Sunday, June 20, 2010

DON’T CALL ME SLACKER!: “X” means the spot you drilled and siphoned all our resources for your own pleasure

People who call my generation, the generation that was born around 1965 to 1980, the “slacker” generation are a bunch of weasels who have collectively created a world devoid of: quality bookstores/libraries/public schools; any kind of morally reasonable job pool; and any sort of housing that actually allows folks to create a stable living space. I absolutely HATE anyone who continues using rhetoric that paints a picture of a generation of jerks who sit on their sofas all day watching “The Simpsons” repeats and eating Captain Crunch. That image of what they like to call “Generation X” is wrong, a lie, and spiteful.

Let me address my initial points. First of all, we are teased for not having an extensive vocabulary. Really? Well, what do you expect when all of our book options have been relegated to the local Barnes and Noble or Borders Bookstore?? What do you expect when small booksellers—who choose quality books and not a bunch of romance or self-help crap—have been forced to close because earlier generations of adults thought it was better to have one megastore serve an entire city instead of a variety of specialists stocking their own shops with books they actually read? What do you expect when older generations decided it was not important to teach us to read anymore? “Phonics? What’s the point of that? Let the kid GUESS what the letters sound like!” “Libraries? Why spend public dollars on those when we got a WAR TO FIGHT?”

Second, we are criticized for switching jobs, or for not having jobs at all. Oh, sure, it’s okay that Generation Y is having trouble finding work, but Gen Xers are LOSERS! We must feel sorry for the grandkids, but our kids are EVIL and LAZY!! For those of you who were perhaps not alive when this whole thing started, downsizing and outsourcing were started when President Reagan was in office, so jobs were already being cut before we even graduated college. Furthermore, the jobs we were left with were morally reprehensible. My own brother Luis was horrified by the way he had to treat clients who had just been in accidents, clients who, as an insurance agent, he had to refuse to cover because of technical this or that. WHY WOULD ANYONE WANT THAT JOB?? It is physically painful to be immoral to people. Oh, sure, there were plenty of kids who were willing to become evil on Wall Street, and look at what THAT ended up causing. If you wanted to go into the humanities, you had to be a COMMERCIAL artist and convince people to spend money on products they didn’t need, or you had to work in schools that ensured learning would be traumatizing to kids, or you had to starve. I’ve been working since I was 11 years old (yeah, I know I've said that before). I’ve worked my whole life and never made anything much, in terms of money, but if I had been paid fairly for all of the work I’d done—teaching, entertaining, writing/publishing, designing, curating—no one would call me a slacker because I’d be living phat. The story out there now is that it is only the CURRENT generation that has suffered for lack of work, but the truth is that there has been very little work for several generations and this is why we all keep going back to school (in hopes of finding better work later on).

Third, how can we possibly create stable lives if we have no affordable housing? Folks have been writing about the housing crisis for decades now, yet people keep putting up $400,000 condos. Can I have a cheap, clean, vermin-free rental, please? No one can afford to live in those condos, anyway, so it’s like you are just keeping the space to yourselves, saying, “Ha! Ha! You can’t live here!”

When I look around, I see very few friends of mine who don’t want to work. Everyone I know works hard and they are quite talented. A great number of my friends work multiple jobs and they take great pleasure in committing themselves to making this world a better place. It is argued that we are not motivated to change things. Well, that’s bullsh**. Our generation was an integral part of the first world-wide protest against a war that happened BEFORE the war began. Our generation was capable of utilizing technology to connect multiple nations in a protest against the worst kind of violent action. We didn’t just sign an on-line petition. Many of us stood in freezing temperatures throughout the U.S. and world in order to protest the Iraq war. Furthermore, our generation was an integral part of making sure our first African American president was elected. I was not given the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. through any school function, something which was common decades ago. No, I went to D.C. of my own volition to be close to the Inauguration. I also went to New Orleans to learn first-hand about the damage done by Hurricane Katrina, even though one of my college professors called the trip “taking a vacation,” even though the semester had already ended (How can someone associated with education think seeing Katrina damage is a vacation??).

A great number of my friends/acquaintances work in education, even though there are more people who criticize education than people who actually try to make a difference in it. My husband works with teens of all races in an arts program, when you know there is no money for the arts. My friend Nova did her thesis on art and education and she opened a gallery in Washington Heights, when many people would never think of highlighting art in that neighborhood because they are racist. An old acquaintance, Jesse, has worked with Puerto Rican teens in Chicago for decades, and he, as a scholar, connected themes in that locale with themes in Ireland (both P.R. and Ireland were colonized—the connection is not that hard to make). My NYC acquaintance, Jenny, has written more plays than you can shake a stick at, despite being a cancer survivor—and they don’t sit on some shelf, they get produced!

This does not sound like a lazy generation to me. Screw you if you think so. Yes, I’m being vulgar because the portrayal of who we are is vulgar. My generation is NOBLE. So many of my peers from Chicago’s Kenwood Academy have pursued noble, caring professions, and many of them donate time and substantial money to causes that ensure that younger folks will make it, too. Where is that in the portrayal of who we are?? Aren’t we the generation that exposed the dangers of an oil-dependent nation? Aren’t we the generation that exposed the dangers of globalization, but were not too insensitive to see the benefits of knowing people from a variety of countries, free of bigotry that previous generations exhibited? Aren’t we the generation that insisted on recycling?? I still remember my friend Jennifer yelling at her dad for putting food waste in with the recyclables. :)

We were given a world without jobs/moral jobs, without affordable housing, without fulfilling education, and with mountainous debt. DESPITE all of that, we’ve managed to care about our environment, care about the lives of people who older generations think are okay to bomb, and care about subsequent generations and the education we provide for them. To me, the meaning of X has nothing to do with slacking or wasting time. To me, X is where the gold is.