There is a whole “industry” set up to nurture these desires and delusions — most notably, the 1.5 million nonprofit organizations registered in the U.S., many of them focused on helping people abroad. In other words, the young American ego doesn’t appear in a vacuum. Its hubris is encouraged through job and internship opportunities, conferences galore, and cultural propaganda — encompassed so fully in the patronizing, dangerously simple phrase “save the world.”
It was once considered unbecoming, or annoying itself, to moan publicly about trifling personal ordeals. Now, in a seismic shift for the moral culture, abetted by technology, we tolerate and even encourage the “microcomplaint”: the petty, petulant kvetch about the quotidian.
Now these centuries-old networks are being seen as a promising tool to help low-income Americans build credit records, part of a new frontier of the war on poverty that has attracted a crazy-quilt coalition of supporters that include major banks, immigrant activists and academic researchers. In August, California became the first state to enact a law allowing nonprofits to offer small no-interest, no-fee loans, attracting unanimous support from Republican and Democratic lawmakers.