Sunday, May 17, 2009

In-group psychology in need of a tweak...

A recent Wall Street Journal article about Portland Oregon and other "Youth Magnet Cities" got me thinking. The article describes how despite a recession and a higher than average unemployment rate in Portland, young, educated professionals continue to flock to the city, lured by both the scenery and the scene.

This brings up a number of questions, specifically in this new era of responsibility. Is it more important to look for a scene than find a meaningful way to contribute to the struggling economy? The article cited an underemployed lawyer who didn't mind answering phones and walking his bosses dogs, and I can't help but think, what a waste. Maybe part of the reason the country is having a hard time with the boot straps is because every body is wearing Uggs.

I think this could be a case of in-group psychology in need of a tweak. If it's true that young professionals would rather live someplace cool, than a place in need of their education, youth and innovation, then maybe we need to redefine what cool is. Indeed, relocating to a new city with limited prospects for employment may seem brave, but isn't much braver to leave one's comfort zone? I understand the desire to be among those who are like minded, but I also believe that cultural hubs be they left-minded or right-minded contribute to increased polarization within our society. Which leads me to the question, how does hip migrate? Does it begin with just one person or a group? And who among us are not just brave enough, but secure enough in our convictions and cultural landmarks to go out among those who do not live and think as we do?

Sadly, I don't fit the bill. If I did, perhaps I'd still live in the Southern Illinois, where the specialty at the local bakery is literally white bread. Thus I continue to be a whole grain, sourdough and intellectual snob who commutes to a postcard city with a vibrant culture that is just sooo cool. So maybe there is something to be said for aesthetics. Glass houses after all are quite beautiful.

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