Those who view Occupy Wall Street protesters as nothing more than simpering, petulant children just don’t get it.
They’re adults we marginalize with the sobriquet “kids”. And these kids are not all right.
Take a look at this graph illustrating unemployment for those aged 15-24 in 15 industrialized nations, (cf. 2008 to Q1 2011):
The chart is not provided by some liberal site but by the staid The Economist.
Or see the depressing round-up of unemployment surveys for youth in the Middle East and Africa from Bloomberg BusinessWeek.com. It’s obvious the rage that finally propelled young people into Middle Eastern streets in the fall of 2010 and into the “Arab Spring” earlier this year was economic as well as political. What difference does it make if the foot on your throat is wearing a fascist boot or squared-toe Berluti?
The situation has become so serious, it’s now being likened to a ‘time bomb’:
While the details differ from one nation to the next, the common element is failure—not just of young people to find a place in society, but of society itself to harness the energy, intelligence, and enthusiasm of the next generation. Here’s what makes it extra-worrisome: The world is aging. In many countries the young are being crushed by a gerontocracy of older workers who appear determined to cling to the better jobs as long as possible and then, when they do retire, demand impossibly rich private and public pensions that the younger generation will be forced to shoulder.
In short, the fissure between young and old is deepening. “The older generations have eaten the future of the younger ones,” former Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato told Corriere della Sera. In Britain, Employment Minister Chris Grayling has called chronic unemployment a “ticking time bomb.” Jeffrey A. Joerres, chief executive officer of Manpower (MAN), a temporary-services firm with offices in 82 countries and territories, adds, “Youth unemployment will clearly be the epidemic of this next decade unless we get on it right away. You can’t throw in the towel on this.”
Closer to home, economic demographers say the huge increase in the number of Minnesotans in their 50s and 60s who will be retiring will create an unsustainable situation; we’ll be siphoning the state budget off for entitlements and programs for health and aging while economic growth through 2020 will be half of what it was. Barring a miracle, we’re unlikely to see a growth in revenue again. Attempts to discuss tax increases will continue to be protested by tea-types who, nonetheless, are happy to line up for their state aid.
I don’t believe there’s a disconnect between members of this younger generation and their own parents and grandparents; they wouldn’t want to deny their elders any social benefits.
However, the young feel no loyalty to the noblesse oblige or the mystical market to which so many others swear allegiance.
And now I’m one of those gerontological messer-uppers who’ll soon need Social Security much more than social networking. But in my heart, I’m a closet protester, someone born to root for the underdog, who believes in comforting the afflicted but also afflicting the comfortable (with credit to Finley Peter Dunne) when necessary.
The current demonstrations remind me this nation was founded on protest and that no good idea since has been sanctified except through protest. They also call to mind the hyperbolic but thrilling end to the popular film “‘V’ for Vendetta.” Shortly before his death at the hands of a totalitarian police force, V instructs his protege: “Governments should be afraid of their people.”
It appears neither our government – nor our corporations – are there yet.
SPOILER VIDEO of “‘V’ for Vendetta.”