Having grown up in a Philip Rothian household (though without a great deal of access to calves' liver) I have never be brimming with confidence. I did not have one of those mothers who gloried in my every movement, who sang my praises to one and all including myself. Rather, she was shrewishly dedicated to doing everything she could to make herself powerful and myself weak. Unlike the practice of so many parents of today's generations, nothing went up on the refrigerator, no praise--for my brother, sister or me--was ever forthcoming.
There was a time, of course, when most of the people I worked with, those my age and a few years more, were similarly neurotic. There was a power to that neurosis. It inspired us to work hard, to prove ourselves to always strive for more.
That all, these days, seems to have disappeared.
Now among so many young creative people there is a inverse relationship between achievement and arrogance. There is a disconnect between effort and entitlement. There is a subject-object split between competence and confidence.
I think such ego-inflation explains the eminence of awards that are indirectly correlated to achievement. People seem to act as if they deserve praise simply for showing up.
On Saturday night my wife and I went to see Woody Allen's new movie "To Rome with Love." The line was long. Long and elderly. Long and elderly and Jewish.
In fact, I'd say fully 60% of the line was filled with holocaust survivors, spreading down 3rd Avenue and around the corner down 59th. My wife and I arrived early and we're about seventh and eighth in line. Finally, the line began to move. And there at the front of a line is a hipster couple. Trying to meld into the line, cutting in front of all.
I yelled out, "how can you do that? How can you live with yourself?" With that they were sent away by the ticket taker.
How can people do it?
How do they live with themselves, with their lies?
There's so much I will never understand.