We’ve spent years entrusting our futures to our parents, our governments
The banks and the corporations who have continually lobbied for their own interests
And we’ve let them make selfish decisions
That have left our society teetering on the edge of ruin
We’re blinded from the information that would really shock us
By stories of sex and sleaze which doesn’t make the smallest difference to our lives
And so we have no desire to do anything about the things that really do
Last weekend, I spent many an hour sitting aboard Rosa Lusita with the dog, throwing out a fishing line and thinking about some of the inner conflicts many of my generation face on a daily basis, or rather, become aware of, because they aren’t something that suddenly came into existence in the last three decades. The sorry state our world is in, environmentally, socially, and morally (I would like to employ a working definition of morals as the ethical deliberations that tie the individual’s values to those of the society they life in, and by this definition we live in a time of moral crisis), combined with near-limitless communication between priorly isolated parts of society, makes it increasingly more difficult for the ruling class to maintain the illusion of wealth, order, and justice in the so-called Western world.
This is not a new observation; the late 20th century has seen a wave of literature and other media reflecting this crisis of consciousness that has subsequently been accepted into the literary canon in order to diminish their disruptive potential. But my generation, the one born into this late 20th century world of alienation, lack of binding values, and ecological destruction, is personally affected by it.
I have, by and large, lived an egoistic adult life until very recently. This is not to say I had been egocentric; I have always taken care of mine, i.e. my chosen as well as blood family, my friends and colleagues, I have been an activist, fought fascists in the street, blocked coal mines, gotten beaten off the streets by the police, organised unions and helped build local solutions to our global problems. But in between this, fighting off severe depression and insomnia, working 12-hour shifts at or sometimes under minimum wage, trying to get a degree that would eventually make me, a notorious generalist, employable while also trying to pursue my many passions, dreams, obsessions, and fascinations, and fighting an excruciatingly complex welfare system in order to get my rent paid, I have only grown more tired without making progress; it feels like my achievements are naught and the debt I owe to the capitalist system for not walking a straight path has become overwhelming, and I’m alone with it.
There is nothing unique about this; I may have travelled across the continent penniless and seen all the facets of humanity in the people I met on my way, I may have lived a rich life to this point, but I’m not more interesting than the next guy for any of this. In fact I wouldn’t be making this point at all if it wasn’t for its structural relevance: I belong to a generation of lost causes, without anyone to look up to, without the ressources to fight all the fights that need to be fought, both for ourselves and for the planet and the future of humanity. The reason I had to be egoistic, to pursue one wild idea after the other and try to get my needs met without being able to give much back is the neoliberal, meritocratic system that is breaking our backs from our first day in elementary school. No solace is found in this realisation.
These are tough times but we seek solace in our friends and co-conspirators
We make small differences in each other’s lives, and dream that we can make real progress
Having responsibility for children, the most wonderful, smart, self-aware ones, has changed a lot, my thoughts have largely stopped revolving around my eternal conflict between changing the world and getting my own needs met, my responsibilities have pushed this conflict to the back seats of my consciousness. I am in a relationship with someone who shares my visions, dreams and values. We’re moving forward, inch by inch, no matter how gigantic the challenges. And yet, we face the same vexation over and over again.
Many parents like to joke about getting to live our life when we are 50 years old and the kids have left the house; this betrays the simple and sad truth that we are left to our own devices, that our self-sufficiency is not a proud decision but rather a desperate solution, that the village it takes, not only for the modern core family to raise their children but for everyone in each and every aspect of life, is absent; there will be no true self-sufficiency without true community. And maybe what I find at the end of all these deliberation is that I have been asking for too much. Maybe the egoism that was forced on me by a society that expected me to pull my own weight without giving me the proper tools and shut my mouth about it is something I have to do away with alone by swallowing my pride.
Do I lose any value as a human being by not having much to show for the labour I do, by quietly and calmly doing the work and keeping my loved ones, my family and friends, safe, warm, and fed, by enabling those close to us who have done better at developing their skillsets they can use to improve this world to do that? Obviously not, women in the «Western world» have been doing this very thing for thousands of years without getting credit. Once more we find ourselves locked in this Time of Monsters where one system of values breaks down while another (hopefully) emerges, where the new age is punishing us for being tied up on conflicts with the values of the old one. But in the process of creating the life we want to live and raising children with these new values, giving them the tools to take care of themselves, others, and the world they live in, much is won.
Maybe our generation is not meant to solve this. Maybe those of us who were left to their own devices, who are struggling with and fighting off our inabilities or disabilities and licking old wounds aren’t meant to be high-profile figures. Maybe I will never accomplish the things I can truly be proud of. But what we can do is to take care of one another, to have each other’s back through this Time of Monsters, to see to it that those who were luckier get to make the shot. And that is something to be proud of when the dust has settled.