OUTRAGE! Is anybody else between the ages of 20 and 30 tired of being written off by the media as a "lost generation"? It's utter nonsense!
It's true employment is down, and we have more debt than previous generations (also, thanks to previous generations) – education, ecological, credit card, etc. But we're being judged on recently failed economic paradigms: measuring growth, creditworthiness, even what is and is not valuable within or to a society are all paradigms that are now in transition. The media is quick to trumpet how the financial system and most of the things we know about economics are now defunct, so why is it still making value judgements on those paradigms?
Fundamentally, the world we are moving forward in, is in transition: therefore what's true before will not be true in the future. In the older world, the world we're emerging from, our possibilities as a generation would be limited; now they are limitless.
Juliet Schor writes in her book Plenitude that two-thirds of new jobs come from firms with less than 500 employees, while large corporations are downsizing (p. 157). Micro-loans, crowdsourcing, and the Internet make it more possible than ever before for entrepreneurs to hang out a shingle. And this trend isn't exclusive to the knowledge sector either: technology is now so agile and flexible, knowledge so transferable, that manufacturing in your back room has become possible.
Remember this graphic from a few months ago? Check out the high number of firms with 1-9 employees. "Inc." magazine recently declared "bring on the entrepreneurs."
According to Schor, "this history provides a prima facie case that the emerging green sector will be powered by small and medium-size firms, with their agility, dynamism, and entrepreneurial determination" (p. 156). This is the green evolution – not that green tech will create enough jobs to buoy the economy, but the community based, take problem solving into your own hands, low / no profit sustainable economy will.
In many countries around the world, from sub-Saharan Africa to Europe, it seems that people have come to the realization that political promises and policy implementation will never come: many governments are now bust. Local communities have taken it on themselves to solve the problems in their communities. Thus the rise of microfinance and social enterprise – socially lead firms are now providing public sector services. Schor writes of parallel, highly localized economies, producing highly specialized goods and services for their communities are beginning to push the sustainable transition forward.
Tomorrow's consumer, according to Schor will face higher prices but a higher quality of goods as well: a firm's responsibility for the 'stuff' it manufactures will extend to the life-time of the product. As firms sell higher quality, more specialized products, those they employ will be more specialized in their skills. Wages will rise along with prices. People will also work less as they place more value on that parallel economy that makes up for what people previously believed the government should provide as common goods and services that aren't covered under traditional economic valuations (i.e. growth or GDP, profits).
This is where the world is going and my generation isn't lost. We have the tools in front of us for our future to be our own. So you can take your 'lost generation' label and shove it.
We are the bespoke generation, the bootstrap generation, the limitless generation, the hand-made generation.
Cross-posted with minor edits from Ann Danylkiw's blog, annlytical. Teaser image made possible by Obamicon.