February 18, 2009

Tough Times Make Strong Hearts

Adults who grew up during the Great Depression have been shown to be more well-adjusted, stable, and successful in later life than more recent generations. Theories are that during times of collective “deprivation,” children must learn to adapt to frequent change, consequently facing situations which require problem resolution behaviors at a young age.

The children of the Depression developed a “what you see is what you get” attitude as personal strengths and weaknesses were discovered early and had plenty of time to be further tested and fortified as they grew into adulthood. One of the major reasons why so many children growing in poverty were able to embody such solid characters as adults was the undiscriminating nature of the crisis- they were all in the same boat.”

It was not an anomaly to have your neighbor stop by your door asking for money or food, the entire American consciousness was looking through the same lens. This collectivity unified them in their struggle and bled into one huge heart that America had never before seen in such stark but beautiful light. The hardship these children, particularly, faced made them into better people.

Our generation is now raised on pop tarts and television. Many children of the upper, middle, and even lower class are lost in a fog of materialism, consumerism, and image-obsession. It’s not their fault; they live in the easy world we’ve worked so hard to create for them. Many young people now believe you can simply BUY social change, BUY action, BUY righteous anger, BUY battle scars.

Social causes have become an image market and these attitudes are in the way of real social change but they seem to be increasingly entrenched in the minds of our young people who are relentlessly barraged by advertisements before they even learn how to speak. If the Great Depression is on our doorstep once again, perhaps our children will face a similar “deprivation” culture which will blossom into another Greatest Generation of honest, family-oriented, thrifty people who understand the slow process of true change and are willing to stick it through while giving us the power of their true selves without all the image driven garbage. Maybe they will grow up to be less alarmed by losing what luxuries they have and be more naturally inclined to face problems with early wisdom and bold hearts, willing to take more than a calculated risk because they aren’t afraid of losing it all.

Suppose we face a second Great Depression. What would the possibilities be for social change?

Would people revert to selfish self preservation and fear? Would the children save the day?

This post was written by Leah Bush, a freelance writer, volunteer blogger for the Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project, and aspiring Guru whose past involvement includes the American Red Cross Hurricane Katrina Recovery Project and volunteerism in Honduras and the Dominican Republic. Questions regarding this post may be forwarded to ultraEchelon@gmail.com.

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