Generation Without a Frontier
It’s one of those mornings when I permit myself to consider how truly precarious the world is and will remain for a great duration of our lives. For those of us barely into our twenties, we face a decade if not decades of continuous economic insecurity and the risk of political turmoil that is closely associated with economies in crisis. As I suggest in the title of the article, we are a generation without a frontier, both a metaphorical and physical frontiers.
Personally, I’m glad there’s no physical frontier left on this planet. For centuries, it was a means of delaying the disestablishment of an exploitative model by simply departing to the “New World” and to find a space for additional exploitation, inevitably at the expense of indigenous people. Our world can do without those frontiers. But we can’t do without a purpose, and we are facing a period in time in which a generation is discarded, whose lives are delayed by unemployment, an end to which is not in sight.
I’ll have Ambrose Evans-Pritchard of the Daily Telegraph explain what looks to be another immediate period of sharpening economic crisis:
“It will be a global downturn on all fronts, aborting what remains of recovery even before industrial output in the OECD bloc has regained its pre-Lehman peak.
The second wave will hit with youth unemployment already at 45pc in Greece and 49pc in Spain; and with the US labour participation rate already at depression levels of 64pc.”
Those are terrifying numbers. If you’re a Spanish youth today, you have a 50% chance of being without a job. If you have a job, you’ll certainly have friends and siblings without one through whom you’ll have just a small experience of the distress such a state can cause. And this before the second official recession and further rise in unemployment. Soon, youths will be more likely unemployed than employed.
There’s this static nature to this crisis, a permanency that is only challenged by a worsening of conditions. Maybe I’m wrong in saying we are without a frontier. The gradual, sometimes hastened, approach to the abyss is our frontier. Some may see a chance for a hopeful future amid this discouraging present state of ours. The system is reaching another profound crisis, maybe its ultimate crisis, which means an opportunity for the much awaited alternative to the hegemony of neo-liberalism. I too share the sense that bright, energetic graduates without jobs are a potential source to enact great transformations. But it would be wrong to subscribe to the belief that enormous numbers of youths can overcome our own system as the masses of young people have done during the Arab Revolutions. Historian Eric Hobsbawn did well in a recent BBC interview in explaining the differences:
“The most effective mass mobilisations today are those which start from a new modernised middle class, and particularly the enormously swollen body of students.
“They are more effective in countries in which, demographically, young men and women are a far greater part of the population than they are in Europe.”
We can’t rely on a hope that a tide of revolution transfers itself from the Arab World to the Western World. We must, instead, fully appreciate our own conditions and find and forge our own coalitions across generational, social-economic, and racial divides that characterize the West. We are still very much in the bunker, as youths waiting through exams and college for the better future, we are assured, will follow; and as our parents wait through austerity, hoping it passes them by completely, or affects them temporarily. These notions give us a false sense of security, or more accurately, distract us from our insecurity. We cannot wait this crisis out, or assume the inevitability of the economic model being toppled. It must be done by a great number of people choosing to abolish the model and realizing that years of perpetual crisis are to be lost in doing so. Our frontier must be internal, it must be at the edge of this system and must be built beyond the alienation, discrimination, dispossession, and exploitation we dwell in now and creates our collective and varying degrees of suffering.