16 October 2011

Occupying Wall Street: How people power is defining 99%


On behalf of the X/Y generation and all the inbetweeners:
Lately, I've been absorbing all the material I can about the GFC (so big, the acronym doesn't even need a definition). First, it was a surprisingly thought-provoking film, 'The Company Men', in which the lead character lost his well-paid job in the recession, and subsequently lost his house, car, and self-respect, whilst the CEO of his company got richer. Then it was the documentary, 'Inside Job', which gave me some insight into how the GFC came about*. The more I read, the more I am dismayed at the irresponsible and greedy behaviour of one generation of politicians and bankers (the 1%), who pretty much screwed over 99% of my generation, and many people either side. In sympathy with this cause, across 1,500 cities worldwide people from 'the 99%' are gathering in protest against the actions of the "super 1%": those fat-pocketed bankers who destroyed the world's financial stability. This is known as the 'Occupy Wall Street', or OWS movement.

I asked a normally reticent recession-afflicted relation for a sound bite to publish on this topic. "Can I join in?" he said. Well, that pretty much sums it up for us. We want a voice. Aside from the few children of wealthy baby-boomers who are bought a flat and supported while they do their unpaid internships in the City, Gen X and Y are suffering. Nearly a million Gen Ys are unemployed, while Gen Xs with a few years experience are nabbing the jobs that usually go to graduates. Whilst our parents enjoyed the fruits of the property market boom, with house prices increasing almost exponentially from when they purchased to 2008, Gen X-Ys who don't have wealthy parents can't get a mortgage without a whopping great deposit, so can't join the property ladder. With salaries so much lower than house prices, they might never be able to. That's if Gen Ys can get a job to start with. We may have been privileged children during the technological revolution that brought us mobile phones, flat screen TVs and the World Wide Web, but we will also still be working when we are 80, renting one-bed flats on meagre (if any) pensions. Thanks 1%-ers.

*Obviously, my sources are completely academic and unbiased. Er…

And a response from a newly retired almost baby-boomer (er, my Dad, if you hadn't guessed…):
We "almost" baby boomers were raised in a time that you younger people would view as 'deprived'. No TV, no car, no mobile, no computers or Internet. Schooling was harsh by today's standards, with many teachers straight out of the forces following the war. Not the caring types!

There is also the underlying presumption that we had knowledge of the future. NO! We worked, we saved, we invested in our children (that's YOU, folks). We, as individuals, are the 99% not to blame for the financial crisis, tuition fees increases and unaffordable house prices. Rather, we somewhat envy the opportunities most younger people have today.

Ok, we accept that some aspects of life in the naughties are harder. But some aspects are so much easier. You will have to struggle, but so does every generation. Your struggle just has different parameters to ours. But don't think we did not also struggle. We are all part of the 99%, and 99% of all living generations have been affected by the recession in different ways. The point is, how do we help Generation Z to learn the lessons of their predecessors and pave the way for their children to create a stable and sustainable financial future? Let's do it together.