It is now 9:00 PM PST. I am watching the final credits roll on The Social Network and as I sit here listening to the music play out the acknowledgments for a very well made movie I can’t help but think about the characters I have spent the last two hours observing. Maybe it is the part of me that enjoys psychology and understanding what makes people tick, but I just can’t get past how the majority of the characters in the movie are total @$$holes. The pompous @$$hole. The vengeful @$$hole. The arrogant @$$hole. So many @$$holes. A movie entirely centered around a website and characters that define and epitomize my generation is filled with people who have no decency or courtesy.
Now, before you get all hot and bothered, I am not saying that the characters portrayed in this MOVIE are 100% accurate of the individuals portrayed, or that they individuals the story is based upon are you average 20-35 year olds. But what I am saying is that it amazes me how painfully believable it is that members of my generation could be so horrible to other individuals, much less their friends and business partners. It’s a theme that not only shows up in the world of film, but in the real life that we experience everyday; people who have begun to believe again that the world revolves around them and others aren’t as important.
I won’t sit here are pretend that I am any better than my peers, because well that, in and of itself, would make me no better than them, but I will say this. I feel more than slightly disheartened by the direction that we as a society seem to be headed. We seem to forget that our experiences are necessarily intertwined, and that commonly what is best for the individual is what is best for society (not the other way around). So here’s where the economist in me points out that in a free market system (as the US operates in) it is true that individuals will necessarily watch out for themselves and in doing so generate new products, services and ways of doing things that will benefit the overall society. But I am not convinced. I am not convinced that the ends necessarily justify the means in every case. Arguing that screwing over individuals to end up providing them a better product is almost as stupid as trying to argue that smacking someone in the face to help them build up a pain tolerance is a good idea.
Just because something good may come from an activity (a new product, a more efficient system, etc.) it does not mean that you have cart blanche to reach that point. Resources can be used more efficiently when pooled. Individuals can be more efficient when teamed. We, as a society (mainly those of us under 40), must remember how to work for the betterment of others. Sacrifice self for the other.
I fear that it will take a major war, or world catastrophe (far beyond the scale of Iraq or Katrina) to remind us of that. Every generation before us has had a defining world problem, from the dark ages to World War II. And this generation has not had that experience yet - or at least we have yet to realize it (we are going through one of the toughest financial times in recent history after all). We need to band together and find a stronger America, a stronger world; or we might get too caught up in ourselves that we miss out on the potential to turn our world around.