Monday, June 11, 2012

Failure to Launch

“Generation Y, has become generation ‘why bother?”’ - T. Bucholz and V. Bucholz

Recently I read two very juxtapositioned pieces of writing. The first was “The Go-Nowhere Generation” by Todd and Victoria Bucholz published in the Sunday section of the New York Times on March 10th. Their point was relatively clear: Generation Y is simply not very proactive, unwilling to leave home to seek better economic prospects, or in other cases, seek entertainment. The other piece of literature I indulged in was The Upgrade: A Cautionary Tale of a Life Without Reservations by British author Paul Carr. Carr decides to sell everything he owns except for a suitcase full of clothes, not renew his lease, and live only in hotels. He coins the term “High Class Nomad.” The book focuses on his (mostly) drunken adventures as he discovers an entire world of living in upper class hotels, luxury rental cars, and what it is like to live in a constant  state of vacation. The best part, according to Carr, is that all it took was one life changing decision.

We start to see how the two pieces are polar opposites, on one hand, we have a generation that can’t seem to decide on anything and on the other we have a young man who made one decision that really paid off. So what is it about the rest of the generation that makes it so difficult for them to make a decision? According to Bucholz, Americans (and particularly young Americans) have become risk averse, and sedentary beings. According to the Census Bureau and the Pew Research Center, the proportion of young Americans living at home nearly doubled between 1980 and 2009. In many cases, even bicycle sales have noticeably dropped. The article clearly points out; “children raised in economic depressions are more averse to risking investment, and money...they assume that luck plays largely into success.”

Possibly the most influential agent for the sedentarainism of not only young Americans, but Europeans, and even among the upper class of developing nations of Latin America is the Internet. Strangely enough, having the world available at your fingertips is not always a good thing. Obviously the teens and young adults of today still make distinctions between virtual and reality, however the availability of so many different things on the Internet limits the “real-life” exposure for many young people who spend much of their time surfing the web or checking Facebook. It turns into a balancing act between the world on the web, and the world right outside. What incentive is there to leave the house if one can discover and explore some of the most interesting things known to man form the comfort of their sofa, bed or desk?

Generation Y, however, did not let itself go undefended. One response made the point of Generation Y not being sedentary, but rather realistic and disillusioned. With the distribution of money resembling that of the Guilded Age where few profited from the masses toil, Generation Y is perfectly justified in thinking that luck is a large factor in success, hard work alone is not enough. What is really a more compelling argument was that Generation Y was looking to change the status quo of how success is measured, the point being “why should success be measured through material goods instead of contentedness?” Because of the intricacies of the human psyche, there is no single answer.

Looking at Mexican society where a parallel can be drawn (small percent of population holding a majority of the wealth) it can be seen that a whole subculture has evolved around being rich. Generally speaking what this means is that many children who are sons/daughters of rich executives cruise through life expecting to inherit their parent’s companies or simply can’t be bothered to take on their own incentives because they assume they can pay someone to do that for them. Ironically, the more this “momma’s boy/girl” of the upper echelon of mexican economic society is examined the more parallels can be drawn to Generation Y. In many ways, it seems as if America’s youth has become the Spoiled Brat of the global stage.

However, let us contrast the go nowhere generation with the story of Paul Carr. As living in London (the 8th most expensive city in the world according to a cost of living survey by the Economic Intelligence Unit) became prohibitively expensive, Carr made the life changing decision to sell everything he owned except for a duffel bag and his computer to live in hotels for under 100 US dollars a night for a year. Even after his excessive partying, drunkeness, and plane tickets across the globe, he ended up saving about $1600 USD by the end of the year. Obviously, not everyone can live like Carr. Whether it be because of work, school, or family, in many cases, living from hotel to hotel is not entirely realistic. However, we can see that Carr, facing difficult economic times, decided to take action in hopes of changing that. The most interesting part is that after reading the book you discover that yes, Carr doesn’t have many material possessions by which to measure his success, but by making the decision to leave his relatively sedentary London life, he not only saves money, his contentedness increased almost immeasurably (living in a Spanish Villa in the mountains for about $35 a night has that effect on people.)

So where is the middle ground in the conversation? While Todd and Victoria Bucholz may have overestimated the sedentarism and somewhat misunderstood its causes, they still make the clear point. Generation Y is generally a sedentary one, even by modern-day realistic standards. On the other hand, Carr’s lifestyle is less than sustainable for most people. He only managed it because he was a free-lance writer and could work from anywhere with a decent Internet connection. The middle ground comes down to creating incentives for young people to leave the house. Even youth and young adults living in the more family oriented Latin American and Asian cultures can benefit from spending more time away from home. Not necessarily for long periods of time, but even just for the afternoon. One baby step at a time, Generation Y can nourish itself to a point where it can take the best of both worlds. In the words of British street artist Banksy; “Leave the house before you find a reason to stay in.”


Bucholz, Todd G., and Victoria Bucholz. "The Go-Nowhere Generaion." Editorial. The New York Times, 10 Mar. 2011. Web. 19 Mar. 2012. < >.

"Generation Y Stands Up for Itself." New York Times. 16 Mar. 2012. Web. 19 Mar. 2012. <>

Thompson, Derek. "The 10 Most Expensive Cities in the World (and How They Got That Way)." The Atlantic, 15 Mar. 2012. Web. 19 Mar. 2012. <>.

Carr, Paul. The Upgrade A Cautionary Tale of a Life Without Reservations. London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2012. Print.

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