“Remind them that the recession will end and that
graduates will be needed when companies re-energise for new business.
In a few years the majority of graduates will be doing as well as they always have.”
– 2009 government pamphlet aimed at the parents of recent graduates.
Statistically speaking, generation Y is doomed.
The baby-boomers created a world for themselves, built around technological advance & personal gain. The rich have gotten richer, the poor have gotten poorer, and social mobility has devolved from an achievable goal into pure ideology. It isn’t news that youth unemployment is at an all time high, it’s not entirely surprising that, coupled with an insane housing market and a hostile unpaid internship based job sector, more and more young people are in financial, mental and spiritual peril. A steadily increasing number of graduates finish uni (and three years of independence) with unrealistic expectations, end up moving back home, become NEET, grow depressed and commit suicide.
Tragic, right? Or maybe… encouraging?
Against a backdrop of political alienation and economic disparity, us young people don’t seem to have a solid place or purpose in the world. Born into capitalism, we measure success by enjoyment and have become gifted consumers, to fail at consumption, ie, to be poor, is to fail in life, and it is becoming harder and harder to succeed within this paradigm.
So how can the best and brightest of our generation hope to further not only the human race, but themselves also, when our future lies in the amassed wealth of a few select individuals? As proved above, there is an abundance of research into the increasingly negative aspects of modern society, but very little in the way of positive thinking or beneficial speculation.
The answer, I believe, is a shift in our generations internal definition of purpose. Increasing material & economic starvation is imbuing generation Y with a previously unprecedented self-awareness. Slowly but surely, handed-down values based on economic growth & personal gain (such as marriage, promotions at work & corporate influence) are coming second to spiritual growth, generosity & concern for the environment. Particularly in my industry groups such as performers without boarders & the ladybird project go a long way to prove this. In short, as money becomes less available, our concern for it lessens, and the more enriched and meaningful our generation will be in the long run (hopefully). Evidence for this is shaky, but it exists; figures on volunteering across the generations suggests that we are more invested in helping others than previous generations, and crowd-funding services such as kickstarter help to transparently redistribute wealth to worthwhile causes without benefiting a cultural elite.
Enough of the macro, what about the micro?
For the time being graduates will still be forced to move back in with their parents, and many will suffer a trivialised existence typified by poverty, exclusion from the world at large and loneliness. Instead of feeling like failures however, those suffering must enact a personal change within themselves, they must practise acceptance and find purpose and fulfilment from within. To believe we will achieve happiness in the same way as our grandparents is to automatically fall short; “For the first time in modern memory, a whole generation might not prove wealthier than the one that preceded it.”
Instead, we must use our unprecedented exclusion from material wealth & stability to focus on spiritual and ethical growth (an opportunity our grandparents never had). In many ways, our suffering in the present is a sacrifice we make for the future. The ageing baby-boomers will no doubt keep a vice-tight grip on the mantle of society for as long as possible, but no fortune can buy an extended lifetime. Someday we will inherit the earth by pure virtue of succession, and when we do, it is vitally important that we adhere to a higher moral code, one not based on religion or wealth, but the general goodness and sustainable fair growth of mankind.
This all sounds perhaps a tad idealistic, but the issues highlighted in the various links above prove that the problem is real; the rich really are getting richer and the poor really are getting poorer, and all the while western society continues to grow not only exponentially, but unsustainably too. Maybe a bit of positive ideology is exactly what we need, not more statistics on how tomorrow will inevitably be worse than today.