It was at the end of the 1970s. I was around 17, almost finishing high school and preparing for college. Our teacher talked about life, about the economy, about the world outside school. He was quite negative. The economy did really bad at that moment. There had been a crisis at the beginning of the 1970s and at that time there was one again. Youth unemployment was much higher than now. He (and also others) called us the “lost” generation. That statement shook me.
So here we were, young, still studying and in some years going to be released to a world were there was no work for us. We were also told we inherited a world that was polluted by the previous generation, were at the verge of an ice age and worse even, our oil supplies would dry out in less than 50 years. In short, there was not much of a future for us.
Fast forward more than a decade. We had a reunion of our class. Listening to the stories of the others, we realized in the end that we weren’t that bad off. After finishing our studies everyone found a job and none of us was unemployed for long. The pollution also turned out better than expected. Fish were returning to the rivers, air was cleaner than before and there was more green in our environment. The feared ice age seemed to be a non problem after all and the oil supplies were … still about 50 years.
Fast forward to now. We, generation X, gave birth to generation Y and it seems we didn’t learn anything from our own past. I hear more and more the statement that generation Y is a lost generation. Yup, they experience high youth unemployment, we left them with our CO2 in the atmosphere and they will suffer from global warming in the future. Peak oil is just around the corner (but reserves are, you guessed it, still 50 years). In short, there is not much of a future for them. Hey, where did I hear all that before?
The more things change, the more they stay the same. We seem to suffer from collective amnesia. Probably it is just a matter of waiting until the members of generation Y realize that this label was based on nothing much. Then add a decade or so before they declare generation Z a lost generation…
I like the fact your schoolmates didn’t swallow the doom and gloom, and went right ahead and succeeded. I think that is a very important tale to tell. It might inspire the young, whereas “Global Warming” tends to depress.
Around a decade earlier than you, at age seventeen, I hung around with hippies were very much into doom and gloom. The whole Timothy Leary “turn on, tune in, drop out” philosophy suggested it wasn’t worth even trying to make it in the modern world. I myself made it through that depressing outlook and “dropped back in,” eventually becoming a happily married man and raising five children, but the sad thing is that I witnessed close friends burn out and die young, largely because they “dropped out.”
The young need inspiration, not a whole lot of negativity.
Thanks for sharing, Caleb.
I don’t know about the others, but at least I swallowed it initially. It shook me when hearing that statement. In a way, we seems to be hardwired for bad news. Inspiring is one thing, being inspired another. Our situation is getting better and better and yet we tend to keep focusing on the bad things instead.
I think we should inspire by being realistic in the first place. It obviously was not an easy situation back then, but we saw opportunities and in the end we succeeded. There was obviously a core of truth in what the teacher said, but it was basically very one-sided information that had to be balanced before seeing it in the correct light.