Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Loser Generation: Part Four

What matters to you?

Do you care about the shrinking middle class? The environment? Immigration? Gay marriage? Prison overcrowding and marijuana legalization? Farmer’s rights? Internet piracy, freedom and copyright laws? Traditional schooling? Religion’s role in society?

It doesn’t matter.

Why that is is complex, but comes down to how our country works these days. Whatever you are interested in, there are three basic ways you could invest your time and resources. The first is through non-profits, local organizations, and grassroots movements. The second is through corporations and the market. The third is through government.

The first two means of advocating, supporting, or getting involved are subject to the third. Non-profits and local organizations are subject to local and federal laws, as are corporations. If Congress or the Supreme Court is able to regulate, change, outlaw, or give tax credits to your nonprofit or corporation they clearly hold the greatest sway of the three.

Let’s say your pet interest is in rebuilding Detroit and New Orleans after the past decade treated them so poorly. You could join a local group, such as Rebuilding Together or Habitat for Humanity. Or you could use your wallet and buy items from or take a vacation this year to New Orleans to finally go and see Mardi Gras. These sorts of activities seem to have little connection to any government interference.

A closer look will reveal a greater role of the government policy. The top ten employers in Detroit are:

Detroit Public Schools
U Michigan
U Michigan Health System
US Government
Henry Ford Health System
St. John Health System

They comprised 240,000 local jobs in 2007. Anyone who has followed the recent discussions about whether the government should bail out the American car industry, or the role of government in providing health care, can’t help but notice the biggest factor for recovery in Detroit is going to be Washington.

This may seem cherry-picked. Detroit and New Orleans are both cities, and that’s different from other causes as it’s perhaps more directly tied to government. Since that’s fair we’ll look at each of those other causes mentioned above in turn.

The shrinking middle class.

What are some of the main reasons for this? The middle class is 70% of the economy, but they can no longer borrow in the ways they could before the Great Recession. Had Washington’s bailout been structured differently, this current state of the middle class would be different as well. Robert Reich gives a quick summary:

“Starting around 1980, globalization and automation began exerting downward pressure on median wages. Employers broke unions in order to make more profits. And increasingly deregulated financial markets began taking over the real economy.

“The result was painfully slow wage growth for most households. Women surged into paid work in order to prop up family incomes. When that stopped working, families went deep into debt, using the rising values of their homes as collateral. Then the housing bubble popped.”

While government can’t control some forces (globalization and automation) they most certainly can support and play a vital role for others (maintaining strong unions, regulating financial markets).

The environment.

A recent example of the role of active government regards the Keystone XL pipeline. The National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network and others joined together to pressure Congress into not putting through the work. Millions of signatures were collected. Non-profits and individuals here teamed up to get something accomplished. A number of Representatives signed a statement against the pipeline project, based on the pressures of their constituents.

On the flip side recall the BP spill of 2010. The decisions of who, and how we get our energy in this country comes directly from Washington. They have the final say in who gets to drill, what percentage of our energy will be from coal, what tax breaks certain energy sources are granted. They own the land, and ultimately if the administration insists on regulating safety measures the companies have no choice but to comply. These basic facts – the land belongs to the government and they can regulate business practices – makes Washington the critical player in most environmental concerns, from habitat loss to ozone depletion.


Last week the Supreme Court upheld Arizona’s state law which allowed police to ask for documentation papers of suspected illegal immigrants. Obama’s administration has changed course and now pledges to no longer prosecute young illegal immigrants. State and local interests, such as the Arizona law and other border state concerns, are eventually privy to federal government’s rulings and choices. Immigration is entirely decided by government.

Gay Marriage.

You can join a group that supports it. You can get a bumper sticker that advocates for traditional families being defined in the constitution. Regardless, the decision will be made on the state and someday possibly federal level as to what is legal. Currently state government has ruled in six states (Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa) and D.C. with two pending (Washington and Maryland) that it is legal, while half the states have a state constitutional ban. The armed services have just repealed ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, and Section Three of the Defense of Marriage Act is currently being disputed, having been found to be unconstitutional at least for California. To say that marriage is not an issue for government is false.

Prisons, Drugs.

Last year the Supreme Court upheld a ruling that stated California’s prisons were overcrowded, and needed to be reduced. We have incarcerated 3% of our population – a global record, not statistically but certainly in raw numbers: 2,353,727 adults and juvenile offenders. According to the Bureau of Justice: “In 2004, 17% of state prisoners and 18% of federal inmates said they committed their current offense to obtain money for drugs.” That’s a specific drug-related reason, though. If you broaden it to all drug-related crimes you get the following:

108,000 federal prisoners (of 211,455 as of April 2010)
280,000 state prisoners (of 1,395,916 as of 2007)

These are older statistics from the more current numbers above, but they still provide a good glimpse that half of federal inmates, and one in five state-held inmates are drug-related offenders. With a black American population of 39 million (13% of the total), for whom there’s a 1 in 3 likelihood of going to prison, issues of incarceration are important – not for personal concerns but the effect of this skewed system on the community and the continual stereotypes and harmful perceptions in American society. For all Americans the issue of prison reform, in the hands of the federal government, is a concern. Likewise more Americans support the legalization of soft drugs than ever before in our history, and the interplay between federally illegal drugs and state legality is certainly going to play out in the upcoming years.

Farmer’s rights.

This ties in again with the environment and land. Monsanto is responsible for most of our food – and fifty superfund sites. As a corporate entity they make sure to get what they want, contributing over $300,000 in 2010 to specific candidates, and $8.8 million in lobbying. Government can regulate them, fine them, give them tax breaks, appoint their board members to the cabinet, or throw their CEOs in jail. With a handful of other companies to consider the near entirety of our food comes from few sources. How it reaches us, if it’s healthy, if it’s affordable, and its effect on the land are all determined by Washington.

As for farmer’s rights, these are increasingly threatened in the heartland, with these large, loosely regulated companies taking away rights and securities, forcing certain practices regardless of the farmer’s ethics or concerns for health and safety. Without oversight Monsanto and others can do what they like to the farmers and dare them to survive on their own. Not surprisingly this has led to numerous lawsuits against these giants from farmers to other companies across the globe, worth many hundreds of millions.

Incidentally Monsanto first rose to prominence, with Dow, creating Agent Orange – used in Vietnam. Not surprisingly Monsanto has been sued not just by farmers but by veterans as well.

Internet piracy, freedom and copyright laws.

SOPA and PIPA. The internet was enflamed by these federal measures to play a greater role in the internet’s governance. Ever since the Bush years email has not really been any more private than wiretapped telephones. Copyright laws were first written up in 1787 at the Constitutional Convention, established: “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

This is controlled by our government. We’ve long since done away with the “limited Times” bowing down to corporate demands to keep their property and ideas out of the public domain and in private hands for personal profit. We could reverse this, but instead have created many laws to help it along. In 2008 The Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights Act was passed, and others are being debated and begun, such as the ‘Six Strikes Plan’ to encroach further still. Trade agreements with other countries also reinforce copyright and patent strictness, such as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, ACTA, which requires criminal prosecution. Since 95% of all music downloaded online, at least as of 2008, is done so illegally these laws are noteworthy.

Software lawsuits, claims, and opportunistic litigation has led the loss of half a trillion dollars. Whatever fascinates, inspires, or drives you – think of what your pet interest could have done with $500,000,000,000 to spend. This actually segues nicely into the next section.

Traditional schooling.

Federal funding for higher education in the country has been increasing since No Child Left Behind was passed. Most funding, of course, comes from local government, with specific tax laws differing state to state. Yet in 2012 the estimated federal spending on education is $77.3 billion, a not inconsiderable amount.

As we attempt to improve student performance NCLB laws are changing to better suit needs, with the current administration’s initial Race to the Top initiative and now the voucher system to bypass the least effective parts of No Child Left Behind, which, from an educator’s point of view, has been a statistical failure.

Important Washington legislation in particular for the Loser Generation’s point of view has shifted college loan debt – for those who graduated after 2008. Nationally this will have a huge effect.

Religion’s role in society.

In 2005 the Supreme Court ruled in McCreary vs. ACLU that a portrayal of the Ten Commandments outside a federal courthouse was unconstitutional, due to separation of church and state.

In April of this year a man was arrested for bombing an abortion clinic in Wisconsin. A similar attack happened in January of this year in Florida. Both men were convicted.

State to state Intelligent Design is being taught or barred from schools. As of 2005 the highest ruling on the subject comes from Pennsylvania, and states that Intelligent Design “is not science, and moreover that I.D. cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious antecedents.”

One in six Americans thinks, incorrectly, that Obama is a Muslim, as of May of this year. As of last fall 47% of Americans feel as though Muslims’ values are at odds with American values.

As you can see the topic of religion in American society is still a hotbed, and still intertwined with government.

This, then, is why I said it didn’t matter what matters to you. In the end no matter what you care about, what makes you joyful or steam at the ears, it all comes back to the critical role government plays in our lives. If government is so important, then it is critical that it works at peak efficiency. The next step in this investigation of how to fix the Loser Generation will require a study of how this much needed efficiency has been lost.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Loser Generation: Part Three

Dispatches from the Loser Generation

I’ve been travelling around the country for some time. But it was in East Haven, Massachusetts on a porch in the heat that a bartender dubbed me a ‘traveler’. Now that it was out there people since from all over have called me that. The best thing about it has been collecting stories from new friends and old all across the country. They’re great people, but that doesn’t keep them from being members of the Loser Generation.

First Dispatch: Megan in Portland

“I met Megan abroad. I was teaching in Singapore, seeing what made their students do well on those tests. (Hint: they don’t have the same rules about plagiarism that we do.) She and I met online, as is my typical form of meet-up these days. We hit it off, not romantically but as good friends. After a couple months she went back to the States.

“When my contract was up I headed back and got in touch. She was in Portland, and I’d never been. So, having little to occupy me…

“One of the first things I noted was that the polite cartoon characters on the bus urging me to move to the back and not yak on the phone were wearing beanies and fleece while sporting soul patches. Also: poverty. Lots of poverty on the public transport system.

“It’s an unusual town where the young suits downtown have gauged ears and conspicuous tats creeping out of their collars and winding down their wrists. It being January it wasn’t easy to get a good look at the native fauna though, with the unforgiving winds ushering locals indoors. I went to the sights: the parks, Powell’s Bookstore, and the food carts. But more on Megan.

“M’s a couple years older than me, 27, and is taking the long road to her diploma. She was in SG [Singapore] to study. She’s an awesome cook, and is known character at Whole Foods. She’s renting a house near campus with three other girls and a cat. She’s studying neuroscience, and probably getting published soon.

“Her roommates and boyfriend are pretty cool. They’re good to hang around and have a drink with or talk about the state of politics today. Some are still in school, some have graduated. Everyone’s working barista, waitress, and bookstore-style jobs.

“She’s not entirely sure what comes next. She’s used to working to get by, in stints when she wasn’t in college. With her degree she’ll likely need to round up funding for the rest of her career. Apparently there may be something available at a lab locally, which would be great. If not, well, we didn’t talk much about that.”

Second Dispatch: Joseph in Ithaca

“S: Hey dude – I’m in Ithaca!

“J: cool
     what are you doin’ there?

“S: Visiting Joseph. And Em. He’s up at Cornell for grad school.

“J: what does he study?

“S: Some sort of bio. Environmental stuff with earthworms.

“J: well at least the weather’s decided to be summer.

“S: I know! It was 60 degrees the other eveing.

“J: ithaca is a depressing town. make sure your friend doesn’t hang himself.

“S: It’s a depressed town, certainly. Like Louis C.K.’s bit on whole towns that are shit.

“J: isn’t it the suicide capital of the u.s.?

“S: Probably. Joe’s doin’ alright here, though. It’s better than the jobs he had after [university].

“J: what was he doing before?

“S: Chasing geese off of New York reservoirs with a flare gun.

“J: that sounds awesome.

“S: Awesomely cold and low-paying, yes. Basically he’s pledged to stay here as long as he can so he doesn’t have to enter the workforce.”

Third Dispatch: Haley in New York

“C: Hey!

“T: Hey! Are you in NY?

“C: I am. :)

“T: Say hi to Haley for me!

“C: Will do. I’m staying at her place.

“T: I know. I saw your profile. ;)

“C: How’s life?

“T: It’s okay. Things are a little stressful right now. Eric’s deploying soon.

“C: That’s rough.

“T: mmhm.

“C: When does he get back?

“T: Early June. He leaves on Thursday.

“C: Well send him my and Haley’s best luck and wishes.

“T: How’s Haley doing? I’ve not spoken to her in, like, a month and a half.

“C: She’s doing okay. She’s dating Rick now, if you ever knew him from school.

“T: I don’t think so…

“C: He and I were in the same department. He’s a cool guy. She’s trying to get by, and is working a sort of 9-5 secretarial job, temping. She’s working on her own projects when she can.

“T: Did she ever send off her applications to go back to school?

“C: Nope. Didn’t want the debt.

“T: Makes sense…

Fourth Dispatch: Sam in Cleveland and Lynne in L.A.

“Howdy. Quick message while I’ve got a minute.

“I’m back in Cleveland at Sam’s. He just lost his job shortly after I planned my trip. Cleveland is…Cleveland. I think I saw everything I ever wanted to see last time I was out here. We’re chilling out. Not eating out as much as last time, not surprisingly.

“His girlfriend’s moved down to L.A. so he wants to follow her out there fairly soon. He’s got a cool kickstarter project he hopes will raise some funds. His girlfriend, Nat, is at the B.U. campus in LA (which makes little sense to me, but whatever). She’s pretty cool, and hopes to break into the entertainment business out there. I’m going to put her in touch with Lynne.

“Speaking of which, I got a call from her on Monday. She’s having trouble getting a job, but things are going well with David. Best of luck to them... She’s doing some freelance work, but since everyone in Hollywood got fired jobs that anyone used to be able to just walk in off the street and take now have ridiculous pre-reqs. A job that is basically coffee gopher is now asking five years’ experience – and people can provide it, because they used to be it ten years ago. It used to mean if you had that on your resume you sucked too badly to even advance.

“So she’s still at home, and is making enough to basically cover her monthly loan payments, even though she knows people and has contacts. David’s doing a bit better, and they want a place of their own, but until she can find something solid that just isn’t going to happen.”

These writings are all based on real people I’ve spent time with on my travels, and all composed of real details, changing names. There've been many others. A few, in brief:

B – Who after graduation shared an apartment with her college roommate in Seattle, working retail to pay the bills, working in theaters at night for no pay. She decided to go back to school.

O – Who after graduation worked as a waitress in South Carolina, living with her parents, then a summer job working with children. She then took on an internship, and eventually landed a year-long job in Connecticut.

E – Who dropped out for a while, unable to pay tuition fees. He’s now at another school, far behind when he might’ve graduated. Works at a Panera, and doesn’t know what he’ll do once he graduates. Lives with his parents.

D – Who works at Gamestop and has gone from liberal arts college to community college, and back to another liberal arts college. Lives with his parents as well. Drives a bus as another source of income.

A –Who graduated late, moved to Maine to be with his girlfriend after a stint with parents. Works for a nonprofit; future uncertain after the November election.

K – Who moved out to Boston and works three different shifts, always bringing her work home to finish, to pay the bills. Graduated in 2011, and unlike many I’ve mentioned, works in the field she studied.

N – Who graduated in 2007 and worked in a bookstore from then until last year, when she quit. She’s now bagging wholesale coffee, sharing an apartment with four other individuals.

S – Who got his diploma and promptly worked three jobs: as a waiter, a piano teacher, and a lackey for a video company in Oakland so he can share his apartment with a friend.

W – Who got a certificate to be a masseuse after college, and has yet to find a position in her state, living with friends and without a car in a depressed town.

R – Who has worked as a waitress in Madison, WI since she graduated five years ago, pursuing her passions in her free time and at night for almost no pay in the field she studied.

V – Who tried to be a teacher in NYC and ended up working for a private company in Jersey City after three years of subbing.

H – Who documented Occupy and told me they were making plans in Denver if I was interested.

I said in the last post we were going to be the solution to our own problem, how a bunch of middle class families ended up getting wiped out, and how those of us graduating post 2007 have been hit so hard. Now that I’ve given some detail about the problem, statistically and anecdotally, I can begin to talk about the solution.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Loser Generation: Part Two

How exactly did we become losers? By many measures, we aren’t succeeding in the ways our predecessors did. If you’re a college graduate, you likely have a lot of debt and a degree that’s not helping you get a job.  You’re under-utilized in the economy, and there’s a good chance you have already lived, or still are living, at home. Instead of starting families, we’re in limbo, working the sort of crummy, low-paying jobs that we worked in high school and to pay for college, but that we didn’t expect to have to work once we had a degree. We’re in economic straits; unhappy, and often cynical.

The obvious answer is the Great Recession, since December of 2007. To trace the causes of this economic collapse would take a volume. Certain laws, such as Glass-Steagall separating banks from securities,  were repealed along with other regulations put in place after the Great Depression of the 30s. When these were removed, in a process from Regan to Clinton to Bush, the same risky patterns that had led to the Great Depression began again. The critical components of the fallout were that pensions disappeared and houses were being foreclosed on – both of which struck the middle class. This, in turn, was compounded by the fact that middle class families are historically highly likely to send their children to college. Since the 1980s,  tuition has far outpaced the middle class wage (which has diminished relative to purchasing power over the same period). So our generation took out loans to pay for it, which previously wasn’t too bad an option, if you could get a well-paying job after college and pay them off in maybe ten years.

Since 2007 things have gotten better. Still the United States has roughly 9% unemployment and 15% of its population is living under the poverty line. The Occupy movement was to be expected, since a consistent factor in determining a country’s overall happiness is its income discrepancy. The less of a discrepancy, the happier the population. When a large portion of the people being hurt by the recession are youth, of course they’re going to be fed up with the status quo. Approximately 17% of the unemployed are under the age of 30. That’s roughly 3,400,000 people, or the population of Wyoming, Montana, Vermont and New Hampshire combined. These numbers do not include the under-employed who’ve settled for part-time work, or have simply given up hope looking; for youth currently listed as 32% - one in three. The actual un- and underemployed numbers are estimated to be higher than the reported.

Who is going to fix this mess? Historically, based on the Great Depression, it’s best to employ Keynesian economics in the form of government intervention. Reputable economists, such as the Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman, are very consistent in saying the initial government bailout was the right idea, but simply not big enough. When free market forces go awry and the bust gets too big to comfortably handle (like 3.4 million unemployed youth) the government steps in and regulates to ensure safety for its citizens. This has been true for boom-bust cycles going back to the 1600s. So we need to turn to government, right?

In John W. Dean’s Broken Government he addresses the discouraging trend of voter apathy and reminds us “Over the years –actually, over the decades– the figures have not changed significantly, so the data from 2004 are as good as any and probably not far from what they have been since the embarrassing records were first kept in the 1930s.” This apathy and ignorance of voters is disheartening, certainly. About 60% of Americans in the Bush years thought there was a link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11, to take a recent depressing example. As of 2010 one in five said Obama was a secret Muslim. Dean cites where Americans stood in the 2004 election for voter turnout:

“How many Americans do vote? The answer is surprisingly few. Among the 172 nations of the world for which records are maintained, the 2004 nationwide voter turnout of 48.3 percent of eligible voters…ranks the United States 139 among the world’s democracies, slightly ahead of Botswana (46.5 percent) and Zambia (40.5 percent). Most developed democracies have far greater turnout, like Germany (80.6 percent), Sweden (83.6 percent), France (84 percent) and Italy (92.5 percent).”

The 2008 election had the largest turnout since the 1960s, with between 62-3% of eligible voters going to the polls for the Presidential election. That’s still less than the most recent elections in the United Kingdom, Kazakhstan or even Togo. The point being – we are in part losers of our own making. Luckily, we can be the solution to our own problem.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Loser Generation: Part One

Let me tell you about the loser generation.

Our beginnings were auspicious, as is a requirement to be a loser. Something had to be lost. What happened specifically to me won’t match many other people’s story, but it’ll be close enough, I hope, to identify with. And it doesn’t start when I was born, but instead, in 1991.

In kindergarten I didn’t know what was going on, just that we were in the other classroom and the other teacher was telling us something important. She may even have said we wouldn’t understand what was going on. I was young for my grade, five years old with a summer birthday. The Wall had come down when I was three, and now the Soviet Union – and the Cold War with it – had collapsed. The U.S. had won.

That was a fact I would not understand fully until very recently. I understood historically what had occurred years later, but the ramifications I am still grappling with. The loser generation had the best childhood in the history of world. If you were American, middle class, growing up in the 90s there really was no better childhood for an average kid that I can think of. We never had bomb drills. The economy was roaring, and the middle class on the swell. Crime was down, optimism up, and no enemies.  Never before had there been a global super power so totally unopposed. No one in the world was there to challenge us, and scores of old feuds were being settled. Ireland made peace. The Israelis and Palestinians made peace. The Balkans settled. It was now Pax Americana and for a child with no understanding of the background forces of the world all I knew was life was good.

When the Gulf War broke out I asked my dad if he had to fight (since that’s what happens in the movies and stories). But he explained the war would be over before he could’ve gotten to a base. And so we became the first post-Cold War generation. We had no memories of a time or life before then.

(Students entering high school for 2012 will have no memory of 9/11. I was a sophomore in high school by then.)

Our title soon changed, though, due to other things in 1991. My school days were standard for the time, perhaps. Slide rulers, dictionary drills (to find words quickly), and learning from the librarian how to use the card catalogue. In third grade we did some logo programming on computers. By fifth grade we were learning how to make rudimentary HTML pages. They felt more like art projects – expressive sheets about us filled with silly .gifs and garish .jpegs. I had seen graphics come a long way from my mom’s Apple Plus – the screens weren’t green anymore, the printers weren’t rotary. The screen and computer diverged and the iMac lost the floppy drive. We were becoming the computer generation - the first ever to grow up with this technology and the internet at our fingertips.

Eighth grade graduation came in 2000. I’d grown up north of Silicon Valley, and seen the bubble burst. But the internet, and the companies that were critical to the new world, were still around. Y2K didn’t happen. I went to high school with an email address, an AOL chat name to keep in touch, and an interest in the Bush-Gore election. In mock elections, that freshman fall, our hippie school voted overwhelmingly for Nader. Such views perhaps aren't surprising for youthful optimists.

Already the tide was shifting, the halcyon days were preparing for storms again. After the ugliness of the real election Bush proposed No Child Left Behind, and Boehner cosponsored the bill, passing it that summer. This legislation, signed into law in 2002, would affect everyone to go through school after us. It is a sharp dividing line between me and the younger generation. We didn’t suffer tests the way they did.

The computer generation had by now been redubbed. We were the first teens experiencing a post-9/11 world. I remembered the Oklahoma City Bombing, the photos in the papers. Home-grown terrorism I could understand as a tragedy of life – no matter how good we had it as kids there were still horrible moments, personal losses and madness in the world. The notion of enemies abroad was inconceivable, though.

Not having grown up on the east coast or having any connection to it I initially had no knowledge or context for the Twin Towers. Likewise some, in their high school mock elections, probably had a vast majority vote for Bush in their schools. I can only tell my own story and in the process remark upon the moments and threads that unite us, and define us, as losers.

Half of one percent of Americans were enlisted in Iraq or Afghanistan. No one I knew was. The Selective Service had been designed precisely for this sort of contingency, and had it been invoked my time as a young man would have been very different. But when I left high school the only thing that happened was that during my freshman fall Bush was, to me and my friends' astonishment, reelected. We had been too young, only teens, to demonstrate the first term, and we were now too cynical to demonstrate against the second. I had voted for Kerry, and my first experience with democracy was loss.

College was busy. I’d gone to a small liberal arts school with a reputation for hard work. Not an Ivy, but on the east coast. My mom moved to Boston. Steadily others began to see the President in the same light as I had for eight years, and he was turned out with historically low approval ratings.

I’d begun dating (having grappled with acne throughout high school) and was doing well. The wars didn’t really exist. My view of how the world worked had certainly shifted: there were enemies of the United States out there, politicians don’t always make the right decisions, and Americans don’t always make the right decisions. (For me any decision which preserves, increases or champions human dignity is the right decision.) It would have been tempting to become cynical and depressed, a condition I’d first encountered in high school, but, as I said, I was busy and dating.

By now our generation was making a new name for itself. Unlike most Americans fellows like Mark Zuckerberg were not seen as young upstart, but as peers. Web 2.0 was here, and we were interacting with each other in a new way – we were the target demographic as well as the movers and shakers of this new type of connection. It was a way to be back in control of our lives, if not 'irl'.

My career path was teaching. I’d enrolled in a BA/MAT program in 2006, and so had only one year of Grad school, basically a year of student teaching. I’d been told this was a good path, and I was civil servant-minded. I wanted to help people. And I was starting to froth against NCLB. 

That fall of my graduate year I witnessed a very different scene on my campus than that of 2004, with jubilant hugs, fireworks and screaming for joy. A teary Virginian girl cried out in ecstatic repeated disbelief “I live in a blue state! I live in a blue state!” For those of the loser generation who experienced a different night the point remains - a very different Presidency had begun. It felt to us to be vibrant and youthful, perfect for the Web 2.0 Generation.

Yet there was a distant thunder rolling in fast. Bush had left under a serious economic crisis. By the swearing-in the greatest recession since the 1970s was taking place. My choice to get a Masters was now looking foolish. Everyone gets in debt for school (excepting those families mine was vaguely covetous of) but this social contract now looked very scary indeed. I had been warier than many of my friends, growing up in an economically fluctuating household, and my fears were coming true. I had to pay about $600 a month for ten years. More worrisome was getting a job at all. “Double Dip Recession” and “Depression” were being thrown about and teachers were being sacked in the tens of thousands per state. The baby boomers couldn’t retire and free up the positions we’d been promised when I made my career choice in 2006. My Masters now meant that legally I had to be paid more to teach in a public school, but had only student teaching experience to back me up in applications and interviews. 

We graduated nervously.

Job hunting was a full-time job that summer, and I very luckily got a position – in October. We were now the group hardest hit by unemployment and underemployment in the worst economic crises since the 30s: We were now the loser generation.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Teaser Tuesday Four

After another hiatus (I started my new teaching job!) we return.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly blog hop I got from The Bathroom Monologues by the fabulously talented John Wiswell.

For this week we continue with William Burrough's "Naked Lunch".

"Just as a bull fighter with his skill and knowledge extricates himself from danger he has himself invoked, so in this operation the surgeon deliberately endangers his patient, and then, with incredible speed and celerity, rescues him from death at the last possible split-second...Did any of you ever see Dr. Tettrazzini perform?"

I've been enjoying this book so far. His language is a little repetitive at times, but otherwise quite enjoyable. It may be the best thing I've seen come out of the American Beat movement besides "Howl". The passages that led to its being banned are still on the shocking side, though.

Everyone is welcome to Teaser Tuesday. The rules are as simple as:

• Grab your current book
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• Avoid spoilers! Don't give too much away or you'll ruin it for the very people you're suggesting it to.
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers