Urban angst

“The call is for all young people to wake up and make change in this world before this world has permanently changed them. “

Liberating youth

Your parents can’t do it for you. The education board, the jobs market, or even the lifestyle advisors, charismatic heroes and media icons. The angst is. The awareness, that your future is not determined – but must be freely chosen.

We are all born free. It is what happens to us between the time of our birth and adolescence that disrupts and constantly threatens. And, if you let it, it eventually smothers freedom. It is when young people reach that part of adolescence, when they start acting “strange”, “don’t understand”. or “can’t be understood”. When they are growing through what elders describe as “that funny stage”. That so called “funny stage” is an important development stage between childhood and maturity, and usually one of reflection and confusion as to what the world has in store. How this transition is perceived or understood by the young is the difference between becoming a pro-active citizen, or being resigned to the roll of the passive tax payer.

Is it a wonder that this is a confusing time? Between the systematic discipline of school, and the glittery unreality of television, kids have a choice to make. But that choice, for most young people, can be very narrow and constricted, and contained within a job category, exam results, and an employer’s demands. All is determined by just how the young candidate fits into the jobs market – a market which is occupied mainly by producing useless products and services for the most part. Perhaps those exempt from these pressures are those in creative work – a chosen few.

The successful candidate will then look forward to the unrewarding boredom of the average workday. For relief, these workers turn to the endless boredom of the entertainment industry, offered on television at the end of the day. And, in a vicious cycle, the tedium of the tellie is just not enough to get away from the tedium of the job. By adulthood, the cycle becomes complete and reinforced, and getting off the merry-go-round becomes very difficult.

To lead a free and creative life (which should be our hope for all young people, not just our own) this cycle of dependence and depression must be broken. This I believe is one of the fundamental problems facing adolescence. On the other hand, the problems of those who gain the most – the “bosses”, the “rich”, the network executives, the financial investors – show a desire to maintain the cycle of distraction that will NOT allow the smooth transition from wage slavery that takes up most of working people’s lives.

Any doubt in young peoples’ minds, any hesitation, when they are met with future prospects, or what these job choices may entail, is seen by parents and teachers as ungratefulness, selfishness, rebellion, trouble making, and failure to fit in. If you do not conform to the rigidity of the system, you are considered a failure, and an outcast. This is the usual perception of adults to awkward teenagers.

The rebellion of adolescence is always read as negative, and sometimes it is. I believe that most times it is not. I believe it is a healthy skepticism at the start of a life of (perhaps) drudgery and confinement – a healthy attempt to reject what they perceive lies ahead – a class system that destroys the creative urge and banishes most of our young to one-dimensional rote slavery of employment.

Who can blame the young from rejecting the life of a slave? For when we take away the mortgage, the car, the few weeks holiday, the new washing machine, the toys of adulthood…what’s left? Eight hours plus of “the grind” per day which pays for the toys of adulthood. The worse the job is, the more toys are needed to allay the boredom. The cycle of rote slavery continues unabated. This has become most working peoples’ experience…and these are the LUCKY ones! Think about those who don’t even have a job…

This never seems to cross the minds of those who criticize…those who deem turbulent adolescence as kids wasting their time in protest. It surely makes challenged parents question the lifestyles which they have chosen. Does it ever cross the mind of the “older” generation, as it does the administrators of capital, that the above prospect is what is going through the minds of young people who do not fit in? In the minds of company directors, of course it does. The architects of distraction are not stupid. They know that you either deal fairly with peoples’ needs, or you create a system to control those needs.

We live in a society today where an older generation which has created wealth in better times, and who benefit from venture capital schemes, and who also create and profit from what they have promoted for the young minds and bodies to consume. At the same time, the youth of our society are growing up in a world of insecurity which this kind of investment breeds. Jobs which would create both security and interest in our young are being drained from our cities and comunities, and exported abroad to the lowest bidder. The West is rapidly becoming one big service industry that only deals in information processing and, for the unfortunate, cleaning up other people’s messes.

Most of the problems with youth lie with my generation’s inability to offer them hope, knowledge and choice, and to encourage their vision towards a broader universe. Instead we are forcing our young into a narrower frame of self interests in order to survive. We, the older generation, are living off of the profits which exploit the young, because the older generation created, built and control the tools for this exploitation. We cannot, therefore, start blaming the young for the world we have created. Rather we should be sacrificing some time and money, and offering hope and security by educating them in the lessons of our folly.

These reflections are written by a a father, a man of middle age, and I am in no way trying to speak for the young. It is up to the young to speak for themselves. What I can say is that my politics and world view has not changed much since I was about 5 years old. I knew all was not right in the world when I was incarcerated at school. Between the time of escaping incarceration at school, at age 15, and reaching the age of 20, I was thoroughly convinced someone else was trying to shape my future without consulting me. I have been trying to rectify that situation ever since.

Someone said,”When you are young, you get blamed for things that you didn’t do, and, when you are older, you get the credit for the wisdom of things that had nothing to do with you”. So it balances out.

Having said that, I turn now to Tony Blair. Tony Blair, at present, is trying to hang the blame for societies ills on the liberating ’60’s. When right wing politiciams such as Blair and Bush start haranguing about the youthful revolution on the 1960’s,something must be worrying them about it. Could it be that today’s youth are picking up on the lessons and progressive ideas of the ’60’s, rather than the fashion, music or the junk of that era…which incidentally is now being repackaged and hyped and sold by Blair-ite types – entrepreneurs and businesses?

We should hope so. And, if they are, one of the lessons which should be learned from the youthful revolution of the 1960’s is this: determine your politics and actions by class, NOT age, because you do not stay young forever, and you will still need to fight for and be protecting your childrens’ liberties – even in your 50’s, or beyond.

Solidarity, Bob

Rebirth of the Cool

Liberating Youth