Across the ocean I see people eighteen and younger who are not any more interested in politics than their predecessors had been, but who coolly nurture such a powerful sense of serious ambition that in isolated cases it is nothing short of Machiavellianism. Here acquaintances my age and younger are lucky to find a steady job that at least promises to pay regularly, after they are forced to temporarily quit their university because they ran out of money, spending it on beer and discotheques; their ideas concerning ambition are nihilistic: my local prototype friend Yaroslav chases his tale and doesn't know which way his eyes are looking, though he is already a talented technician, polygrapher, and businessman, too soon and too late- why did he go to Andronicus the Armenian, who is Fagin the Jew, and grow up so soon? His favorite writer is Kafka and he once fell in love with me, but disappeared again on Thursday because he is running away from the army (a unique understanding- the army here is actually worse than prison, taking into account its constant food shortages, and unless you spend ten years in college or are ill, until the age of 28 you have to serve your two years, or they'll chase you). Today while Michael and Vera were photographing each other among my changing chairs and musical wallpaper, I called Tanya and learned that Andronik told her that Yaroslav had actually put himself into a hospital to escape the springtime recruitions. (That is nothing- my father organized to have himself admitted into the psychiatric ward to escape the same thing, only back then this was a semi-totalitarian country, and now it is a semi-South-American country.)
I deduced, therefore, after a few tears from Slava, that sociological conditioning in this time and space does not permit the kind of positivist career-centered ambition I see in the west. And then again I see at the next moment two kids interviewed on television, as clean-cut as their khaki-wearing counterparts in America, the ones that gobble up the debate teams, pretentiously and politely argue with their history teachers and then go to Harvard because they knew all their lives that they would (this is a new generation, and doesn't have any members older than twenty). But these two Russian kids had no particular ideology, instead they had a credibly drawn out plan to take over the government by gradual means, because they believed the country needs a strong hand (not very original as far as causes go in this kind of economical situation). Perhaps the next century will witness a Hegelian re-emergence of dictatorships, this time not headed by an ideology, once all these almost-teenagers grow up and get into parliament, which I am sure of. Will it suddenly become stylish to keep a copy of Machiavelli on the nightstand? Sorry for my pretentiousness and dilletantism. I won't. All my close friends are about 28. I am ten years older than myself, and belong to Generation X.
For more examples of cynical but talented people older than themselves, I highly recommend reading the section on Tanya Tobis. She just turned nineteen, works till ten bringing clients to Andronicus' questionable firm, then parties all night at some marginal discotheque.