There are many things I hope for my generation, but one of them is surely that we won’t allow ourselves to be named after some overweening politician.
I refer, of course, to Gen44, one of our forty-fourth president’s recent campaign memes. The man who doesn’t expect independent adulthood out of Millennials until the age of twenty-six nonetheless expects us to exercise our legal majority as a powerful voting bloc on his behalf.
But there’s a reason I chose to call this magazine Gen76 and not, say, Gen45. Our undermining did not begin with Barack Obama, it is not confined to the Democratic Party, and it will certainly not end when the right folks get to Washington DC.
It is not that our generation has been denied a good government, you see. It is that we have been denied the basis for self-government.
Recall first through eighth grades. Recall all the fluff assignments, the busywork, the smothering patience with the slow readers.
Recall when you tried to get a clerical job after high school, only to find that in today’s job market, high school graduates – who have had twelve or thirteen years of schooling – aren’t trusted with Excel spreadsheets.
Now realize that in the first half of the twentieth century, an eighth-grade education was sufficient to get an independent income, perhaps start your own business. On an eighth-grade education, yesteryear’s youth could live their own lives.
Think of the years that have been stolen from you by this low expectation alone.
Obama has been singularly reckless with the national budget, but in fact, there is not one administration that has actually shrunk the national debt since Eisenhower was in the Oval Office. (If you are thinking of the Clinton surplus, you were never made aware that the congressional baseline the deficit and surplus numbers are derived from is a good deal greater than zero, and rises faster than inflation every year.) It hasn’t paid for much more than was bought without it, and it looks very much like we Millennials are going to be left with the tab.
While damage inflicted by politicians can and must be mitigated, there is no politician in existence who can give us self-reliance. We’re going to have to do that ourselves.
Educate yourself. Learn useful skills – typing, plumbing, Spanish, computer repair. Become well-rounded in neglected fields – civics and logic and rhetoric. And when you think you’ve got enough to keep your head above water (one is never finished with education, after all), involve yourself in the education of the next generation in a way that you can make an immediate difference – tutor, or go to school board meetings, or apply it to your own kids if you have them.
Living in Mom’s basement can be a simple, sound economic decision. But if you do, nonetheless elect not to live off Mom. Find a livelihood, or forge one yourself. Pay a portion of the bills, direct to the electric company so you know how it’s done. Buy some of the groceries and cook some of the meals. Find a hobby with results less ephemeral than last week’s Facebook status. If you have not been doing these things already, I assure you that purpose and creative tension will give you that vitality you’ve been missing.
Some courses of action are wrong. Others are stupid. Avoid them. But never, ever allow others to tell you how to live your life simply because it’s easier than deciding for yourself.
And please, don’t be defined by politicians.