Sunday, April 03, 2016

Permanent vs. Transient

I've been looking at our society for awhile now-admittedly from a political point of view. But in the larger scale of things it appears that we are not so much warring about political views as we are over the larger scale of permanence versus transience. This war can be easily demonstrated by looking at marriage, housing, employment and other elements.

Marriage has been under fire for awhile now. Earlier and more primitive societies saw the value in permanent relationships, approved of by tribes, families and society as being beneficial as a means to solidify the nature of the culture. It's not that people didn't circumvent the institution of marriage, but more that they sought to establish rules of marriage outside the norm. We saw this with polygamous marriage, with the acceptance of harems and concubines as well as our modern day discussion of same sex marriage. It is interesting that even in the most liberal societies, the official "blessing" of marriage comes not from a house of faith, but from the state. As a result, marriage as an institution has changed from a moral imperative to a social imperative.

The true irony is the institution itself is also under assault, if you will, from those who actively choose not to participate. Many people avoid marriage and even within celebrity circles the action of marriage is either more of a media event if a marriage is broached at all. While many will say the break down of the institution of marriage is harmless, can anyone truly disregard the problems of single mothers raising children in poverty? While most social conservatives oppose same sex marriage on religious grounds, which is their right, if it is the state conferring the marriage upon a couple, perhaps for the stabilization of society it is better to have permanent same sex marriages rather than a transient relationship. I don't claim to be the arbiter of what people think, but I see less harm to society and the individual from a long term permanent official relationship than a string of temporary transient relationships that sometimes result in children who are not supported in the ways children require.

Housing is another area where this permanent vs. transient idea comes into play. Many people choose to avoid the constrictions of buying a home because it would mean they would assume the costs of maintaining a home. Even in this era of rapid increase in real estate, there are people who do not want the aggravation or responsibility of home ownership. If you drive by apartment complexes, you will notice that most of the cars are newer and more expensive than your average middle income housing development. The same folks who avoid ownership in housing frequently do so with transportation as well. It's much less expensive to lease a car on a month to month basis, you never really pay off the debt. Instead one new car is replaced with another. This points to certain internal need to have a facade of affluence even when none is in evidence.

This is further carried out with people who buy homes to the outermost limit of their credit and then partially fill the house with rented furniture. I live near a very expensive housing development. In the special area of the development, homes start in the million dollar range which is high for north Texas. A friend of mine owns a cleaning company which serves many of these homes. She has seen that the ground floors of these house are filled with luxurious, impressive furniture-all with rental stickers. Quite often the bedrooms, especially for the kids, are mattresses on the floor and clothes in plastic laundry baskets. So even though these folks attempt to attain the perception of affluence, they resort to doing so in ways that are transient. It is not unheard of for folks in this affluent area to simply abandon their houses rather than going through the public shame of bankruptcy. So it appears that the need to give the appearance of wealth is more important than doing the heavy lifting and self discipline and denial and allows wealth to develop.

Even in employment, people seem to believe or have been taught that they deserve more than their talents or education merit. This has created a strange sort of situation where uneducated people with connections (think anyone on TMZ who isn't a performer) can get a better paying job than people who have actually gone to college, done hard work and represented themselves in a responsible way. I am not a Sanders supporter, but I understand the bitterness of so many young adults out of college because my children are in that age range. All of them work very hard, some with multiple jobs. They do what they are told, do the best they can and yet see no real traction in terms of economics or promotion. Instead upper jobs are filled by outsiders who haven't been in the company and who haven't been patient after a manager asked them to just wait for raises, etc.

An example of this is one son who works for a well known bike company. He has sold $1.2 MILLION in high end bikes over the last three years. Yet his most recent raise was fifty cents an hour. His salary doesn't even pass five percent of what he has sold. Yet others in the same company who are friends and acquaintances make more. My oldest son has a degree in history and his job pays $12 an hour. My daughter works two jobs, one at a well known national bank, another at a national retail chain. As long as this generation continues to see older people line their pockets and refuse to promote them, the disaffection and disgust will grow.

This is not to say that this generation doesn't share the blame. Many of them bought into the college recruiters false assertions that they should "invest in themselves" buy attending costly private schools and racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars of college loan debt. Part of this is the issue of pushing the myth that "everyone should go to college" and part of this has to do with the method of helicopter parenting that has led these kids to believe they should be given a safety net for every problem. Of course that goes back to a system of education that is far more interested in controlling outcomes than in education. But then again, they have been raised to believe that there will be unlimited do overs and that good effort trumps good outcomes. Again that lack of dedication to a job or task is the debate over permanence (staying on a job and doing the job) goes up against transience (feigning boredom or simply giving up).

It used to be that someone would train for a job and hold that job moving up the chain for 30 years. Perhaps that model is and was unrealistic. But we currently have companies whose employment needs rise and sink with the tides. This creates a type of cultural anxiety where people feel they cannot count on the future and therefore do not shape their lives for the future. We can see this in the number of educated, employed people who choose not to have children. My own children have said that they don't feel confident enough in the future to have children. Why purchase a home if you will only lose it five years later? Why buy a car when you can abuse a rental and get a new one in two years? Why bother to maintain, develop, or hold onto anything or anyone in this society if the entire culture underlay can be ripped apart on a whim? Are you a permanent person or a transient one? I think it's something people need to consider.