Innovation/Global Crisis Blog

The Lost Generation:  Blame Wall Street

By Shlomo Maital



A bitter ideological battle has broken out, over the Wall St. protests, in which mainly twenty-somethings protest the greed, selfishness and reckless risk-taking Wall St. banks and speculators have shown over the past decade.  Supporters, mainly Democrats, blame the wealthy bankers for creating the financial crisis that led to the economic crisis.  Republicans shout “class war”, and claim the protesters don’t understand the true benefits of free, open markets and capitalism. 

   In all this sound and fury, the best insight is that of Boston Globe columnist James Carroll.  Here is his ‘take’ on the protests, published on Oct. 10:

  ”  ….the plight of 20-somethings is distinct. In America, their anger can seem grounded in a sense of betrayal. Having been taught a social arithmetic since childhood that education plus diligence equals fulfillment, they are now confronted with a grim subtraction. Education has all too often left them crushed by the debt of student loans, and diligence is irrelevant in a jobless market. People in their 20s take the weight of unemployment rates that can be double the national average. Not only are their present prospects bleak – management training in fast food, anyone? — but they can look forward, in their 30s, if and when the recovery comes, to being passed over by junior siblings. Youth interrupted, adulthood postponed, careers that never materialized, disappointment as a way of life. A bottomless abyss of missed opportunity yawns at the feet of an entire American generation.”

 Carroll notes that the “lost generation”, the American 20-somethings robbed of their future by the Wall St.-engendered crisis, have counterparts all over the world:

      “The phenomenon is global, and has spawned a patronizing multilingual vocabulary. In Japan, they are “freeters,’’ a word that suggests freeloading. In Britain, they are, in the argot of bureaucracy, “neets,’’ for “not in education, employment, or training.’’ In Spain, “ni-ni’s,’’ for “neither-nor’’ (neither workers nor students). In Germany, “nesthockers,’’ for nest squatters. In Italy, “bamboccioni,’’ for grown-up babies. They are “basement dwellers’’ with “status zero.’’ They are “twixters,’’ the “boomerang generation,’’ having returned to “Hotel Mama.’’ They arrived not at adulthood, but “waithood.’’  “

   In civilized countries,  the older generation hands over to the younger generation, their children and grandchildren, a better, safer, more stable, more hopeful world.  In uncivilized countries, the older generation robs the younger generation of its future, and transforms it into a ‘lost generation’.  There is no worse moral crime.   And it appears that all the nations mentioned in Carroll’s column – Britain, Japan, Germany, Italy – must be regarded as uncivilized.  And the worst part of it – instead of accepting responsibility, Wall St. enlists its business-oriented mayor to smash peaceful protests with his Police Department.    It will be truly bitter for the world if the moneyed interests succeed in electing a Republican President in 2012, elected by those who have doomed and saddened an entire generation.