Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The World and Time We Live In

The year is 2012. In this year, on December 21, it is predicted that the world will end. This is because the Mayan calendar supposedly ends on this date. Others think that the Mayans were simply predicting the film premiere of the Lord of the Rings prequel, The Hobbit.

Everywhere is full of color. Bright, neon colors are fashionable in young people clothing. Fashion inspiration comes from the past, especially the hippie styles of the 60’s and the bright clothing of the 80’s.

Fashion contradicts itself. Waistlines are low in jeans, but high in pencil skirts. “Skinny jeans” are all the rave: these are jeans which have no flare whatsoever, and hug your legs closely. A more extreme variation of skinny jeans is “jeggings,” which is the offspring of jeans and leggings. Jeggings, of course, are ultra-skin tight and are softer than their parent, the jean. The other parent, the legging, is also highly in style, although many people don’t realize that their leggings are more transparent than they would probably like.

Dresses are either short enough to expose the bottom of your bottom or they so long (ankle-length) that short people can’t pull them off. Stilettos, also known as stripper heels to the lay man, are worn by the younger crowd of females. Girls wear wide shirts that barely let their belly peek out the bottom, or wear skinny shirts that hit the top of their thigh.  

Boys actually wear their pants high enough that their rear end is fully submersed in pant, unlike the 90s fashion of wearing your pants as low as humanly possible. This was a comical look because boys would actually have to hold their pants up when they walked. The result was a waddle very less graceful than a penguin’s.  But, boys still think it is fashionable for their boxers to pop out of the top of their pants. Stylish boys wear what are called “slim tees,” which are essentially t-shirts that are a little more form-fitting. A confident boy will sometimes wear a v-neck. But not too deep of a v; this would mean he is not completely straight.

Fashionable girls wear their hair long. It is either very straight or has soft curls. The blonder the better; but dark, almost-black hair is also highly fashionable. Fashionable boys have medium length hair. It is cut above their ears and their collar, but is a little longer on top. The top is slightly tousled. Besides this hairstyle, very short hair is also common among men. Extreme colors in hair are now considered weird.

The newest dominating stereotype is known as a hipster. A hipster is a person who doesn’t want to be like anybody else (which is ironic because all hipsters are essentially the same as each other). A hipster believes he or she found [insert object/song/location/etc.]  first. “I liked that song before it was cool,” or “I went there before everybody else knew about it” are common phrases among hipsters. Hipsters wear what most people think of as dork clothes: large glasses, suspenders, knee-length socks, and plaid pants. Hipsters are not necessarily cool (although some people pull off the look very well); in fact, most people scoff at them. Longboarding is a favorite pastime of hipsters. A longboard is actually the larger model of a surfboard, but in this case a longboard has become known as an oblong version of a skateboard.

It is now socially acceptable to be a nerd. The “dumb jock” hardly exists. Sports and academics have blended harmoniously. It is now cool to aim for higher education; in fact, it is strange if you come across an adult that doesn’t even have a bachelor’s degree.

That being said, tuition for colleges and universities has skyrocketed. For example, Harvard is about $36,000 a semester. Students take out loans like crazy, and it is not uncommon for a student to graduate with hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt. And once they graduate with so much debt, they hardly have any hope. One in two college graduates are unemployed or underemployed. Nationwide, the unemployment rate is about 11%.

All prices are high. Gas is about $4.00 a gallon. Going to the movie theater costs at least $9.00. But you know what is cheap? Fast, unhealthy food. McDonald’s only charges $1.00 for a hamburger, $1.00 for some fries, $1.00 for a soda. Obesity is a major problem in the United States. 2/3 of Americans are overweight, 1/3 are obese.

Americans are obsessed with instant gratification. They want their meals right away, so they get fast food or microwave a pre-packaged dinner. They want to lose weight right away, so they take diet pills. They want to hear from their friends right away, so they text message them. They want to check their e-mail right away, so they pull up the internet on their smart cell phones. They want to be awake right away, so they drink coffee or energy drinks. They want to escape from their problems, so they drown their sorrow in alcohol.

People seem to have forgotten that it is very possible to have fun without alcohol or drugs being involved. Many single young adults spend their evenings in bars or at nightclubs. The morning after, they can't remember what happened the night before. Now, some drugs make people into zombies, as they have lead to cannibalism in extreme cases.  This is probably the closest the world will get to a zombie apocalypse, which many people think is impending.

People are never satisfied with who they are or what they have. If a woman wants larger breasts or no more wrinkles, she goes out and gets plastic surgery. Women have to be skinnier, skinnier, and skinnier. Women practically kill themselves for the sake of losing weight. Eating disorders plague this generation. Men feel the need to get bigger. Not fatter, but more muscular. This habit is, of course, not as unhealthy as the female need to lose weight, but it too can be taken to an extreme. People are always driven to buy more things. A new car came out? People still have to go buy it, even if the car they already have is in perfect condition and only a couple of years old. A new iPhone came out? Gotta go get it, because the technology must be so much more advanced than the model that came out 6 months ago.

The music industry has transformed in recent years. Now, practically any song you want is available to play instantly on your phone, your mp3 player, and your computer. Rap and hip hop are very popular; pop is becoming increasingly more electronic. Rock still hasn’t gone away; but popular rock has simmered down from the heavy metal of the 80s and 90s. Alternative rock is what is played on the radio. This rock is softer, generally upbeat, but still fast. Popular rock songs usually have an element of uniqueness. Some bands infuse bluegrass or electronic sounds into their songs.  Country is still popular among the country folks.

Every movie seems to be released in 3D now. Movies are highly sensational, with intense special effects and dramatic music. Blue-Ray DVDs make the images sharper, the colors brighter, the sounds louder. Superhero movies are extremely popular; the long-awaited The Avengers , featuring the Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor, was released this year.

Reality TV consumes the lives of many bored Americans. People are obsessed with watching their favorite show at the expense of valuable time. Children, especially young teenagers, base reality off of TV. This leads to problems such as unrealistic perceptions about drugs, sex, and violence. A major product of reality TV is low self-esteem. Watching sports and playing video games sucks time from men (and women.) The Superbowl is now the most celebrated "holiday" in the United States. Kids hardly play outside anymore; they would rather be stuck in the fantasy worlds of their video games.

Celebrities are worshipped like gods and goddesses. Movie stars, models, sports stars, and musicians are followed more closely than politicians. The public knows which celebrity is dating who, and what outfit they wore a week ago. People know more about celebrities than they know about famous people from history.

Politics is passé. The public does not care about who is in government until a presidential election comes up, but even then only a small percentage actually votes. Barack Obama is the current president of the United States. He is the first black president. Well, he is technically only half-black, but that is good enough for the American public. This year, Mitt Romney will be challenging him for the presidency. If he wins, he will be the first Mormon president.

Religion is passé. 90% of Americans confirm that they believe in God, but being religious is not considered cool. Using religious values as a basis for argument is not socially acceptable.

Marriage is passé. People live together before they are married, or before they are engaged for that matter. The rate of children born to unmarried parents is increasing. When people do marry, it is hardly ever when they are young. The average age for a woman to get married is about 26 and the average age for a man to get married is closer to 30. The divorce rate in the United States is somewhere around 50%. Divorce is common, and an easier process than it used to be.  

Possibly the largest social controversy at the moment is gay marriage. The homosexual community thinks it has the right to be legally allowed to marry; the religious community argues that marriage is, and always has been, only between a man and a woman. This issue will most likely be going to the Supreme Court within the next two years.

Another large issue is global warming. The planet has seen a rise in temperatures and thus more extreme weather. More hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, and blizzards seem to be happening. Some people believe that global climate change is the fault of humans; others believe that it is merely a cyclical process of the earth.

People don’t take care of the planet, though. Big cities wear a blanket of smog. People throw plastic in the street, in the grass, in the water, anywhere that is convenient. Everyone buys huge amounts of plastic and other manmade materials. People are dependent on gas and oil. They water their lawns until they are bright green. Excessive consumption leads to excessive waste. Some people try to have a greener footstep, though. Some people buy hybrid cars, which use both gas and electricity.  Some buy organic foods. Some become vegetarians or vegans.

But people are not all bad. Though crime rates are high and homicides are common in the news, I would say the average person is good. We still care about one another. We still smile at each other on the street. We still say “good morning” enthusiastically on Monday mornings. We still give up our seats on the subway to the old woman who uses a cane to walk. We still have our humanity, and we will until the world inevitably ends in December. No, I don’t really believe that 2012 is the last year of human history, but I do believe that now is a fascinating time to be living.

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