TWIF (Part 4): The American Idol Syndrome
If I had to sum up my feelings regarding the growing threat China poses to American young people I would most likely end up saying something like: Ready or not! Here China comes!
To me this exclamation, most commonly associated with the game of hide-and-seek, accomplishes a very important thing; namely, it informs us of our only two options: to be prepared or to be unprepared.
I wish I could say that American young people are working hard to stay ahead. That we are striving diligently to ensure that we continue to deserve the levels of success and affluence associated with the United States of America. Unfortunately, even my bent towards optimism cannot hide a distinguishing characteristic that plagues America’s youth. Indeed, I am of the opinion that American young people are prone to what I call “The Entitlement Complex.”
This entitlement complex could also be termed The American Idol Syndrome. If you’ve ever seen the faces American Idol contestants when Simon Cowell tells them they have no talent, you understand what I mean. Many American young people cannot accept the fact that they don’t deserve high-paying jobs, that they aren’t “beautiful,” or that their voices sound funny.
As one of my readers told me, “Young Americans today [believe that] it’s their “right” to have a education, Social Security, a job, a nice house, a fun car, and plenty of money.” We’ve taken the American dream a “step farther,” she says, “Not only can everyone have an opportunity to achieve their dreams, everyone has a right to have their dreams (the results of the opportunity)—without doing the work.”
In a stark contrast, the majority of Chinese teens are doing the work. They are motivated and they are diligent. They have direction and they get moving. In fact, one of the consular officials who oversees the granting of visas at the U.S. embassy in Beijing said, "I do think Americans are oblivious to the huge changes. Every American who comes to visit me [in China] is just blown away . . . Your average kid in the U.S. grows up in a wealthy country with many opportunities, and many of the kids of advantaged educated people have a sense of entitlement. Well, the hard reality for that kid fifteen years from now Wu is going to be his boss and Zhou is going to be the doctor in town. The competition is coming, and many of the kids are going to move into their twenties clueless about these rising forces."
My friends, we are not entitled to the affluence our ancestors left us. They have granted us a figurative “cruise control” but we’ve still got to stick behind the wheel. Our continued diligence, provided we focus on important areas, will allow us to stand on their shoulders, but let us never assume that success is a right. It is earned, and right now the Chinese earn it more than we do.
With that understanding I close with an African proverb, which not surprisingly can be found posted, in Mandarin, on the factory floor of ASIMCO Technologies, an American auto parts manufacturer located in China:
Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle. When the sun comes up, you better start running.