Parents’ basement: crucible of leadership

I’ve been an off and on listener of Howard Stern’s radio show since the mid-90s – mostly off until recently when I leased a car that came with a six month gratis subscription to Sirius/XM, Stern’s anti-terrestrial radio base that doubles as his personal gold mine. On a recent episode, Stern sent one of his lackeys to interview attendees of the big Comic-Con convention in San Diego this past July, and used the subsequent flotsam and jetsam to excoriate the current generation of under-employed slacker Gen-Yer’s and Millennials who occupy their parents’ basements while spending their limited funds on elaborate costumes and video-game arcana.

In addition to the Comic-Con bunch, others who came in for scorn for being slackers and losers were aficionados of SteamPunk – a re-imagining of Victorian-era life powered by futuristic steam-driven contraptions – and a group known as the Bronies whose members (mostly adult males) are adoring fans of “My Little Pony,” the TV show sprung forth from the Hasbro toy collection. In all cases, the subjects of derision are young men who instead of forming families, advancing careers and paying taxes to support the American safety net, expend their energy and limited resources indulging dead-end hobbies.

Inching closer to the day when I become eligible to tap the system I’ve spent the past 40 years endowing, I’d like to feel more comfortable that the generations behind me are up to the task of keeping the system fully viable. And if my confidence wasn’t already shaken, I read this piece by Dwight Garner in the New York Times. An excerpt:

“As I type these lines, my daughter, Harriet, who is 14, is on her iPhone skipping among no fewer than eight social media sites: Flickr, Tumblr, Kik, Snapchat, Instagram,, Twitter and Vine. Rarely Facebook. Facebook, she says, is so 2011.
My son, Penn, who is 15, will be asleep for hours yet. He was up all night with a friend playing two video games, Call of Duty and Eve, in a jag fueled by his four favorite foodlike substances: nacho cheese Doritos, Kit Kat candy bars, jelly beans and a Mountain Dew flavor variant known as Code Red. His is the prix fixe menu of the anti-gods.”

If that isn’t grotesque enough, Garner adds, “My kids are smart, kind and more or less well adjusted.”

Well-adjusted? Only by the standard set by their nitwit peers. My suggestion: confiscate the gadgets, and give Penn a Cuisinart and Harriet a drill press.

Reports of young Americans’ rampant illiteracy with geography, math, and history abound. (A study done a few years ago involving several hundred men and women aged 18 to 24 revealed that half couldn’t find Ohio and New York on a map of the U.S.) But who needs ivory-tower reports when the evidence is present on a daily basis. The cashier at Panera who, when the computerized register goes down cannot make change for a $4.84 bill when handed a fiver . . . the bartender who struggles to conjure up the time in Chicago when it’s 3:00 in New York . . . the brand-new 18 year old voter who thinks the Electoral College is where candidates study how to be president.

Jefferson said, “The cornerstone of democracy rests on the foundation of an educated electorate.” He didn’t comment on an electorate comprised of a bunch of morons, but I’m starting to see a disturbing pattern.

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