Dec 11, 2013

The Future is Unwritten, but...

Dear AAP-
I just recently discovered your site; I've read a few submissions and responses. You seem like a pretty intelligent guy. One of your recent one's was cringe worthy to say the least in the phrasing as well as lack of spelling, grammar, punctuation, and general lack of understanding from the poster. Which got me thinking, as a not that old of a female in the united states (a mere 25) I find I am more and more frustrated by people younger than me either by a few or more years. I am not saying I am perfect by any means, far from in fact. We seem so preoccupied with what's next, politics, technology, etc. we seem to have left our children in a lurch. When I was growing up there was music, art, sports a plenty in schools and affordable at that. However I also came from the "you" can be anything you want generation with little to no work, which led to a lot of well what the hell do I want to do for the rest of my life?" Which now has grown into what can I see myself enjoying forever and won't be obsolete in 15 years, while still being me? This is equally scary in this day and age. What I am getting at is our children's futures don't seem to matter like they once did. My question(s) is/are - Do you think we are missing the big picture by focusing too much on one small piece of it here and now or worse dwelling on what once was? Have we lost our will to rebel and fight back? Are we dooming ourselves by producing a less intelligent (not all) youth who aren't armed with knowledge in the struggle of it all? Thanks for reading ~ SW  ps: I apologize if this seems scattered it's 6:23am here and I am nearing the end of my shift at work. I am a bit tired.

Dear SW-
Thanks for the kind words. 

Your question is the sort that, a few years ago, would have sent me on a multi-thousand word rant about why and how (in my opinion) things have gotten to be so much more difficult for the vast majority of people who just want to have a decent quality of life. The rant starts with the election of everyone's favorite puppet/stooge - Ronald "Trickle Down" Reagan in 1980, then builds to include the increasing influence of money in the political process, the "corporate political donations count as free speech" insanity and the I-give-up madness of cable channels being allowed to call themselves "News" channels when their own program guides describe their shows as either "Opinion" or "Commentary."  ...then I start drifting into the demonization of facts, science and education, the clearly on-purpose destruction of the public education system and the rise of the defiantly ignorant, yet loud "true" American...

...but I won't subject you to all that today

When I was about 25 I too was working a "3rd Shift" job from 11pm to 7am, five nights a week. I was working in a blood lab, doing medical tests... a job I had ZERO qualifications for, but since it was mostly just running machines and inputting numbers into spreadsheets, I didn't exactly need any prior experience. At first the gig was exciting because it was my first post-college full time employment and my first regular job since moving to the big city (Boston.)  ...but it quickly grew tiresome. The vampire hours disconnected me from my friends (this was all way pre-internet), my (admittedly shitty) band broke up and I obviously had to leave shows early (and sober) to get to work.

After about a year and a half, I knew I had had enough. Working in a blood lab was definitely not why I moved to Boston. One night, I just told my supervisor that I couldn't do it anymore and I quit. No "two week notice," I just finished my shift and then walked out the door, knowing that something better had to be in store for me, and there was. 

Flash forward to late 2013 -The way things are now, if I was 25 years old again and in that same position, I don't know if I would (or could) quit that job - I wouldn't have the same optimism that there has to be "something better" out there. ...and that is where we're all at, as a culture, after 33 years of The Rich getting Richer and the Poor getting fucked.

...and you can't even say that sort of thing these days without some ignorant douchebag calling you a socialist and a communist. Somehow people have gotten the idea that "Capitalism" and "Democracy" are the same thing. They're not. 

Anyway. dammit. I was ranting again. Sorry. Let's focus on you and your questions. 

First of all, yes, I do think we're all missing the big picture as a country (and, with a few exceptions, as a species) but I often think it is because while we might 'dwell on what once was' we mostly completely fail to learn from our past mistakes - and again, I'm talking about us as individuals and as a species. Each new generation hits the ground running, thinking they're going to live forever and worried that they're not going to "get their share" so greed and avarice takes over their thinking and then, after decades of "me" oriented life, they finally, usually on their deathbeds, figure out that they got it all wrong and should have pointed their focus outward, been more empathetic and thought more about the negative consequences of their actions - on their fellow man and on the planet.  --- egods. I sound like an old hippie now, don't I? ... I'm just coming to the realization that, after (approx) 40,000 years or so, our species might be coming to the end of it's run - mostly because we haven't figured out a way to really tap into our collective unconscious. 

Secondly, yes... the "will to rebel" is weakening in the new generation. ...and I'm not saying that in a "kids these days!" way. Studies are already showing that the Millennial kids (which almost includes you) generally assume that authority-figures DO have their best interests in mind and at heart... this is probably because they grew up in an environment of involved and evolved parenting - The shit is going to hit the fan as they get older and find themselves baffled by the petty tyrants, unhinged cops and equally faceless AND ridiculous bureaucracy/authority that will have real control over their lives. It'll be ugly for sure - but once the penny drops and they (you) as a generational group realize that they're getting fucked over, maybe THEN some fundamental things will change... unless it is too late - and given the surveillance state that is being created around us, it might be. What I'm saying is - maybe "the kids" aren't as prepared as we were to "Question Authority" ...but we were so negatively primed, we weren't  surprised by it all... They are going to be shocked, and hopefully shocked into action -they'll also (hopefully) have the technology that we lacked and might actually make something good happen. I'm hopeful. 

Basically, I'm saying you're right: As bad as I thought my generation had it, today's kids are going to face challenges (economic, spiritual etc) that'll be much tougher to surmount. Sometimes, like when my hip, shoulder and/or knee seize up for no apparent reason and stop working correctly, I wish  I was 25 again... but then I'm struck with the terror that I would then probably have to live until 2070 or something... and I'm not sure that would be a good time. 

There isn't much you can do to prevent your possible obsolescence in 15 years either. Industries change, shift and crumble at the drop of a hat these days. Even if you're one of the gold-rush types who learn a coding language and flock to some high-tech hotbed... in a few years, you'll spend as much time keeping up learning NEW coding etc as you'll spend working (or sleeping, or trying to 'have a life') ... The truth is: you could graduate #1 from the top engineering school on the planet and you'll still be behind the curve within five years, ten tops. The helping professions are always an option - nursing, doctoring, that sort of thing... until the robots start filling in those positions... and even THAT social contract got voided just this week: The old trade-off was: Work these hard, largely low-paid and thankless, but ESSENTIAL jobs and you'll at least have a decent retirement pension... but just last week a court ruled that Federal bankruptcy laws over-rule state pension laws meaning: After rich corporate interests have sucked the blood from a city (through tax breaks and other concessions) and then skated off with bags of money, the cities (or even the states) will now be able to raid pension funds when they go bankrupt...and that pension money will go where? .... to the same people who helped cause the bankruptcy in the first place. Say it with me: USA !  USA !  USA !

So, it looks like I'm ranting after all. I sound pretty negative don't I? ... not quite full of youthful hope and vigor. I realize this, but the truth is, I do have some hope, even if it feels feeble at times. The pendulum swings one way, then the other... as bad as things seem, times HAVE been darker, but that isn't much consolation when you're young and experiencing the dark for the first time. 

So how do you manage to navigate all this stuff and "still stay you" ?? The best you can do at the moment is to not buy in to the current system, don't acquire a pile of debt by buying a bunch of crap that you've been (falsely) convinced you need. Don't buy into the bullshit. Keep things simple and inexpensive. Once you start incurring debt, you'll be wearing their collar for a long time. We all have to face the fact that whatever we're doing now we likely won't be doing in 15 years, no matter how solid we think the ground beneath our feet might be. you've got to stay flexible and adaptable. You have to keep an open mind and, even more importantly (and more difficult) you have to keep an open heart. 

Good luck.