I read this story with considerable worry when it first broke a few days ago.
If you don't want to read the whole thing, it essentially says that college students prefer their iPods to beer.
Yeah, I cried too.
If the people at the Ridgewood, NJ based market research firm Student Monitor are to be believed, the college student of today prefers a sterile wafer of plastic and circuit boards to the fermented perfection of Mother Nature's awesome bounty.
What this says to me is that college students of today are in real trouble. Those of us who have been to college (and some of us who never intend to leave, really) know that drinking beer is a social event. It gets people together, out of the house (sometimes) and into each other's company. There is no better way to get to know people than over several glasses of that earthen-toned liquid that pours in a generous river from our great nation's heartland.
With the beer and friends ultimately comes great conversation, talk of issues great and small. It can be about sport, politics, work, personal life experiences, bawdy jokes and cunning comebacks. It is the very milk of society, the very basis of what's best about being human. We have no word for it in English, but in Irish it is craic and in German it is Gemutlichkeit. It is the great feeling of elation brought on by good drink, friends and conversation.
Listening to an iPod is none of these things. It is perhaps the complete opposite. Once the headphones are plugged into the ear canal, the listener is cut off from the outside world and any interaction from others. What world to they enter? A self-constructed world of disjointed playlists wherein only the listener him/herself can partake in the goings-on.
I have no problem with self-gratification (by which I mean making oneself happy...minds out of gutter, now). What I take issue with is the way that, as with the cellular telephone, it cuts people off from each other and becomes a constant companion and obsession, like the constantly fingered fetishes and amulets of bygone, superstitious days (they are gone, right?). They become the only focus as one glides through life blissfully unaware of the real "flowers of life" (to quote the late, great Lord Buckley): people.
This shows that the college student of today is more interested in pleasing themselves than in interacting with other people. If all drinkers were like this, we would all be sullen, jittery alcoholics alone with the bottle as we let out the evil spirits and confront our darkest personal reaches alone. That is why alcohol is best enjoyed with friends. It is this interaction with other people that makes the experience one of sociability rather than dependency.
This story speaks volumes about the human condition, at least among college students. Not allowed to have fun anymore, jammed into impossible schedules and self-imposed academic and social strictures, they become socially frightened cenobites, fearing for their future at the expense of their present.
Sliding down the razor blade of life is tough enough without people who have no idea how to let go every now and again. Oh, to those of you who will doubtless say that I (and those like me) should just workout or pray or something to let off steam, I say bullshit. They are not the same thing, never will be (for reasons discussed above) and, in any event, stop telling me how to live.
So, college students of the world, if a large, Irish-looking gentleman walks up to you, yanks your iPod out of your ears, pours beer all over it and hands you the rest of the six-pack, just take the beer and thank him later in your own way. He has freed you and opened up your ears in more ways than one. Oh, and he likes Blatz.
Year in review
4 months ago