In a recent podcast comedian and celebrity personality Adam Corolla railed against the Occupy Movement generation as America’s new “fucking self-entitled monsters” who “think the world owes them a living.” Corolla bases his insults on the development and creation of a youth culture in America which leaves recent college graduates unprepared for the real world, sets up unrealistic expectations, and rewards the “losers” just for trying.
Corolla has a point. A book entitled Generation Me written by psychology professor Jean Twenge does a far better job of elucidating this trend and understanding it’s manifestations than Corolla’s crass bullying, but his attack and extrapolation that the Occupy Movement is simply about young people “throwing shit at another person’s car” is pervasively misguided.
In reading Zoe Williams’ excellent Guardian piece on the psychology of looting, in which she analyzes the significance of London rioters doing away with consumer retail products, I was reminded of a vaguely analogous story in China, of a 17-year-old boy who sold his kidney to buy an iPad 2. Both stories seem to illustrate the extremities to which consumerism has driven us.
Being a consumer in China is like being a laboratory mouse. The longer you stay the more sensitive you become to slight fluctuations in the prices of everyday goods, rent, or travel, and, before you know it, all you can do is debate the yo-yo that is the Chinese marketplace with anyone who’ll listen. The current bogeyman, inflation, which has pushed prices for almost everything worth buying in China—including simple commodities like rice, garlic, and apples—to levels beyond the reach of half the population, is not some freak of the market. It’s a glitch in the great, centrally-controlled Matrix of the CCP.
Sitting opposite yet another of the innumerable Chinese businessmen I interview on a weekly basis as he puffed on a pipe stuffed with what smelled like the most expensive organic Virginia available, I was gifted an insight into China’s new elite.