22 August 2008

Wealth and Fame While the World Collapses

Oh dear. It appears Soulja Boy has a new YouTube video entitled "Rich Nigga Shit Part 1" where he blows his nose on money and struts around in an embroidered robe while mumbling incomprehensible speech patterns (h/t NY Mag). Sadly, Soulja Boy's antics are hardly an isolated incident and seem to be indicative of the desired model by many of our nation's youngsters. While our country's citizens are increasingly crushed under a mountain of debt and home foreclosures in the 21st century, those, like Soulja Boy, coming into adulthood seem to still hold aspirations for the ever-elusive "wealth" and "fame".

USA Today has an article talking about newfound altruism immediately following 9/11, but polling that same year of 579 18-25 year olds speaks a different narrative about their priorities. For the top goals, "To Get Rich" tops the list, with "To Be Famous" at #2. The most important "important individual problem" is "Money/Finances", with "natl/intl conditions" bottoming out just below "miscellaneous". This polling data shows a shocking disposition towards a solipsistic outlook of the world, despite the fact that global communication and the information age have made it easier to consume news and understand distant cultures from your geographic location. Wouldn't it follow that young people (who tend to be more idealistic) would desire to put forth a marginal effort to end worldwide social injustices?

In light of much controversy over McCain's unknown plethora of homes sparking criticism of elitism and over-consumption, and that great innovation is more attributed to organizations than individuals, it should follow that people would be more satisfied attaching themselves to a worthy cause rather than getting their name in the paper. As for getting "rich", in a country where advertisement for unnecessary products is an industry unto itself, skepticism should be employed in buying into this scheme of perpetual debt and even a humble lifestyle in America can provide a lot of material benefits. I would never advocate for the seizure of wealth by the state, only that excessive wealth and narcissism seems to be a corrupting force on mainstream society.

America has a proud history of honoring the average schmoe. From the early days of the militia that won our independence from the British to the auto plant workers in Detroit that helped turn our nation into an industrial powerhouse. The culture of schmoedom is a galvanizing force on the internet, as groups of average citizens gather together to shape the political debate and new ideas. Where is this quest for money and power coming from?