The Lost Generation and the Hypocrisy of the Adult World
"As he came into the sun again, he could feel his body warming. It occurred to him that people living out here in the sun couldn't possibly imagine how cold it was to live in the shade. It seemed so wrong, but how could an observer like himself hope to change things? He couldn't make the sun shine on the whole town" (102).
We live in a world where fairness and justice are not the norm, and those who would try to change the world are few and unsuccessful because of all those in power acting against them. People living in tent cities are put on terrorist watch lists either because they are homeless or because they decided to stand up for their beliefs; the saddest part is that this is nothing new, even though the faces are different. America has turned into the land of the indebted and the home of the frightened as the disenfranchised are punished by the more powerful elites and the government would rather be a police state than a nanny state. We are not animals, and this is not survival of the fittest. What happened to our humanity?
"I can't stand it that you all came here as equals, in the same straits, and then just because you make a little more money, you start calling the rest of us 'these people'...All you talk about is kicking us out. Why not help us instead?...Not all of us are as strong as you are" (95).
In the FullMetal Alchemist novel The Valley of White Petals, the concept of equivalent exchange is used as law by one isolated community. It is supposedly a paradise based on the premise that what you give is what you get. This works fine for people skilled enough to work the jobs that benefit the community as a whole, but those who lack the physical strength to work in the mines and are without jobs that earn them a living wage because the population outnumbers them at their skill level are looked down upon by the rest of the town. One character says, "Determining pay based on what helps Mr. Raygen and the town might be good equivalent exchange, but there's a gap between the rich and the poor here, and it's widening. Do you want to make a true paradise here? Then we should go to Mr. Raygen, talk to him as a town. We must figure out something that's fairer to all." To which another character replies, "Fair? What's fair mean to you? You want to give people who don't work the same money as people who do? I'm sorry but I'm not sweating fifteen hour days here for nothing. And frankly, I don't think someone earning as little as you's got a right to tell me how our town should be run" (111). To a certain degree, that is still what is happening in our world today. While both points are valid, the only voice of reason is a child whose only talent is gardening, which the other townsfolk regard as useless. "My hands only do what they were made to do, and I don't think that should be such a bad thing...I could grow vegetables or carry water or clean the waterway, but other people took those jobs already" (92). A later plot twist reveals that these people are sold to human traffickers under the table by the town's mayor Mr. Raygen, but that's beside the point.
"You know what happens when people don't treat each other like human beings!" (114).
In the real world, or at least the one I live in, there is a crazy old man who comes into the public library every day and rants loudly about the people under the age of 40 being worthless and have nothing to look forward to but jail. I can only assume he is referring to the FBI's attempts to deal with alleged copyright infringement. He usually ends his warnings of doom by telling us to go to church. Because of free speech and the contemporary disregard for quiet in the library even by librarians themselves, no one is able to stop him. Nor can we say anything back, for the young ones are the only ones booted from the library for this kind of behavior. My first grade teacher used to have a sign that read "Not My Problem" and applied it to whenever she didn't want to deal with our petty complaints or problems of any sort. I feel that that sign is now out in full force in the attitudes of those who are supposed to care but don't.
"How can you talk about equivalent exchange in front of us when it's obvious there's a problem? Or maybe you just don't care about us?" (95).
The government does not like to hand out welfare because they think people aren't even trying to get jobs anymore. Although there are some lazy people out there, they do not represent all of us who are down on our luck. While the government is trying to create jobs (or, more accurately, to protect the so-called job creators who have yet to quite live up to that distinction), they cannot stop others from going out of business and keeping the unemployment rate stagnant. While some people have given up because they are depressed (some to the point of a deep despair known as recession suicide), the attitude of the government seems to be that people in need of welfare are lazy and don't deserve it. In addition, instead of being go-betweens for everyone to pay their bills, banks charge the poor ridiculous fees for not having enough money to put in their coffers while the rich are not required to pay any fees and are treated like royalty. Why punish people struggling to eke out an existance and make it more difficult for them to get by? You can't squeeze blood from a stone, but if you see blood while squeezing that stone, it probably means you've sliced your hand open.
"Maybe we don't earn lots of money like you, but that doesn't mean we want more than our fair share! That doesn't mean we would steal! Why do you call us criminals?" (94).
I am part of what's been called the Lost Generation. The economy crashed just before I graduated from college with my bachelor's degree in Information and Library Science. Now I'm told I'll never qualify for a job in my hometown library or any other library because I lack the experience of someone who has held a previous library position and lost it due to cutbacks. While these people need the money just as badly, this sends the message that the years of hard work I've spent on my education and volunteerism have meant nothing, and my dreams have been essentially crushed into oblivion. One reason why so many of us have turned to online blogging is that all of our schooling amounts to essay-writing (although the more technically inclined and theatrical among us become critics with weekly web shows and vlogs). Also, why bother training children from an early age to do anything resembling professional aptitude when many employers do not count experience gained prior to age sixteen? That is the dilemma facing others I have talked to who have gone on to other fields (and in some cases other countries) in order to find any sort of work at all. Does anyone care or give us even the slightest bit of sympathy? Aside from a precious few, hell no! Some say we should go back to school, but not all of us have the money to do that; in the time it would take to get another degree, the playing field will have changed and we'd be even deeper in debt and still have no job. People are disappointed in me and say that I'm not trying hard enough; when I try to explain that I've actually been told by authority figures at the library that I am not now nor ever will be considered for hire, they just say I have a bad attitude. No one in the workforce or who is retired is willing to believe how bad things really are and that it's not my fault. Even people my own age who are fortunate enough to have jobs don't seem to understand what everyone else's problem is because they either can't relate or don't want to. It's not any one person's fault, though; it's just the way things turned out because some people decided to get greedy.
"Why is it that you work fifteen hours, again? Is it to pay back Mr. Raygen for giving you a helping hand? Or do you just want more money?" (111).
When certain adults on a certain infamous street in NYC and beyond (Congress, Greece, etc.) accidentally ruined the economy, they took away our future and squandered that as well. Now all of the adults worldwide are scrambling to save themselves while hanging their would-be future replacements out to dry. They take all the jobs that are out there and still have the nerve to disparage the rest of us for not having any. Instead of guiding us to a better future, they mock our suffering and call us names like NEETs (Not in Education, Employment, or Training). We have the abilities we need but lack the opportunities to use them, and so our skills are starting to atrophy. The government considers people like me burdens on our parents, a plague on society, and a liability to taxpayers due to our pre-existing health conditions. By the time the economy eventually recovers, it will be too late. Those younger than myself will inherit all the jobs, and my generation will still have nothing even if we survive that long without handouts or the warmth of human kindness which seems to be in equally short supply these days. Only time will tell if the future generation will be any kinder to us - that is, if their minds haven't already been poisoned against us by their well-to-do parents, stuck-up members of society, the lucky ones among us who could afford to show even the tiniest bit of survivor's guilt but choose not to, or crazy old men permitted to raise their voices in public places without care or consequence (all of whom seem intent on blaming the victims for something over which they had no control).
"I don't think that the way of things here is all wrong, but it's certainly not right. That's what I've been trying to tell people" (99).
Inoue, Makoto. FullMetal Alchemist: The Valley of White Petals. Trans. Alexander O. Smith. Original Concept by Hiromu Arakawa. Viz Media: San Francisco, 2004.