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Blurry Generation

Posted by
MadScientist (Düsseldorf, Germany) on 26 October 2008 in Abstract & Conceptual.

Whenever I meet people of my age (I'm in the fourties), and they start to tell about their life, I often listen to similar stories. Most of these people tried to do it right: they studied something or have a comparable qualification, most are coming from middle-class families; not the worst makings for a successful life.

But apart from private difficulties (especially relationship problems) there's a noticeable lack of success in these biographies. While our parent generation (people who grew up in the 1950s and 60s) had its dreams, if not visions, about a bright future, and an implicite mandate to form and design it, most of this situation changed.

The worth of certain qualifications changed signficantly: a psychologist has to invest several thousand Euros for additional qualifications after his leaving certificate (they are not part of the course of studies but have to be paid privately). A job in science is a warranty for a life of uncertainty: usually labour contracts are temporary and there's a great gap between (older) people with a lifetime post and those without. Teachers no longer become civil servants (usual career until not so long ago): now they are jobless during the holidays. A decade of neo-liberalism and excessive deregulation taught us to have self-responsibility for our life and to invest in our private pension plan - now many of these plans got destroyed in the financial crisis. Losing the job becomes a real threat, and the way how my country treats jobless people didn't get nicer, not at all!

They are still trying to do it right. But economy and politics still tell us that there are no warranties on anything. Now the financial system is in a touch and go situation, many have already lost some money. They're reading about globalization and don't have a clue what that means, because they neither think politically nor economically. They watch things come and go and hope for better times, but will these times come naturally and without guidance? Shouldn't we care about things, about our future instead of just fulfilling our employers' demands?

When I'm reading the news, I'm always learning that older people are right now ruining the economy and younger people are told they belong to a certain 'elite' (another term that we don't like but that we got used to because only the 'elite' can save our competitiveness in the global market). But the middle-aged, middle-class people keep silent. We had our economic booms, we learned to love the Internet, and now we see that technology is going to turn against us. Governments call it 'war on terror', but it's actually a war on the inner enemy, the final goal is the domestication of people that we pay with our civil rights. But there's only few resistance, and many 40+ people are not aware of the permanent loss of privacy or don't have an opinion about this at all.

While people of the 1930s were called the 'silent generation' I would like to call our age-group the 'blurry generation'; some of us are lucky and can live a life in safety and prosperity, others are already belonging to the working poor. They don't look like poor people, though, as many of them are still receiving money from their parents. But what will happen when these parents will be gone one day? We still keep silent, because politics was always off the cards. We try to function as usual, but the old recipes don't work any longer. The world we know is going to change and we still don't know the vocabulary of power. Our descendants won't love us for this.

Linerberry from Sumner, Christchurch, New Zealand

Interesting image and concept. I am also one of the 40+ and I think we have slipped into passive acceptance that things are not like they used to be and they never will be again and so where do we fit in?? Having been told all our lives what we should strive for, but that no longer figures in todays society! Is that how every generation feels or are we just the 'lucky' ones who have witnessed such dramatic changes in the world that we have been left wondering what it all means?????

26 Oct 2008 6:13am

@Linerberry: I think you hit the nail right on the head. We're the first ones (at least in the Western world) to live within a recession after several decades. When I'm discussing the actual situation with my parents, they simply don't understand; they're used to steady growth, a working economy and a life in (modest) prosperity. My wife thinks that TV and the means of distracions are the only reason why we don't see regular street riots so far. Though the street riot scenes at Paris, France, two years ago are a writing on the wall.

Taina from Madrid, Spain

You talk of a lot of things and I think you are quite true, but many times I think that one of the problems we have to face is that we have put many hopes in the outside (perhaps the bright future you talk about) : having a good job , having money , a family , "friends" , a car or two,etc. but we have not taken into account our inner life, our own capacities and responsabilities as human beings. If all our dreams were only to have a better life than our parents (economically speaking I mean) it doesn't matter if we have achieved this or not , we will be disatisfied all the same: because what is the use of this?

26 Oct 2008 12:52pm

@Taina: I wouldn't propose constant economic growth and permanent consumism; we are living in a limited world and there is no such exponential growth possible. The questions is: is the 40+ generation prepared for the change? We're so used of just continuing the life of our parents that we are missing the means to react on the loss of that life. We've been told the 'TINA' formula ('There Is No Alternative') so much, that many people even don't recognize that things as we know them will come to an end soon. Facing this change and questioning the dogmas of the last twenty years would be a real task for this generation, but I don't see much will to this.

Observing from West Cheshire, United Kingdom

''(I'm in the fourties)'' yes, but you are closer to 50 than 40 :-0

''(A decade of neo-liberalism and excessive deregulation taught us to have self-responsibility for our life and to invest in our private pension)'' Self-responsibility is a cliche, an expression used by the government which basically means - you are on your own, sort it out yourself. After WWII the people of Britain were told to work hard, ask for little, and you will be looked after from cradle to grave. Not so. Generations of people have worked for below average wages, have paid into the system, and are now told there is no money, pay it yourself.

There used to be an old saying in Holland, 'You can only spend your gulden once' in other words once you have spent your money it's gone. But try to understand the taxation system, you earn a wage and pay tax for that money. That should be the end of the matter, but no, if you save you are taxed, whatever you buy you taxed, you leave an inheritance and that is taxed..! How many times can your wage be taxed..?

It is systematic daylight robbery by the corrupt governments of this world.

26 Oct 2008 1:09pm

@Observing: you are closer to 50 than 40: Now you're talking like my mother who told me at my 40th: 'Now you are heading towards 50!' :-)

Generations of people have worked for below average wages, have paid into the system, and are now told there is no money, pay it yourself.: Germany is ca. 10 years behind that: my generation will be the first that has to pay much more into the system than generations before, and that will receive less money than ever. There's only small hope for younger people, who get used to this situation from their early days.

How many times can your wage be taxed..?: If I would work in England I would pay British taxes as well as German taxes. Double taxation is actually forbidden, but the German tax offices don't care. When my uncle died a few years ago I had to pay a significant tax, although the money he once earned has already been taxed.

systematic daylight robbery by the corrupt governments: I think this is only a small part of the whole story but basically you're damn right.

Ana Lúcia from Leiria, Portugal

I'm in thirty. Already discovered as a human being is horrible... I do not know what will happen to our planet... For children and for all living beings hope that there is still time to save the planet.

26 Oct 2008 6:02pm

@Ana Lúcia: I still think this is possible (I don't know exactly how, though). But unfortunately human nature doesn't recognize slow changes. We get used to things that change over a long time. This made our species so successful. Climate change is a good example for this: as long as it's only a problem of 'other people', we usually don't care. Additionally, our distraction mechanisms are working very well: even if the catastrophe is shown in TV channel 1, the next sitcom waits at channel 2. While there is no real need to bother about things, most people simply won't do that.

Michael Skorulski from Cigel, Slovakia

Your shimmer on the water is lovely!

26 Oct 2008 6:30pm

@Michael Skorulski: That's at Düsseldorf's Kö, our most expensive boulevard. Thank you. :-)

JoeB from Brampton, Canada

I guess no CEO's will be jumping in the water there far too busy collecting their bonuses. The middle class has always had the burden of carrying a nation it has been destroyed by the global expansion, it is the working poor, giving its money to corporations that only see as far as the next quarterly profits. A generation with no dreams or goals is a lost generation.

26 Oct 2008 11:33pm

@JoeB: So it is. And after reallocating the assets from bottom (taxpayers, ordinary people) to top (companies, enterprises; I think this was the neoliberal credo) nothing will be left for the remnants of the middle-class. It's vaporizing. What annoys me most is that this happens almost silently.

dj.tigersprout from San Bruno, CA, United States

beautifully shot -- was watching water reflections the other day just like this! how wonderful -- i begin to imagine shapes and figures -- characters and faces -- excellently done!!

27 Oct 2008 12:06am

@dj.tigersprout: With still water you would recognize the trees of Düsseldorf's , our expensive shopping mile. :-)

akarui from Kagoshima, Japan

Nice textures in the water with the lights and shadows.

27 Oct 2008 1:05am

@akarui: That's a small canal alongside Düsseldorf's Königsallee, our expensive shopping boulevard.

Twelvebit from Victoria, United States

Nicely textured. Not just "self-responsibility" is a cliche --mere responsibility is a cliche. Few people who throw this term around really mean it --what they really mean is that the "other" must be responsible; just as few people really mean "freedom" in any serious way --what they really mean is "freedom" to be like them.

Unfortunately, human beings are our biggest problem. I've heard family members, and others, who helped their children cheat in school, rant about the decline in educational standards. I see "conservatives" who are constantly whining about the lack of individual responsibility and poor parenting let their own kids run wild. The fish rots from the head. When the "elites" are strictly out for themselves, as they are today, regardless of the consequences, then the system comes apart.

It can get worse, and will before it gets better --IF, that is, it gets better. I've had supposedly educated people tell me in the last two days that if Obama is elected he's going to rewrite our Constitution and that he's a "communist." These people are scared to death about things that can't happen --they have no idea how their own, or any other, government works-- and are completely clueless about the nature of the approaching abyss. Our country, the most powerful country in an increasingly complicated world, has been run by idiots for the last eight years (more really), and it is very likely that the people running things here are going to be even dumber as time goes on because a whole bunch of people in this country actually want dumb people in charge of it --it's "elitist" to have smart people run things.

Personally, I think the US and Europe are finished. The smart thing to do is probably to move to Asia. But maybe we'll last long enough for those my age to live out their lives without being in utter misery.

28 Oct 2008 10:38pm

@Twelvebit: The smart thing to do is probably to move to Asia. - My wife says you're right. :-)
Today I've read about a study that today's young people are less bright than teens some decades ago. A possible cause might be found in the way today's teens are learning things (training instead of exploring), but I think it's a bitter irony that people get dumber in the Information Age. Maybe it's sort of an allergic reaction of the body of society against too much knowledge, I don't know. There are cycles in the history of mankind where highly developed cultures were swept away and replaced by dark ages. Surviving is the key, having a garden and some books is a good idea, as somebody has to pass the knowledge on the next generation.