The "Gimme" Generation

As I’ve watched the Occupy Wall Street movement unfold, and listened to the protesters’ reasons for assembly (mostly peaceable, which is the kind that IS constitutionally protected), I’ve transitioned from somewhat sympathetic to rolling-my-eyes angry. What apparently began as sincere angst against the institutions that put us in our current economic funk has lapsed into, at best, a mass "other-people-owe-me-a-living" movement, and at worst, a weapon of mass distraction for a president and political party that apparently think they are in big trouble heading into an election year.

I’m not convinced Barack Obama should be as concerned as he apparently is, given that Republicans are so uninspired by Mitt Romney that they are willing to consider charming but unpolished political neophytes like Herman Cain, who strikes me as very beatable. But I digress. My concern here is for a generation – check that – the noisiest segment of a generation that believes government programs can do life’s heavy lifting. They wouldn’t be the first wave of young people who were clueless about this, just the latest, but the attitudes on display at these nationwide demonstrations make we wonder if the Greatest Generation, which is dying out, is being replaced by the "Gimme Generation," which doesn’t strike me as a collection of people who can overcome economic depression, fascism, and communism in the course of one lifetime, as their grandparents did.

Can you imagine a young Steve Jobs, whose recent passing is a cruel blow to American innovation, slacking his way through life, wailing against capitalism and the unfairness of some people having more than others? Jobs was a perfect illustration of why America is not comprised of "haves" and "have-nots," but "did" and "did-nots."

The same goes for other pioneering achievers, including people like Oprah Winfrey, who probably started life with a lot less than the poor, oppressed members of Occupy Wall Street.

I think it’s a mark of our country’s greatness that we make investments in the young in terms of their education and development, and we invest in our seniors with income security (Social Security) and medical care (Medicare). But the able-bodied people between the very young and the very old have to be the producers, not only for their own material benefit, but so that we can afford to do these things for our children and our parents. Somebody has to pay the bills.

Fortunately, not every young person has signed on to slackerdom. Mark Wilson, the president of TermSync, a Madison-based start up, may not be quite as young as those in the Occupy Wall Street crowd, but he’s an example of the quiet "doers" who go about their business. Wilson’s young company, TermSync, recently landed $630,000 in angel capital because he put his mind to work developing a process that can take some of the hassle out of the collections process. It’s not yet a patented process, but it has been mapped to an accounts receivable automation platform and is moving beyond the proof-of-concept stage.

Imagine that – a young person with a basic accounting background devoting his time and energy to solving a real problem. "It’s almost comical to me," Wilson stated, "that we still are collecting in the same way companies were 20, 30, and 40 years ago."

Somewhat more comical are green kids who apparently think the way to make their mark is to paint a picture of helpless victimhood. Unless America is content to become a mediocrity, which I once thought was a hateful idea, it’s creative people like Mark Wilson who will own the future.

What really bothers me about Occupy Wall Street is not so much the entitlement mentality – that type of individual is indestructible – it’s the willingness of some to put successful people on the defensive, as though success is a crime against humanity. That attitude calls for a strong rebuke.

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