Occupation by the 20-Somethings?
(News image and my photo of a Kant text.)
I’ve been at home for most of the last few weeks, writing away at my thesis. My respect for the work that goes into the creation of a scholarly paper. . . or any high quality piece of text in general. . . has increased substantially in the process. So, to get my mind to shut off, I’ve decided to write. . . oh dear!
However, considering the recent protests throughout the world, I feel like I’m not doing quite my share in voicing my displeasure with the current state of affairs, a displeasure that is particularly poignant perhaps among members of my generation. Sure, it’s hard to make sweeping generalizations about a whole generation, but I have a feeling that people in their 20s have been hit especially hard by the deep recession the world has found itself in ever since 2008.
Of course, I’m not a sociologist, journalist, economist, or any other form of expert on the situation, but a number of sources of varying levels of seriousness suggest that people of my generation are growing up later. (The New Yorker, The New York Times, Slate, and most recently in New York Magazine. . . New York being where young people of the US congregate, of course.) At least that is how some journalists describe the situation.
But might it not be said that economic circumstances are keeping us from growing up? I take not growing up to mean that in many cases we have not yet gained a certain level of financial independence from our parents that would allow us to feel “stable” enough to settle down and raise a family. The reasons for the problem vary, of course, from an unwillingness to grow up to an inability to do so because either career opportunities are limited or because we are burdened with unprecedented levels of student debt.
Considering my own financial dependence on the Japanese government and occasionally on my parents to pay for international flights home, I think I am a member of this “problem” generation, although I am on a track to adulthood that has existed in this form for multiple generations before me. My parents weren’t “settled” until my Dad was 37, says my sister, because the academic career requires more education.
Of course, I believe many young people are deciding to continue their education to “escape the real world.” I might be accused of the same form of avoidance, but I prefer to say graduate students such as myself are strengthening their prospects for when they do enter the job market.
And I try to be aware of the huge challenges that I will face once in the job market. The recession has hit education institutions that might hire us just as hard as it has hit business, taking chunks out of US universities’ endowments and public universities’ allotted tax revenues, driving universities to cut budgets. In some cases this has meant cutting faculty positions or whole departments. Remember the complete cut of five departments in the humanities at SUNY Albany? Other universities followed similar approaches. . . Nevertheless, I still want to follow this path.
I could, of course, not worry about the job market, because I won’t be looking for employment for about 6 more years. I could instead focus entirely on what is at hand and be happy with what I have, a full scholarship and a position in a master’s program at a prominent institution. Of course, I am incredibly grateful for these things, but I also see very little difference between where I am now just days before my 29th birthday and where most of my peers are that are described in the articles I linked to above.
And I don’t really like just sitting idly by and letting things go as they go. So, I would like to give my solidarity to the protestors. I am a member of the 99%!
But for now, I have to work on making myself employable. . .
[Update 10/24/2012] I’d just like to share Charlie Chaplin’s speech at the end of the Great Dictator, which is perhaps as pertinent to life now as it was when it was made.
[Update 5/21/2012] And here some thoughts by Žižek about the Great Dictator. He points out that the music in the speech scene is the same as in another, very different scene. “With music we can not ever be sure. In so far as it externalizes our inner passion, music is always a threat.”