March 10, 2004

Coping

This advertisement article on the "Quarterlife Crisis" book and phenomena veers between funny and sickening. As best as I can make out a 'QLC' involves precocious kids in their 20s and early 30s having a crisis of confidence when they realise the world doesn't revolve around them and life can be a series of messy compromises. This compares to the more traditional mid-life crisis where people realise the world doesn't revolve around them and life can be a series of messy compromises.

The two examples cited in the article. Firstly 23 year old kid who was "on his way to being a bank manager." Then he realised he was unhappy so he did what any mature adult would do - he quit, drove up to sunny Queensland for a few months "until his money ran out. Then he went on the dole." Fine upstanding citizen indeed. Realising he wouldn't actually be managing director of a bank until he put in years of hard and at times boring work he decided to leach off the taxpayer instead.

Then we have James Arvanitakis, a "successful banker...he owned a Mercedes and was paying off a home." He decided he didn't like material possessions, went to Bolivia, found a cause and that's what he now does. That's great - he managed to grow up and make a decision age 27. He made a personal choice and now wants the world to applaud him. I'm sure he's doing good work. So keep on doing it, buddy, but don't push your middle-class guilt onto everyone else.

The harsh truth is this is all the typical whinging of a pandered generation. I should know - it's my generation. Yes it's a sweeping generalisation but articles and books like this simply re-enforce the stereotype that people of my age are happier worrying and whinging than doing. The truth is we live in an age of unprecedented prosperity. People our age are able to live and buy products that make our lives easier or better. We are richer than any other generation was at our age. Many of us are not forced to work in dangerous jobs involving hard physical labour that will shorten our lifespan and hit our health. We can travel. We can surf the net. We can watch our TV, DVDs, videos, listen to our radios, play on our computers, eat out, eat in, go out, stay in. The world is full of more opportunity than ever; many of us live in freedom and prosperity unparalleled in history. Stop friggin' whinging and start living in the real world. If you feel guilty about having so much, do something about it. Give it all to charity, or work for a NGO. Save the whales, save the trees, save the world. Leave the rest of us who have made other decisions alone.

Crisis solved.

Posted by Simon at March 10, 2004 10:43 AM | TrackBack
Comments

Must confess to being a bit baffled by your reaction, Simon. Where in that article do you see people undergoing QLC pushing their middle-class guilt onto anyone else? What precisely has James Not-His-Real-Name Arvanitakis done to deserve your ire?

Posted by: Nicholas Liu at March 10, 2004 07:05 PM

I think what he's saying is that there is an unspoken agenda in these stories saying that striving for achievement in the working world isn't good, one needs to apply oneself to more "lofty" pursuits. And that if you don't, you're somehow missing the boat.

By the way, this in no way replaces mid-life crisis. They'll have that one too, perhaps harder than everyone else.

They are people in transition, from idealism to reality, and they don't like what they see, they want to escape back to what they feel they had at one time. You see, it's not that they're changing, it's that they're refusing to complete the change that they started years before.

Posted by: bigdocmcd at March 11, 2004 12:10 AM

Interesting article covering this and other parts of "growing up".

http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/003/825grtdi.asp

Posted by: bigdocmcd at March 11, 2004 12:52 AM

I think what he's saying is that there is an unspoken agenda in these stories saying that striving for achievement in the working world isn't good, one needs to apply oneself to more "lofty" pursuits. And that if you don't, you're somehow missing the boat.

Oh nonsense. I think this is one case where the agenda is unspoken because it is nonexistent. Show me where there's any textual evidence to the contrary.

Posted by: Nicholas Liu at March 11, 2004 01:38 AM

I think I said it was "unspoken" for a reason. But it is there, even if you are culturally incapable of seeing it.

If I read an article and see something in it that you don't, I might be wrong. Or I might be right and you just don't see it. Or maybe you're just one of those who can't stand someone having a different opinion.

You see, I don't really care whether you agree that it's there. I certainly don't feel any responsibility to point it out to you because you'd never see it regardless.

You asked a question, I answered it. I thought you were looking for an answer when all you really wanted to do is to make condescending remarks.

Posted by: bigdocmcd at March 11, 2004 02:45 AM

Gotta say I'm with bigdoc on this one, Nicholas. It is a clear implication of the article as a whole and of that example in particular. It's implicit - this man is "doing good", whereas you, the reader, are likely not.

Posted by: Simon at March 11, 2004 09:46 AM

big doc, the heart of this is that I don't consider something an answer if it isn't also accompanied by a little thing called substantiation. If of course you're quote-unquote culturally incapable of providing that, I suppose I can't very well blame you.

Simon, three things:

1) The slant of the article does nothing at all to reflect on the man himself, yet you say 'He made a personal choice and now wants the world to applaud him. . . keep on doing it, buddy, but don't push your middle-class guilt onto everyone else.'

2) That this specific man is doing something good while the reader is not seems to me to be quite a reasonable proposition. That all people undergoing QLC are doing something good while the reader is not seems to me to be a proposition that doesn't exist in the article.

3) I'm having particular difficulty seeing this implication in the example of the guy who went on the dole. I mean, really: '. . . Johnston soon realised the unhappiness reached into other areas of his life. He quit and drove around Queensland for three months until his money ran out. Then he went on the dole.' Positive spin this ain't! Maybe a poet or nihilist would find it admirable, but I don't see how anyone else is supposed to.

Posted by: Nicholas Liu at March 11, 2004 12:48 PM

Nicholas, you've been missed.

Let me address each in turn.
1. The slant of the article does everything to reflect on himself. Let me put it to you like this: if the article hadn't mentioned his previous life as a banker with a Merc and plenty of big bucks he wouldn't be included in the article. That he made the change is great. The article is about QLC - crises of confidence in 20 somethings. He has been interviewed for the article as an example of someone who is doing something "worthwhile". To me the implication is clear and exactly what I stated in the original post.
2. The article itself does not directly imply the proposition. It is implied by being carried in a newspaper (and its website) that is widely read by the middle class masses. I do not say that all people undergoing QLC end up doing something good while the reader doesn't. On that I agree with you. In fact I'm saying people undergoing QLC should grow up and get a life - which is in fact what they are doing.
3. "Maybe a poet or nihilist would find it admirable..." plus the large majority of the target of this articele, being 20 somethings feeling bogged down by real life. Bumming around Queensland on the dole for a while sounds like paradise compared to making a crust working 8 hours day in a crummy job.

Posted by: Simon at March 11, 2004 03:16 PM

Hopefully I will continue to be missed except on weekends and when I'm ill at home. ;)

1) All very well, but what I mean is: how does that translate into 'He made a personal choice and now wants the world to applaud him'? What leads you to conclude that he wants the world to applaud him, particularly when he isn't even being credited under his real name?

2) That's a strange argument. If the article were carried in a venue read largely by 70-year-old billionaires or 40-year-old housewives, would that implied proposition then cease to exist? Why?

Also, you say that growing up and getting a life is exactly what people undergoing QLC are doing. How does this contradict what the article is saying?

3) They might find it desirable, but surely not admirable. And they clearly don't (mostly) find it desirable enough to seek it for themselves.


Sorry for prolonging this rather pointless (even by blogospherical standards) argument, but I badly need an argument--any argument--after all that mindless running about and doing push-ups.

Posted by: Nicholas Liu at March 14, 2004 02:12 AM
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