I was having a conversation last night with my sister about the things that piss me off in Jordan, typically the whole west Ammani atmosphere, and an offspring of that conversation got me thinking this fine morning. The title of this post is derived from one of my favorite books/movies, Fight Club, in which the protagonist Tyler Durden makes the following speech in a dark basement, to a group of followers:
Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who’ve ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.
I look at the wealthiest people in this country, the people who, like it or not, have helped build this country. They represent the industry and business leaders, the factories, the companies, the mini-empires in this resource-barren country of ours. From manufacturers to sellers, many are self-made; most are first generation; most are now ‘old’ money. All of them have a story to tell.
But their children are disappointing. Not all, but many, if not most.
They are a generation of children raised by maids. A generation spoiled and trained in the ancient ways of elitism. And they are so many. And they will inherit much of this world created by their fathers who, for better or worse, emerged from the abyss of nothingness.
So I’m constantly fascinated whenever I meet or see or hear of someone who is of my age group and living a life that can only make one wonder how they could ever inherit empires.
Some have surprised me. There are second-generation businesses that are surviving and expanding under new and younger leadership, but even these involve heirs of an older generation. In other words, people who are 38 or 40 and have taken over their father’s company, did not grow up in the same manner that their own kids did (or are currently).
I don’t know if it a matter of masculinity, it’s more about leadership or lack thereof. But I suppose on some level, we have all been socialized to equate leadership with masculinity. Strong, bold, daring, sharp: strictly ‘male qualities’. And few of these kids embody any of those qualities, be they female or male. They attend western universities and are schooled in eastern philosophies, but none of them have anything really substantial to offer. Nothing that suggests they can take what already exists, to the next level.
Moreover, their fathers had or have some historic significance. They were born and created in an era far from our own, where there was so much opportunity to build from scratch. Whereas now, everything feels, saturated. There is nothing great left to overcome; and so it feels there is no more greatness to be achieved.
Which is why I often feel this new generation, are in fact the middle children of our history. They have little significance, only socialized and sensationalized dreams. It is an entire generation that has never pumped their own gas, or cleared their own tables, or experienced the economic tightening of the white collar. They have no great challenges or great achievements. No great war.
This is why I’ve seen a lot of fathers who have realized their mistake, reforming their companies; making them public or forming a board of trustees. A way to ensure their kids can survive without being involved in the company.
And I use the concept of companies, family businesses and inheritance throughout this post as a deliberate metaphor. It’s an analogy for what the next generation of people in whose hands this country will be in, will do; will accomplish.
It’s not about what is being inherited, but who the heirs are.