The less well-off want their versions of the same things — cool clothes, good music players, neat cell phones, the best plasma TVs, blue-ray players, video games — but are not interested in the hard study and discipline necessary for a society to create the sort of educated work force that makes and deserves such appurtenances. If the math scores of an inner San Jose, Fresno, or Los Angeles public school are dismal (forget per pupil spending or the exorbitant cost to staff such schools), or there are few mastering mechanics or the building trades in our unions and trade schools, then even fewer make the connection that their own assumed perks are, well, doomed in the long run.(I used to get memos the same week at CSU dryly reciting that 50% of our students were now in remedial math and English, while praising to the skies a new [quite costly] program to attract the "non-traditional" student.)
I suppose the attitude of the directionless youth is something like the following, though never articulated: “Some nerd will dream up a new video game; the Chinese will build it for me cheaply; and I will play it at my leisure given my birthright both as an exalted American and the enormous debt 'they' (fill in the blanks) owe me." At some point the world snaps back, “Nope, the Indian and Chinese young person knows more, works harder, produces more — and gets more than you, despite your American brand.”
I now expect to be better treated on the 1-800 line from someone in India than an American — and am discovering that the former really tries to speak the King's English he learned while the other doesn't much care for the language he was born with.
This recession has really brought out the dichotomies: We spend billions of scarce cash on imported food, fuel, and manufactured goods, but have acres of idle farmlands, vast untapped deposits of natural gas and oil, and millions of feet of unused factory space. Bread and circuses seem to be the answer for the angst of the underclass.
Some modest suggestions:
Natural gas and oil producers need to say they are really building solar and wind plants, then all public law suits and concerns over a messy access road, a rare desert lizard, or a fragile cactus will disappear. Freeway builders should say those are not roads, but “light rail” going in. Lumber men must claim they are looking for “bio-fuels,” while West Side farmers whose empires used to produce tons of cotton and carrots, must assure us they are remaking biodiverse, organic sustainable plots. The nuclear plant designer should talk of carbon footprints, warm water discharges for sustainable aquaculture, and reusable nuclear waste —emphasize talking green, even though in fact much of this is absolutely true.
Meanwhile, we should plug subliminal Latin messages in killer video games. CDs should have one 30 second airing of a part of the Constitution before “Kill the Bitch” lyrics begin. A spelling bee should be mandatory half-time entertainment at basketball or football games, and to get into the emergency room, one should be able to recite the Pythagorean Theory or name five presidents — or explain what a battery or hydroelectric power is.
In other words, our Eloi elite need to get a little more real, and our Morlock non-elite need to become a little less frighteningly real. And the rest of us in the middle? A little more pragmatic, and a little sanctimonious, a little less politically — and environmentally — correct, if all our children are to inherit even a semblance of what we were born into.