I recently was sent an article by Mother Jones magazine, which touted the headline: "WE'RE ALL #1!"
The article included a list of the ways we have become a nation of navel-gazers, continually telling ourselves and our children that we're all terrific. Really terrific. For example:
* An analysis of 16,000 students' results on the Narcissistic Personality Profile concluded that undergads are 30 percent more self-absorbed that they were in 1982.
* Last march, a West Virginia high school sophomore sued the teacher who failed her for a late paper. She sought damages for "loss of enjoyment of life."
* You can send yourself a "standing ovation" from the Playfair website, a team-building consultant. It advises, "Don't worry about whether you've earned it."
Recently I spent some time with friends talking about the jobs held by our parents and grandparents: house painter, railroad worker, steel mill employee, delivery truck driver, cook, teacher, factory worker. At the same time, we discussed how most of our grandparents and some of our parents often worked two or three jobs, rarely taking vacations and often being home only long enough to grab some sleep or a quick meal. So, yes, there had to be workplace stress and there had to be bosses they hated and co-workers they couldn't stand.
But did our grandparents demand happiness from their jobs? Did they believe they warranted parties for a good job or feel snubbed if the boss didn't send a thank-you note?
It makes me wonder. I know my parents and grandparents worked long, hard hours, sometimes in difficult situations. But they also survived wars and the Depression and children dying young. When did work become more than work? When did we begin to expect -- demand -- that our jobs make us happy? And, is it really a good thing that we've handed so much control over our own sense of happiness to a job?