Why the Young Feel Hopeless *and* Optimistic
If I was 25 years old right now I’d probably be feeling pretty hopeless. Is it any wonder everyone, including young people, are furious and feeling hopeless? But this post will focus on our children and the world they have already inherited and how they still have optimism about the future.
Right after September 11, 2001 I remember peeking in to each of my kid’s bedrooms before going to bed myself. Our daughter was 13 years old and son was about to turn 7 years old. After that devastating day I stood there saddened when considering the world they were going to inherit and I felt a twinge of hopelessness.
That feeling turned in to irritation and then anger as the months unfolded. I saw the 9/11 tragedy turned in to a justification for war, one where the slimmest amount of intelligence possible was used as justification for invading Iraq and Afghanistan.
From 2002 through 2008 I grew increasingly concerned as the Bush administration seemed to be bending the rules of intelligence with CIA ‘enhanced interrogation‘ and rendition, along with initiatives like Total Information Awareness (TIA). TIA was killed off but as we now know thanks to Edward Snowden’s revelations, any paranoia and concern I had at the time paled in comparison to what was really going on as the goals and objectives of TIA lived on.
Next came the global economic meltdown, inadvertently created by the financial services industry whose greed overshadowed their fiduciary responsibilities and destroyed the economy. A greed, I might add, that was fueled by the laissez faire attitude toward oversight and regulation by the GOP and Bush administration. The same administration that squandered a surplus while cutting taxes and going to war. According to The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:
“If not for the Bush tax cuts, the deficit-financed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the effects of the worst recession since the Great Depression (including the cost of policymakers’ actions to combat it), we would not be facing these huge deficits in the near term. By themselves, in fact, the Bush tax cuts and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will account for almost half of the $20 trillion in debt that, under current policies, the nation will owe by 2019. The stimulus law and financial rescues will account for less than 10 percent of the debt at that time.”
Add to all of this the student debt crisis. The Economist reported in June 2014 that U.S. student loan debt exceeded $1.2 trillion, with over 7 million debtors in default. Today, there is approximately $1.3 trillion of outstanding student loan debt in the U.S. that affects 43 million borrowers who have an average outstanding loan balance of $30,000.
Lastly we have the Wells Fargo controversies which have shown that even one of the most profitable, respected banks in the world is no better than a plaid-sports-coat wearing salesman hawking non-running used cars on some inner city lot.
How can we not all be FURIOUS and filled with RAGE? If I was 25 years old I’d be marching in the street, campaigning for Bernie Sanders, and doing whatever I could to change the system and make a wholesale change in Congress.
But there are bright spots that are fueling optimism, no matter what the obstacles and barriers fueling hopelessness.
There are always bright spots. I find that, of all of the under-30 years of age folks I know, the one word that does define them is optimism. Whether feeling optimistic is inherent in someone young looking forward to a long life, or one that puts pessimism on the shelf so they don’t have to look at the problems, either way they all seem to have hope.
Hope because this may be the last presidential election dominated by older baby boomers like me and prior generations.
Key findings about the American workforce and the changing job market shows that employment has been rising faster in occupations requiring more preparation (i.e., a college or trade education) and wages have increased most in occupations that require higher social or analytical skills which millennials have in abundance.
Fast Company published this article last fall on the Twenty Predictions For The Next 20 Years and it talks about how technology is accelerating and will improve the human condition; digital tools will unlock opportunity (which is shown by 60 Minutes in this segment about social media influencers turning followers in to dollars); food will be healthier; cash will disappear; and we will all be family.
Yes, there are problems, issues and potential crises looming but when has that NOT been the case? My folks lived through World War II and I through Vietnam, the huge cultural shifts in the 60s and 70s, the tech boom of the 90s and everything that has happened since and I am still optimistic too!
I, for one, feel pretty good about the young people inheriting the earth and believe it’s in good hands. Hope you all vote and some decide to run for office!