The air feels still and close today. It is one of many strange days and I can’t help but wonder if the feeling of a storm coming in isn’t both literal and metaphorical.
I feel as though we are on the verge of tremendous change. Social, economic, and political. And when I say “we” I don’t just mean the United States. I mean the entire world. It is a feeling both ominous and hopeful. While the change is likely inevitable, what form it takes is not.
It’s particularly surreal to feel this here, sitting in my Macroeconomics class, learning information that will probably be obsolete for the next generation… which may in fact already be obsolete. And here we are, unable to see it. Like ants, too small to see the boot sole descending upon us, and the boot sole no less inevitable for all our myopia.
I think those who are younger than I am feel this more acutely. They were born into this season of change. I, a late gen-Xer, was still raised with the idea that if I worked hard enough and played the game well, I would be rewarded with stability.
The cynicism of my generation was the product of disillusionment; the understanding that what we’d been taught was wrong, that our corporate masters would not take care of us no matter how hard we worked. The understanding that employment did not mean safety and that saving for retirement was not a guarantee. The knowledge that we were a generation that would see soaring inequality.
Since the Boomers, each generation has thought of itself as doomed. Hunter Thompson said as much in his essay, Open Letter to The Youth of Our Nation, which he penned in 1955 at the tender age of eighteen. In it, Thompson takes on the heartily ironic voice of John J Righteous-Hypocrite and urges the youth of America to work hard and apply themselves, excoriating them as lazy degenerates. But the second and third lines of the essay feel prophetic:
“Do you realise you are rapidly becoming a doomed generation? Do you realise that the fate of the world and of generations to come rests on your shoulders?”
Generation X, my generation, also felt the weight of this doom, but perhaps not so heavily as does Generation Y, whose opting out is viewed as laziness and entitlement.
But I have to wonder, how can we demand that they invest in a system that’s falling apart?
And I have to wonder, are they investing their energy into systems that will support them when ours will not?
Because I guarantee you, our system will not be there to support them when they need it. Hell, it’s already not here to support me.
And the system is falling apart. Whether you put any stock in the study that predicts the collapse of western society, or this opinion piece on the death of capitalism, the fact is that a free society will not continue to persist under the current conditions.
Capitalism as a system relies on the redistribution of wealth from the top to the bottom; without it it cannot continue, as there are no customers to buy products. The decline of wages in real world dollars represents an inefficiency, a decline in the flow of capital that allows the system to function.
I’m not a doomsayer, though. I like to think that the coming storm of change will, like events perceived as collapses in the micro view, lead to better systems, higher standards of living, and an improvement in management of the commons.
I just worry it’s going to hurt the people least to blame in the process.
I keep stealing glances out the window to see if the rain has come in. I start a fourth page of notes on obsolescence. I wait. I study for my exam. I wonder.