What do we want?" began the Sixties chant. It was followed by naming That Which Is Wanted, and then "When do we want it?" Invariably, the answer was Now. (It took four decades and change to subvert that premise properly: this was the result.) One of the stereotypes of the Baby Boomer generation, apart from their being involved in Sixties chants, is that they have absolutely no concept of delayed gratification: they want it Now, and by Now, they mean it should have been delivered already, and why are you even asking about this? As with most stereotypes, there's a kernel of truth underneath several layers of horsepuckey: we concede that some things are timeless, but for everything else, there's MasterCard.

I need hardly point out that strict adherence to this policy has put the nation nearly sixteen trillion dollars in debt, with many more trillions promised as "entitlements" somewhere down the pike. And I would be remiss if I didn't point out that my own use of this dubious technique has played hell with my own cash flow, though I have taken steps to put my financial house in order, something Washington isn't about to do if there's any possible way to avoid it. (The Eurozone, arguably in deeper doo-doo than D.C., is at least considering doing something about it.)

This behavior pattern, I suspect, originates within a few hours of emerging from the womb. We cry, a need is met, and the imprint is complete: "Hey, that worked!" It continues to work for many months, until the parental units figure out that they've created a monster and vow to crack down. Their reward for so doing: more crying. Some of them stick to their guns; others do not. You can tell which is which at any so-called family restaurant any day of the week.

My own parents could perhaps have been characterized as "moderately hard-assed": they weren't inclined to give in, but once in a while they would, perhaps to see if we were paying attention. (Sometimes we were, but I don't think we made a habit of it.) I wound up with two partially conflicting viewpoints: I could wait for something, usually, but I could also rationalize not waiting were I so inclined. This bifurcation has not served me particularly well over the years, and I've had to pay for it, sometimes literally.

On the upside, I am a lot less gadget-happy than I used to be, though I attribute this less to temporary penury than to the growing realization that my technical smarts have not kept up with the March of Progress, as anyone who's ever seen me laboriously compose a text message can testify. I'm probably more adept at this than the average 58-year-old looking for the remote under the sofa cushions, but not that much more. And there's a political and/or philosophical angle as well:

[T]o some extent, I resent the idea that I must consume vast quantities of stuff to prop up the economy: it's not my responsibility to support anyone's business model, except for the business I'm actually in.

Which latter requires of me little more than showing up and doing my job, which I do anyway as a matter of principle, though admittedly one of the principles involved is actually paying the bills in something resembling a timely fashion. I'm not about to claim that I have everything in life I could possibly want, but few wants and/or needs strike me as being urgent. Maybe I've learned something after all, though I'm not about to say so out loud.

The Vent

  9 June 2012

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