This is the political revolution of my generation, and I’m not involved.
It’s not because I am apolitical. It’s also not because I don’t understand the issues involved – I do, which is ironic, because the majority of the protesters don’t have an idea or only a vague idea of what they’re protesting about and why.
I am really quite ambivalent about this movement. I don’t think my peers are idiots for protesting, but neither do I support them in full.
It is perhaps a defining characteristic of my generation that there is no leader in this movement; in fact, they’ve gone to great pains to rediscover and recreate a leaderless democracy. After all, we were all told we were leaders in school (many high schools had a leadership course – what was never taught, of course, was that it is as important to be a good to leader as to be a good follower, so instead of learning to politely shut up when they’re being stupid, most of my peers will continue to quietly and politely dissent. It’s an improvement from the yelling dissension of our parent’s generation, I suppose). What this movement is, is my peers discovering politics.
I was discussing this with Intangible on Sunday, and he and I both agreed that it is our peers who were politically apathetic that have now woken up to discover the world in shambles around them, and are protesting at Wall Street. Today, a commentator on a CBC radio podcast, said the exact same thing. Well, not really. He actually related something he said to a protester, along the lines of “Well you should vote! That’s how you effect change” and he noted the look of enlightenment and realization on the young man’s face.
That’s what this movement is really about – the politics of MY generation. And perhaps that’s also why I’m slightly contemptuous of it, because it was prideful ignorance that made my peers ignore the politics of our parents in the first place. I’m also disdainful of those of my peers who are protesting “because this is important” without knowing what is important, and those who believe they’re trying to make a stand for better food, better social support, etc. I would like to blame these aimless ones for the lack of political clout that this movement will have, but it’s not specifically their fault. This movement, because it’s so vague, tries to accomplish t0o many objectives as well as an objective that a, none of the protesters have any background in pushing forward and b, is too big for them to demand a solution to when they don’t have one on hand. This movement will fail to reform our financial system.
What I’m hoping for, though, is that this will cause my peers to become more politically engaged. Voter apathy is everywhere, and that is partly why the world is currently in an economic crisis. People aren’t farsighted enough these days to see beyond the pretty rhetoric of our politicians. For this reason alone, I support my peers’ actions but I will not join them in their protest.
Why? Because I have a job to go to, and this brings me to the lack of jobs complaint of my peers. I empathize with them, I really do. I know what it’s like to be unemployable in your field simply because there are no positions. I know what it’s like to be forced to go from job to job because you’re only given one-year term contracts. I’m in my second job post-graduation, a year after I graduated. My first job was a one year long contract that got cut short by four months due to shortage of work. My current job will end in eight months, when the lady on maternity leave comes back to her job. I feel your pain, but what do you expect the government to do? Create more jobs specifically in your field?
Job positions obey the rules of economics. If there’s no demand for someone with your specific skill set, you can hardly demand that your government spend money to create jobs for you, especially when the world is not on the brink, but a few steps away from another depression, and every government head is wary of being seen as spending money carelessly. I empathize with the demand, with the feelings of ineptitude, but I believe that it’s a sign of how spoiled and entitled my generation is, that they feel such a demand is reasonable. I went through the turmoil of being laid off. I went through the uneasy stage of being on employment insurance. I tutored, then moved and got a new job.
If there isn’t a job opening in your field, go be your own boss. Or move for a job. I had another friend who got laid off. He later became self-employed. Those of us who went to university thinking we would graduate and find a job waiting for us: you only have yourself to blame.
The New York Times sympathized with us as the generation that did what we were told and then found ourselves screwed over. Why do what you were told? University is not training for a job. That’s what colleges are for, you know, the institutions that give out diplomas instead of degrees. Traditionally, university is a place of higher learning that is supposed to spit out academics. You also go to university for professional training (ie, lawyer, doctor, engineer, teacher although this last one can be debatable, especially considering the quality of some of the teachers out there) but you don’t go to university and study the liberal arts if you have no interest in becoming a lawyer, politician or academic. You don’t go to university and study math if you want to be an accountant. You go to accounting school, or you major in business and hope you land a position with a firm that will back you through your exams to being a Certified General Accountant. You also don’t go to university and study psychology, come out and expect to find a job waiting for you. You’re not a psychologist. It may be useful to take psychology if you’re going to be a social worker, but not many of my peers had that ambition. In fact, many of my peers went to university and wasted four to six years of their lives and tens of thousands of their money or their parents money in an aimless venture. Aimless, because many of my peers went to university not knowing what they wanted to do. That’s fine, but they graduated wanting jobs that they’re not qualified for. And now, they’re working at Starbucks.
To me, that description, the preceding paragraph, is the epitomy of my generation. A clueless, mindless pack that went through life doing what others told them to do that is only now waking up and realizing that the politics they had ignored because they thought they couldn’t make a difference or because they thought it didn’t affect them actually… did… affect them.
Huh. Crazy, eh?
Oh. And as for those who naively reference the Arab Spring for the leaderlessness of the Occupy Wall Street protest – get real. The revolutions in the Arab Spring had no real leader because the regimes in place would quickly and efficiently make those leaders disappear. (Which has happened – one of the engineers who worked with Google disappeared for a few months in Egypt, and one of the emerging leaders of the revolution in Libya, I think it was, or maybe it was Yemen, was found brutally murdered). Oh, that’s also why a Jasmine Revolution will never happen, so rest your mind easy, Dictator China. If my mother can consciously abhor the Tiananmen Square incident but unconsciously echo the sentiments of Chairman Mao when he ordered the massacre of China’s educated, then so must many of the Chinese in China. Your brainwashing and promotion of the meek, docile Chinese personality has succeeded. Behold the bamboo ceiling!