that these aspects are what underpins a successful and happy society.
Stateside, there are also many Theravada Buddhist monasteries when one can stay free of charge, again, if the person is sincere and is working toward their own spiritual development. Honesty and sincerity are key, because just wanting to freeload at a monastery doesn’t work. One has to be working on oneself internally. One’s character and intentions are laid bare in no time when living with spiritually advanced people who can many times read minds, or simply have refined powers of observation.
Many other alternatives exist, where one can live a life of peace and contentment. but the question is whether young adults truly want to change their values, change their focus on life and their futures, or whether they simply want to mechanically continue down a road which seems to be the path of least resistance, hoping that they will make it big, but possibly ending up on the streets someday, homeless or in a gang
The road to success in America is getting bumpy for average folks, and one that cannot be economically navigated anymore. College loans are a good example of a conditioning that keeps a student on the moneymaking, competitive treadmill for years, as is health care that requires one to be fully employed at all times. This leaves no room or time for any true spiritual advancement. In many countries, college as well as health care is taken care of by society so that young adults are not burdened with this kind of stress, affording them opportunities other than the almighty dollar.
This all requires some soul searching and also depends upon how much intestinal fortitude we have. Much progress is made when we pass through our veil of fear with wisdom and compassion at our sides, and if that progress is tuned to the spiritual rather than the material, the progress can never be taken away regardless of the circumstances we face.
Maybe this new generation is onto something. Maybe they will foster in an America that is peaceful and content again, and not at each others throats. It’s all about money now, and maybe that will change. Maybe, as our religions point out, it should be all about love.