Articles have been appearing on the Internet for the last few years about the new “Lost Generation.” To refresh your memory, the original Lost Generation was led by the writer Ernest Hemingway. It was created out of the catastrophe of World War I which , by the time it ended in 1918, had resulted in the butchering of ten million men — for no apparent reason, in the eyes of men like Hemingway, except for the egos of the world’s leaders who were engaged in the most futile gang turf war in world history. That Lost Generation was disillusioned with the values of Western society and its foundations. Any society that could do what it did to its best and most courageous citizens, including gassing them, has brought its very existence into question.
The new Lost Generation has an entirely separate problem. It has, in the most profound sense imaginable, an identity crisis. The people in America between the ages of 16 and 29 have the worst unemployment since the end of World War II in 1945. Almost six million of them live at home with their parents, and the vast majority of those are men. Marriages among young adults have hit a historic low. Less than half were married as of last year. This is what faces a generation that, from all appearances, is obsessed with the creation of a personal identity.
Whether the feminists want to admit it or not, men are raised with the idea that their function in life is to work. ( Or, if not, they need to be self-supporting via a trust fund or the like.) If these young men cannot make a living sufficient to get married, help raise a family, or even take care of themselves, they will be lost for sure. And when one considers that the Republican Party has been the champion of the American family, it is faced with the reality in the 2012 election that the American family is under grave threat.
This threat, however, is not necessarily moral. The rhetoric of the Republican Party has always been that the American family is under attack because America has lost its values. In this case, it is uncertain that such a claim may stick. Economist after economist, for example, lay the blame for our economic woes directly on the wholesale dismantling of the American factory system, suppression of wages through cheap labor, and a corrupt banking and investment system that was largely left unattended by government for over a decade.
It would seem these aspects of the economy fall right into the laps of the Republican Party. It is the Republican Party that has advocated free trade, the evil of organized labor, and the de-regulation of the banking industry. So, if a young person is sitting at home as one of the chronically unemployed, who should he or she blame? It is easy to blame President Obama and the Democrats for their overspending and failed stimulus policies, but where does the Republican Party point to in its own history to find the answer? In retrospect, there were lots of mistakes to go around under Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush that put the economy into the condition it is in now.
Furthermore, if the government stops spending the money it is spending now, will these young people have anything? There are already voices in the press I have read and heard that are blaming this situation on the unemployed young people. There are saying this young generation is unprepared for the world, is lazy, on and on — essentially, these voices are saying that men no longer feel a requirement to become men and remain boys. If one looks at modern movie comedies, for example, even thirty and forty year old men act as if they are fifteen.
The ultimate question, then, is whether the youth will look to themselves for a solution or look to the government. An optimistic view would be that they will do both. They will look to their own strengths to climb out of this economic mess, and look to a government that will release the future burden of an unplayable debt. There is also the pessimistic view, which is they will turn to the government because they feel they have nowhere else to go. The great Damoclean sword hanging over the heads of all conservatives is the decadent corporate and banking structure that has existed in America since the 1970’s.
Without being over-dramatic, if this generation does not receive an adequate answer from capitalism, they may abandon it. We’re starting to see it now, with academia pushing the issue and fomenting disillusionment. Unemployment has always bred radical answers to societal problems. Let us hope the Republicans have the wisdom to save capitalism instead of saving the government. If not, it may lose the Lost Generation forever.