I saw an article on Yahoo News that stated the the Recession has affected people in their twenties and thirties the worst. I am of this generation. Generation Y. The Recession Generation. I wasn’t surprised by the study cited in the article. After all, my generation graduated from college during the worst economy since the Great Depression. My friends have lost their jobs because they were the last hired. The world changed.
But a lot of the comments at the end of the article were from older generations. These folks said the “Young Generation” can’t find employment because we’re lazy, obnoxious, and essentially lacking the general attitude, aptitude, and work ethic to keep a job. A typical comment went something like this: “of course they can’t find a job—they are happier playing video games living in their parent’s basement.”
Occupy Wall Street was also cited in the comments as a justification for my generation’s unemployability. Such arguments are not unique nor endemic to modern times. Even in Greek philosophy it’s not rare to read how, in an older generation’s mind, the younger generation is worthless. Those Baby Boomers who, perhaps are more to blame for the current state of world affairs than any other generation, were themselves once decried by their parent’s generation as “hippies” or “radicals.” The circle will, I’m sure, continue. I know I was surprised to learn that the generations younger than mine are no longer taught to write in cursive.
But the more I tried to justify my generation in my mind, the more I began to wonder about the cumulative affects of the modern age. This: post-modern age. Maybe it’s because I just read Don Delillo’s White Noise, but I began to suspect maybe there’s more truth to those comments then I’d like to believe. How much time does the average person in my generation devote to entertainment versus the average man or woman one hundred years ago? I’m not sure, but I suspect it’s a great deal more time. And has the “helicopter parenting” nature of my parent’s generation as well as their financial success created a “generation of losers,” as one poster called us.
I know that I am not personally immune to such weaknesses. I was raised to value education over almost anything else—including knowledge. I know what you’re thinking and yes, they are not mutually exclusive. I went to college because a degree was thought to be a ticket to somewhere: namely the suburbs. Graduate school was, for me, just more of the same. It was just me following a roadmap somebody else created. But it wasn’t until the last few years that I’ve actually taken an interest in knowledge. Maybe it’s maturity or just the fact that I am more of an independent studier, but I find myself relishing reading or learning things I used to curse back in college. And I regret all that I wasted by floating by during my college years. All that time trying to fit in with a crowd I don’t even talk to anymore.
Now that I have my own business, I feel upset with myself for reading histories, biographies or other works outside my industry. I should be spending all my time reading about the law, or practice management, I think. But other times I feel so ignorant in general that I can’t help but continue on my quest for knowledge, no matter how tangential it is to my most important priorities. I am twenty-eight years old, and I am ignorant—both in and of the world. Seven years of higher education and all the schooling before it hasn’t changed that. I’ve never read the Bible all the way through but I can name the five best picture nominees from each of the last twenty years. And I don’t even own a video game system or have cable.
Some argue that Americans have been dumbed down over the decades. Take a Life Magazine from the 194o’s and it will seem as hard to decipher as Shakespeare. When Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea was first published in Life Magazine, that copy sold something like 5 million more copies than usual. People were hungry for good fiction. Is that still true today?
The grammar, style and vocabulary of even a few decades ago is a world apart from where we are today. Clear writing and clear thinking are more linked together than we’ll ever know. I sure wish I had a more crystallized notion of each.
We are the Recession Generation, and I worry that we’re bankrupt in more ways than we can even understand.