As I carve out a deeper and deeper trench of existence on this planet, I realize just how helpless we are as a society because of this mentality. Skilled labor and craftsmen propped up the once flimsy ideas of this great country enabling us to become a full-fledged nation and free market society. Our ingenuity and ability to build and create helped our economy survive in the post-World War II world. But, our parents' generation went the other direction. They were more concerned with self-esteem and valued "feelings" over hard work (the kind that makes you sweat). Going to college became a right of passage while trade schools were relegated to the edge of civilized society. Men were demasculinized and the role of women was questioned. We honored intellectual concepts rather than the calloused hands of manual work. Suddenly, we gave up building, fixing, tinkering and exploring.
Since then, it seems we are all looking for the next big idea. We choose our educational paths based on the earnings potential of a specific career rather than a personal interest or talent. We are drawn to the dull but seductive glow of the white collar world. Before we know it, life flies by and we realize that we spent our days pushing papers, crunching numbers or analyzing data...trading happiness for a paycheck. Now we have entire generations hating their jobs. We long nostalgically for a hands-on job that may not fuel lofty dreams of a hefty bank account and early retirement, but offers the satisfaction of exploring a passionate curiosity. For a society to thrive, there has to be a balance between the thinkers and the doers.
Everything we dream up needs to be manufactured or otherwise brought to fruition, but who is doing that? Not us. China is, for the most part. We are completely dependant on a country that rejects the freedoms and ideas that make the United States the greatest country on earth. They don't rely on our "ideas" but we rely on their practical know-how.
How we we rediscover a balance? Kids need the opportunity to create their own worlds (imaginative play, climbing trees, building forts, mud pies, etc...) rather than constantly stepping into cyber-worlds created by others. When they show an ability, we need to encourage them to explore it further...to consider a career that will not only allow them to hone a valued skill but also contribute to their overall happiness. Until we get back to doing for ourselves, this culture of dependence will continue to lift up other nations while our autonomy falters.