Apathy and Delirium

Picture suburbia. The calm streets with kids playing on the sidewalk and riding their bikes. The parents chatting across the fence. The friendly police officer smiling as he drives through the crime-free neighborhood. As you picture all these aspects, it is hard to imagine anything but perfection.

The suburbs are always seen as the ideal place to live. They are known for their safe neighborhoods, nice houses, good schools and resources, and so much more. In most neighborhoods, there is a stereotype that goes along with the people who comprise it.  One would think that such a perfect place as suburbia should produce perfect people, but does it?

People who grow up in the suburbs often have a certain mindset. Teens who grow up in wealthy, homogeneous, crime-free neighborhoods often believe they are invincible. This mentality is due to the fact that most people in the suburbia bubble are unconscious to any other way of living.

People in the suburbs are high on the scale when it comes to social class and income. To put our social standings in Verona into perspective, let’s look at average income. In Verona, the average household income in 2009 was $91,664.  The national average gross income was $47,320. That means that family incomes in Verona, a fairly ordinary New Jersey suburb, are more than double what most Americans make. This can have a negative effect on children raised in this type of environment.

It’s not just how much money suburban families make that sets them aside from everyone else, but it’s also the homogenous nature of the communities. While we all have similar paychecks, we also have similar interests, education, and looks. This lack of diversity is something a lot of people don’t notice because it is just what they are used to, but it can cause problems when leaving the suburbia bubble. When people go out into the “real world,” they often have a hard time branching out from the known, a hard time meeting new, different people. It is almost an instinct to surround yourself with people who look similar to you; look at your friend group, for example, how much diversity is really there? But not being able to talk to people different from you is not the only problem with the lack of diversity, it also creates a vision of how people are that may not always be accurate.

When out of the suburban bubble, for whatever reason it may be, many suburban residents are not sure how to act. For instance, when suburban teens go to the city, they don’t see some of the things they do as dangerous. They don’t see dressing inappropriately or talking to strangers as a threat. But this feeling of invincibility is not their fault, they just don’t know any better and how could they when the crime rate in most suburbs is almost 200% lower than the average national crime rate. Verona, for example, had a crime rate of 62.5 in 2010, while the U.S. average was 139.1. Safety in these communities is the reason most people are attracted to these areas, but when happens when you step out of the area?

People who grow up in the suburbs are obviously very fortunate to have such a nice environment to grow up in. I am definitely not complaining about the advantages I have had, but how much do we suburban babies really know about the real world and how to act? There are obvious upsides to living in the suburbs, but there may be even more downsides.  What is the suburban bubble resulting in? And is this sheltered lifestyle really better in the long run?

The English writer and critic Cyril Connolly once said, “Slums may well be breeding grounds of crime, but middle class suburbs are incubators of apathy and delirium.”