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Name: Locut0s of Borg
Gender: Male
Hometown: Vancouver
Home country: Canada
Current location: Canada
Member since: Sat Jan 1, 2005, 10:08 PM
Number of posts: 6,154

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The disillusioned generation. A rant.

Ok so I need to preface this with saying this is a rant. I've been feeling particular low recently and have been thinking about some of this for a while. There is nothing new below, and it's rather darker seeming than perhaps it should, that's just cause it mirrors my own mood.

I'm 31. I belong to what I'm going to call the generation of the disillusioned. I'm using generation rather loosely here as the concept probably covers my generation and the one before it. I spoke of this in a PM to another DUer here but thought like posting a rant about it anyway.

Historically I'm sure you could trace the problem, like so much else, back to the great wars of the previous century. WW II ending with the amazing thrust of the 50s and 60s that saw the rise of the baby boomer generation. A generation that came along just in time to take full advantage of the new post war world. A world full of technological advances, rapid globalization and seemingly unbounded promise for the future. Certainly people lived in fear of "the mighty atom" but so to would this generation be the first where every family had a house, a car or two in the garage, new kitchen applicants for mom and new toys for little Johnny under the tree year after year. Incomes were on the rise, jobs plentiful, the future bright.

And so perhaps for the first time in human history a generation, my fathers generation, was raised in an environment where not only were the basic necessities of no issue, but a 40 hour work week, lots of leisure time, and the ability to follow ones passions were seen as a birthright. And indeed for this generation they were. My father was somewhat typical of the kids of his era, he went to university full of heady ideas of literature, philosophy and the arts. The concept that he needed to get a job, to raise a family, none of this even entered his head. He studied Chinese literature and later met my mother and traveled to china. When it came time to settle down and raise me it never occurred to him that what he had studied was impractical, had shoe horned him into a life of failure. Instead he shopped around at the local colleges and universities and despite never having any teaching experience lucked into a job teaching Chinese at a local college. Perhaps this is a rather eccentric example but the idea holds for so many of his generation, when the hippie party ended and people went looking for jobs many of them lucked into good jobs. Certainly not all of them were great or in a career of their choosing but by and large they didn't have a hard time of it. In this game of musical chairs when the psychedelic music of the 60s stopped playing by and large there were enough chairs for all.

When it came time for my parents generation to raise children of their own they did so with the same positive world view they had been raised in. Why not expect the party to continue? So I like many of my generation was raised with stories of the 60s and 70s and the overriding message of "go out and be who you want to be!". Find yourself. Study Latin as your father did if that's what you want. Study astronomy, philosophy. Enrich your mind because that's what's really important, when it comes time for you to settle down and find a job you too will find there to be enough seats. Little did they know that the decades of the 80s and 90s would see so many of their own generation greedily scooping up all the available seats at fire sale prices. When the reaganization of the world kicked into high gear some time in the mid 80s through the late 90s many of those in my generation were just reaching our post secondary years. And now what?

Now the message had gone from "be what you want to be" to "you better have a fucking plan!". Even those who had a plan suddenly found themselves in a world of sky rocketing tuition, and uncertain job prospects. Of those who would graduate many more found themselves saddled with a lifetime of debt. Debt equal to the lifetime savings of their parents generation. Screw a house, a car, presents under the tree, the American dream, an ideal we were raised to believe should be easily attainable, that dream now consists of staying ahead of debt payments. The music stopped playing a decade ago and we are scrambling for the few seats left. People with 4 year degrees, single moms with little education, teens just entering the work force are all vying for the same job flipping burgers. Companies see the length of the lines and know they can be picky. There was a time when even without a degree you could somewhat reasonably expect to find a job in your career of interest, even if it was pushing the mail cart around the office. So long as you were willing to work hard there were opportunities for advancement. From your job pushing the mail cart at least you could see the desk job that awaited in due course. Now you need a degree in mail cart pushing to get that job, and forget about advancement.

Of course I speak of those who have not given up. I know many of my generation turned to alcohol and drugs. In the 60s people took drugs to connect with their fellow peers "fighting the man", these days they take them to disconnect, to numb the world. Others developed severe depression and social phobias. Of course the 80s saw the shut down of mental institutions as well. Many lauded this as a positive move and by and large it was, but like so many institutions that were shut down or gobbled up in the crazy move to privatize everything, they were replaced by nothing, or something wholly inadequate. Those with mental issues like myself are no longer thought of as crazy people to be locked away, thank goodness. But the stigma of mental illness has gone nowhere and lacking the support structures that were in place before we find ourselves an invisible people. Lumped in with the rest struggling to find jobs, and make sense of a lonely world.

Never has the world been more polarized. The 1% have more than anyone could use in ten generations the bottom 50% have less than they ever have. The left feels powerless, the right fear we are coming to take their massive collection of guns. In the span of some three decades the system of economic checks and balances put in place in the preceding decades have been systematically removed, ushering in an era where single players on the stock market can trade in nations worth of currency, where deals are counted in the trillions, where irony of ironies the insurance on these huge deals, should anything go wrong, are the lives of the 99%.

Is it any wonder my generation feels disillusioned? Where is this going? Not since the depression has youth unemployment been this high. Sure the stock market has recovered, but was there ever really any doubt that would occur? Jobs have returned, but many of them are temporary, or those at the bottom of the market. Those with jobs understandably hold onto them like the precious gold they are. In Japan, of all places, there is a youth subculture composed of the unemployed young who sleep in McDonalds and internet cafés. Europe still has youth unemployment approaching 20% or higher in many places. I don't doubt the same is true in many pockets of the US.

So what is to become of all this. What happens when a generation of people grow up terribly disillusioned. Saddled with debt working just to make ends meat, or saddled with emotional problems. Or those who have given up on life entirely. One generation begets the next, what does the future hold? I'm not one to wallow in apocalyptic scenarios of the future, nor am I a conspiracy theorist. I don't believe for a second that there is no hope. But nor am I blind, we face some very large challenges and it's been a long time since the future has seemed so uncertain. Need we be reminded that the roots of past terrible global calamities were often rooted in troubles of the generation before?

Update: As several have pointed out my generation is by no means unique in having to face looming obstacles and unfair starting conditions. The Vietnam War, WW I &II, The Depression, all generated generations of the disillusioned and depressed. Most of them went through far worse horrors than anything my own generation has seen. So please know I mean no disrespect nor hold my generation in any special light. I merely speak from my own experiences and feelings.
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