Growing up in America from ‘dirt’ to ‘glass’

An observation – by Richard @ Flexible Reality – May 14th, 2017

In the space of two generations America’s children have gone from a culture that viewed them as “dirt” to one that treats them like “glass”.

To the boomer generation, a classic example could be detected in Johnny Cash’s 1969 song: “My Name Is Sue, How Do You Do”, in which the son confronts his absent father over being named Sue.

To the millennials the example is Danae, the character in the comic strip “Non Sequitur” who is almost purely reactive, lives in her own world, and is always attended to by doting parents and an imaginary horse, or Calvin, who could not exist without his imaginary tiger Hobbes.

The post war generation parents who had survived the 30’s Depression, and WWII, raised children by instilling a sense of determination, of grit, of work and effort. Slacker was not even a common word as it is used today until after the War.

The encomienda, or request of the culture post-war was to make children responsible, responsive, and respectable, seen, but not heard. The modern version of the request is to create malleable, endowed, and developed individuals.

The “dirt” motif suggested grit, formation, a clay-like state of being, fertility, being capable of yielding a good crop, whereas the “glass” version is one of reflection, tincture, smoothness, and fragility. Too many times in recent encounters it is possible to detect the loss of resilience, of adaptability, of rigor in modern American children’s training, diversions, games, self-image, and public persona.

Neither form is entirely praise or blameworthy; rather they point to cultural mechanics which emphasize certain traits as being desirable in future citizens. Furthermore, the transition also has yielded a diminution of value in the notions of community, of joint effort, of a “melting pot” culture. Even the use of the word “we” feels condescending rather than empowering.

The 50-60’s child portrayed themselves as having to walk through six-foot high snow drifts to get to school, whereas today they see themselves as a Sisyphusean slug toting a backpack of rocks to a moonwalk.

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