Future American dream is the current Japanese nightmare?




Yesterday I read part of a post at The Daily Beast with a pretty negative future outlook for we Millennials.


Are Young Americans Becoming Herbivores?


To some, this dismal outlook is either inevitable, or even positive, as Americans shift from their historically “expansive” view and embrace a more modest déclassé future. Rather than seek new worlds to conquer, or even hope to retain the accomplishments of prior generations, contemporary young Americans seem destined to confront a world stamped by ever narrowing opportunity, class distinction, and societal stagnation. Once a nation of competitive omnivores and carnivores, America could be turning more docile—a country of content, grazing herbivores.


Just such a diminished world view has already taken root in Japan, particularly among that country’s younger males. Growing up in a period of tepid economic growth, a declining labor market, and a loss of overall competitiveness, Japan’s male “herbivores” are more interested in comics, computer games, and Internet socializing than building a career or even the opposite sex. Marriage and family have increasingly little appeal to them, sentiments they share with most women their age.


Let me pause a bit. I never once viewed herbivores in such an odd way. So increase in vegetarians equals lowered procreation? Doesn’t really seem to work that way in India… I kid, I kid. I recently watched a creepy documentary from BBC Two on Japan’s plummeting birthrate cheekily called “No Sex, Please, We’re Japanese”. From the website:


In a world where people panic about the rising global population, Japan is facing a very different future which could see their population shrink by a third in just 40 years. One reason is that the Japanese are not having enough babies and the causes of that form the basis of Anita Rani’s intriguing journey.


Part of a season of programmes on population for This World, No Sex Please, We’re Japanese explores the Otaku culture – the world of nerds and geeks obsessed with computer games and Manga cartoons – which has led to a withdrawal of many Japanese men from the dating game. Anita meets two men in their late thirties who have in-depth relationships with virtual teenage girlfriends as part of a role playing game: ‘I think twice about going out with a 3D woman’, says one.


The Japanese have far less sex than other nations and Anita also meets the women who struggle to work and have children in a society still dominated by traditional gender roles. Added to this, Japan also has the oldest population in the world, 25% are over 65 and 50,000 over a hundred years old. Anita visits a group of retired cheerleaders and a prison with a wing especially designed for pensioners.


Too few young people to pay tax, too many old people needing support – it has all led to a debt problem worse than that of Greece and an uncertain future for a country that still is the third largest economy in the world.


It was a fascinating little hour. While I smiled at the adorable 80 year old granny cheerleaders dancing their golden age away, I was in full jaw-drop mode at the almost forty year old men carrying around their little girlfriends in Nintendo DS consoles. Curious? Watch it below.


Anyway, back to the doomsday future right here in the U.S. of A., complete with Brooklyn hipsters:


This devolved future is widely embraced by both left and right. Libertarian-leaning economist Tyler Cowen identifies a permanent upper class, essentially those who command machines and particularly the software that runs them, while the masses, something like 85 percent of the population, need to adjust to lower living standards, and a diet made up largely of beans and rice.

This approach has appeal to the grandees of finance, who see in a diminishing American dream not only higher relative status for themselves but an opportunity to turn prospective property owners into rental serfs. Large equity funds have been particularly aggressive about buying foreclosed homes and renting them out, often at high rates, to economically distressed families.

This “rentership” society, as first suggested by Morgan Stanley’s Oliver Chang, reflects, in this sense, an almost Marxian dialectic that sees ownership of property concentrating in ever fewer hands. Conservative theorists have little problem with this, since they naturally defend class privileges and are less committed to upward mobility than assuring the relentless triumph of market capitalism.

Far from rejecting suburbia, homeownership, and the American dream, millennials are simply seeking to recreate it in their own image.

But the most potent apologists for shrinking the American dream come from the very left which, in the past, once championed broad-based economic growth and upward mobility. Instead, progressives increasingly favor their own version of a “rentership society,” albeit one more regulated than the conservative version, but also accepting , and even encouraging, the proletarianization of the American middle class. (Turning them, in the process, into good, reliable clients of the Democratic Party). Goodbye Levittown, with its promise of property ownership and privacy, and back to the tenements of Brownsville, now dressed up as “hip and cool.”


Some even have suggested getting rid of “middle class norms of decency” governing housing and bringing back the boarding house of the 19th and early 20th Century. The goal, of course, is to facilitate ever more densification of urban areas and to rein in the dreaded suburban “sprawl.”








Yes, of course, because that above is super cool. And maybe guys can grow handlebar mustaches, too, and die at age 37 of some easily preventable sickness like many did in the 1890s! Again, I kid, I kid. Anyway, do you feel this bit of e-opinion is just all too negative? I mean, I really don’t see this current generation just squatting in crumbling tenements, happy with life so long as we have some hot Gameboy loving.


Then again, I can think of a few guys who would be totally okay with that arrangement. And I’m not kidding. Read the rest of The Daily Beast piece here.

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