When I was a teen, my parents owned a small antique store on the edge of our hometown. It wasn’t much, but every item that was in it was special, and furniture was their specialty.
On weekends, my parents would take us to festivals and find items that could be resold in our family shop. I spent Saturdays, Sundays, and an occasional afternoon watching the register and dickering with customers over prices.
As a result, I have a surprising knowledge of Bergère chairs for a person my age.
What I remember most about my experience in retail was my mother absolutely insistent that every item in the store was an actual antique – i.e. more than 100 years old. Every table, every cabinet, every mantel had to be legit.
The way we’ve chosen to select furniture today, though, is different. Since the 1950s, manufacturers have often time cut corners and produced cheap, easy-to-make knockoffs. It’s now exceedingly difficult to find handcrafted items without paying an exorbitant cost. People embrace Sauder products or some other laminate-constructed furniture because it’s simply functional and inexpensive.
And in a lot of ways, these low-quality pieces of furniture that we purchase for our homes and take no pride in are indicative of what’s become now acceptable in nearly every facet of our fast food lives.
America has slowly become a short-cut culture. Our leaders continually look to put Band-Aids on compound fractures as we face mind boggling societal-ending problems – spiraling college debt, out of control medical spending, crumbling schools, bridges that make you hope your Subaru won’t plummet off of to your doom as you drive on them, and pollution so terrible it chokes people to death. Literally, people-killing air.
The easy decisions have already been made. The choices that remain are incredibly complex – and they can’t be solved with an Ikea approach to policymaking. Today, the American flag might as well be a picture of Uncle Sam kicking a can down a broken, pothole filled road. We’re unwilling to make difficult choices when – now more than ever – we must.
It’s time to grow up, citizens. Move out of your parents’ basements and ditch the milk crate furniture. It’s time to invest in Herman Miller.
I’m not completely convinced that baby boomers (most selfish period generation period ever period) or even my exasperated peers (Generation X) are up to the task of solving our long term issues.
I’m starting to see signs of hope, however, that one generation might be.
They get a lot of knocks in the media for perceived issues with entitlement and narcissism – normally a fatal combination – but millennials could be pointing the way out of this malaise we call a culture.
Let’s generalize them (natch) and review the good news: They don’t watch television (sparing themselves from political blowhards), they prefer one-off items that are one-of-a-kind and not mass produced, they embrace public service concepts like mass transit and recycling willingly, and they can communicate with each other almost instantaneously with amazing technology they use nearly effortlessly. By all accounts, American millennials today are socially liberal and fiscal centrists, far more often than their global peers.
And the millennial foray into supporting Democratic Candidate Bernie Sanders is justified – they are beginning to see through the cookie cutter cartoon candidates in front of them and instead are choosing to embrace something that’s been missing from the process for decades – political genuineness. Sanders’ popularity isn’t a fluke with this crowd – and he’s tapped into one important sentiment from younger people – “Enough.”
Millennials are already tired of the same stage-managed, scripted candidate who pivots to talking points faster than a Draymond Green outlet pass to Stephen Curry outside the three-point arc.
They also seem to be developing a high quality BS meter, a trait that should serve them well in the face of digital media bombardment in the coming years.
Now this all might change once millennials start paying taxes for real, but I believe in the face of higher IRS bills, they might be more likely to analyze value, rather than cutting just for the sake of cutting.
The millennial generation is our future – it’s time to stop marginalizing them, instead preparing them a seat at the table so they can begin to fulfill their destiny as America’s potential saviors.