Once upon a time, our country experienced a depression so great that the middle class disappeared entirely. People stood in line for hours to procure moldy bread and meats. Children shared bathwater, people mended their socks, and hovels became coveted homes. The opulent lifestyles of the wealthy shone like homing beacons in the midst of the unwashed masses.

In modern America, not quite a century removed from these desperate times, we find our country in a much different mindset. The end of the second world war, and the years of fear-fueled war economics that followed, seemed to relieve America of it’s “depression.” The government injected the market with occupational programs, social services, and military-related vocations. Women were not only common in the workplace, but now expected to be there: half due to necessity, half due to the social push for independence.

Two working parents meant that people could now afford toasters, televisions, and cars– the middle class was experiencing a heyday unlike any generation before them. Disposability became a mainstay of our culture– single serving dinners, disposable diapers, and plastic ballpoint pens. An entire generation was raised on processed foods, aerosol hairsprays, and prenatal vitamins that caused deformities, as this country strove to be at the forefront of a cultural evolution. They were told that new was best, fast was convenient, and concerns were for “squares. ”

This generation, although instilled with a sense of disposability, maintained some of the previous generation’s sentiments. They had seen their parents clipping coupons, saving pennies, and creating nest-eggs. They had been warned, by those who had lived it, of a time when people fought rats for food. This was Gen X.

As this segment came of age, in the seventies and eighties, they rebelled against society, then embraced it. They hated their possessions, then fell in love with them. They were told they could feel how they wanted to feel, and damned if they weren’t feeling angry! At what? Their parents? Cultural expectations? Global unrest? It didn’t matter. This generation felt it was their right and duty to be expressive.

As Gen X begat Gen Y, a new era of entitlement was born. Since the days of their youth when Gen X had first “stuck it to the man,” many of them had become “the man.” They put in their 40+ hours a week, ingrained with the promise that this was the formula for success. Gen X wanted, more than anything, to spare their children the faux pas social struggles, and the fear of the past.

Gen X promised Gen Y a better world.

The result of this promise has been a twisted sense of entitlement to that world, and a whole generation left dazed by reality. I know I am not the only one feeling slighted.

It was all there, in every message our school teachers delivered us, that we could be anything we wanted to be. That we were all very full of potential, and that hard work alone was the key to unlocking our dreams. It was all there in every feel-good self-esteem-boosting book, poster, and mantra: the world was our oyster. There was even a roadmap– graduate high school, go to college, get a good job in our chosen fields. We could, then, feel professionally satisfied; could then live the comfortable lifestyles we had always known.

All we had to worry about was “being true to yourself,” making friends, and the pursuit of happiness. My generation invented MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, massive multiplayer online games, and YouTube. Being popular doesn’t even involve leaving your computer– which, by the way, now fits in your pocket. Our social lives are infinitely more complex than any generation before us. We’re so cool!

But, in the meanwhile, the global marketplace has become saturated with goods– shipped from overseas– and it’s not only the manufacturing sector that’s become outsourced. America is only beginning to understand the true nature of economics, only now realizing that we are by no means immune to “depression.” Only now realizing that the diploma-mills which comprise most of our “higher education system” are producing well-educated waitstaffs and sales reps in a country that can’t employ more philosophers, journalists, or music theorists. It’s no wonder my generation is so damn frustrated. If we held out for the jobs we wanted, a vast majority would be unemployed.

I heard a statistic the other day that really hit home. The talking head on PBS informed me that 81% of college graduates last year graduated without a job offer. So I did a little research on the subject.

According the a 2009 Survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, only 40% of graduating students who had applied for jobs received offers; less than 20% had secured a job for after graduation.  These statistics are contrary to everything we were told. So what do we do? Keep going back to school? According to this survey, that’s precisely what 26% of my peers are doing. Why? Because it’s “the next step,” obviously, and we take immense comfort in linear progression. Some of my contemporaries live with their parents well into their twenties. We like our hands held; we’ve been well-sheltered from anything dismal by cable television, pop music, and the illusion that we’re working with unlimited resources. According to these statistics, 41% of graduating seniors EXPECT to rely on their parent’s financial assistant after college. WHAT!? Well, I suppose someone has to carry the burden of our shattered expectation. We certainly weren’t prepared for this.

… Everything is going to be ok, right?

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Bleeding Out

May 17, 2010

Unless you’ve been in an underground vacuum chamber for the past month, you have no doubt seen/ read/ heard about the “oil spill” in the Gulf Coast. I am not going to regurgitate or dramatize a bunch of already paraphrased information. This “oil spill” is not a little puddle or leak. This, my friends, is an utter environmental catastrophe. Plain and simple.

The numbers are all over the charts– from conservative estimates provided by invested parties, to the ominous figures scientists and environmental groups are purporting– but even the lowest guesses are absolutely STAGGERING. BP, the company with the most financial investment (not to mention responsibility) in the disaster has estimated approximately 5,000 BARRELS A DAY, GUSHING into the ocean. Scientists and engineers are estimating the actual volume to be 10 times that.

To put it in perspective, well-educated individuals across the globe are estimating the scope of this “oil spill” to be the equivalent of the late 80’s Exxon Valdez catastrophe EVERY FOUR DAYS.

Multiply that by the fact that this pipeline has been GUSHING for nearly a month now, with no foreseeable conclusion.

The way I am seeing this, and I could be totally off base, is that the world, much like the human body, has a number of systems. In the earth, there is oil. Crude oil is essentially a waste product– thousands of years of mineral breakdown. The oceans are the veins that pump our planet’s blood. Full of life and driven by currents, they keep water, the blood of all existence, in constant global circulation. The ocean and the oil reservoirs are naturally separated, and with good reason.

What happens to a person when their kidneys, or appendix, rupture?

Am I way out of the ballpark in my analogy? Perhaps. Science isn’t necessarily my area of expertise, and I have never made that claim. But when I watch the video footage of this pipeline pumping oil into our ocean– a home for millions of species; the source of all life– I feel something inside me ache for the planet. I feel her groan. And I know that I am not alone. A lot of us are feeling it. Call it mana, call it the force, call it whatever you will; the connection between all living things has been disturbed. The global energy is at an unrest.

We are watching our Earth mother bleed out on TV.

Relevant reading materials:

Just How Much Oil is Spilling into the Gulf of Mexico?
Worry That Oil Spreading into Major Ocean Current
Coral Reefs Tainted by Oil Spill
The Daily Show– Who’s To Blame [video]