Friday, September 11, 2009

'The Future Is Your Responsibility'

WARNING: Teenage griping, cynicism, and over-reading-into-things ahead! Read at your own peril!

(Unless you're also a teenager, in which case break out the kevlar and skateboard helmets and join the revolution.)

Most 'inspiring' speeches are really, really boring. Anything written to inspire is 70% likely to fail miserably. Firstly, people aren't stupid and don't like to be manipulated into inspiration. Secondly, most of the trite sayings designed to make you feel warm and fuzzy- 'Jesus loves you', 'We're a big happy family', 'don't worry, be happy'- make good bumper stickers but miserable inspiration. Thirdly, true inspiration inspires because we hear it and we recognize- sometimes unconciously- the Truth.

'The Future Is Your Responsibility' does not make me recognize the Truth. Instead, my hackles go up, my head goes down, my elbows go out and I start to snark- because I recognize a big, fat, slimy- think huge glistening slug slimy- LIE.

I don't like being lied to.

And this is the kind of lie I hate most. It isn't a 'No, that dress doesn't make you look fat' lie, meant in kindness and desire to keep a relationship intact. It's not a lie to make you feel better.

This is a lie to make the liar feel better. Right up there with 'I can quit at any time' and 'I know I'm a good writer because my mom said so' (I actually struggle with that one), this lie is completely and totally self-serving.

You don't get why? Then let's start dissecting the slug.

The Future. What, exactly, do you mean by that? Do you mean half an hour after dinner time? Do you mean our career and family? If so, then yes, the future is our responsibility. But this isn't what you mean. You aren't talking about our future- you're talking about The Future. Global warming, national debt, world peace, and so on- these are the things that make up The Future. Things that are, mostly, out of the control of small, harmless teenagers like me. (Okay, I couldn't even write that with a straight face. But it's still true. No one consults a child or teenager on national policy. They consult voters. And the voters can consider themselves privileged to be involved in the process. Heavy sarcasm.)

Your Responsibility. I don't have a problem with responsibility. Sure, it's a heavy burden sometimes, but it's much more fun to have responsibility and be in control than to not have any responsibility and have to live in a pink bedroom. So to speak. (I despise pink.)

However, in this context, Your Responsibility is code for Your Problem, Not Mine.

So put it together. An adult intent on inspiring a bunch of adolescents with moral messages of hard work, long life, and the benefits of homework decides to throw this slug in for seasoning: The Future Is Your Responsibility.

Yes, that's true. The mess you're making today will be dealt with by me and my peers tomorrow. That's how it is and that's how it has always been. The sins of the parents on the heads of the children. But whoever you are- because The Future Is Your Responsibility is a favorite lie of many adults- if you want to keep your teeth in your mouth, I suggest you shut your mouth before you tell this lie.

Teenagers (and children) have very sensitive hypocritical/self-serving/manipulative jerk radar. If you want to inspire? Don't set it off.

1 comment:

  1. Very good points all. I like to think that the original intent of that message was to include others in SHARING the responsibility, not to offload it to them, but you're right - it's always rubbed me the wrong way, too! (: