Monday, January 30, 2012

Collecting Good Deed Experiences

Last week's NY Times Education had a thoughtful piece by Neal Gabler, a prof at SUNY Stony Brook, on how the pressure on college-age kids to super-achieve places social progress as a poor second to individual perfection in their life goals. To quote Gabler: "There is a big difference between a culture that encourages engagement with the world and one that encourages developing one's own superiority". Anyone who viewed 'Margin Call', the recent and provocative Hollywood movie story about Wall Street perfidy, will get his point - the film's populated with grown-up super-ego products of fine universities.

The compulsion that Gabler refers to of adding to great grades from the best schools with a long list of other activities that point to the students' always-on capacity for success in life, seems to me to infect many well-off folk in their later years who also seem to rack up trips to underprivileged spots to do social work or save ecosystems. Face Book entries, blog posts and round-robin e-mails from friends and former colleagues heading off to points distant to help out the less fortunate ensure we stay-behinds know all there is to know about their achievements.

All this bragging material from whizzing around the globe can make it hard for us lesser mortals to feel good about vegetating. You know - taking it mostly easy after a life of  'making our contribution' working long hours and sitting on many planes. Loafing on the back porch with a beer, reading in a hammock or refilling the bird feeders, all are coming to seem a form of deplorable mindlessness. Try countering tales of long and daring trips to provide aid to far-off charities with stories of your occasional stirrings to perform local good deeds. Just doesn't have the same cachet.

HG Wells postulated a future where humanity divides into meek underachievers and aggressive top-dogs;  maybe it'll be more like Zoomers and Loafers when it comes to the Great Score Card in Cyberspace.

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