Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Rabbit Hole Isn't What It Used To Be

What a time to be looking for work. They won't call it a depression (or even a recession) because the Masters of the Universe (the thieves on Wall St, not the homoerotic toy line) are making money. I guess we need a new word to reflect the situation where the Kings of Capital are making money and everyone else is eating dirt and wandering around in a daze.

How about we call it The Great Oppression?

Look, it's obvious things are screwed up, bread and circuses on the TV notwithstanding. Bill O'Reilly thinks everything is fine, so I guess I should shut up and get a job, right?

Except I've been looking for work pretty much since I graduated (I did get a road trip vacation as a graduation gift from my parents, so I guess that makes me a dirty hippie), and there just isn't a whole lot of anything these days. Entry level jobs for college graduates simply don't exist anymore (unless you're a R.N. or an engineer). If you don't have your first year of experience, don't expect to ever get it in this climate. There are too many overqualified people flooding the market, no one wants to hire an unknown quantity.

It's funny to me, in a way. A lot of Baby Boomers like to complain that the young generation has a sense of entitlement, that they're a spoiled bunch of idiots. And yet these same people, when faced with hiring someone, expect that someone else somewhere else will hire the new people. They want good employees, but they want someone else to have taken the risk of hiring them on and vetting them (thus, minimum one year of experience).

Most of the ones who engage in this behavior are totally oblivious to their own hypocrisy. But then, isn't that always the way?

The legacy of the 80's was the idea of "greed is good." We all gave each other permission to be selfish and screw each other over. Civilization can't survive without cooperation, and we relegated cooperation to the kid table. Now, like all cancers, this meme has spread and mutated into its latest strain, "Not my problem."

You need a job but you don't have experience? Not my problem.

You need help paying for overpriced health care so you can get back to being productive? Not my problem.

You got screwed by a banker who walked away with the keys to the treasury? Not my problem.

I could go on, but you get the point.

Of course, the central problem with this is that it is wrong. We live together, in increasingly crowded and interdependent systems. When one of us falls, all of us suffer, even if it is a third, fourth, even fifth order effect. Being six degrees from Kevin Bacon means you're seven degrees from everyone in the world. Six and a half billion neighbors, and some of them didn't eat today.

Spider Robinson has a saying, "Shared pain is lessened, shared joy is magnified." This, at its core, is what civilization is all about. The writers on the TV show Lost said something similar, "Stand together, die alone."

As many problems as we have, the alternative is worse. I want a job where I can help us hold together as much of this civilization as we can, for as long as we can. I guess those jobs don't exist anymore.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Refining ideas

I look at history and see that many civilizations have declined and collapsed before. I see how complex systems based on certain assumptions fall apart when those assumptions are no longer true. I look at how dependent we are on certain types of energy and cheap, easy wealth and look at our mechanisms for coping with interruptions to those things and it leaves me with a sense of cynicism. This is heavily reflected all throughout this blog, and is pretty much the purpose for it's existence.

All of my frustration with the problems people needlessly create for themselves finds itself reflected in my writing here.

When I say things like "stockpile food, gas, and ammo" it's not because I think the world is going to truly collapse into Mad Max style anarchy overnight. It's because having something stored away makes it a lot easier and more comfortable during the inevitable hard times. All it takes is a nasty tornado or a bad hurricane or a relatively minor earthquake and you can end up without food and water for days, and depending on where you are and what time of year it is having something put away can literally save your life.

On top of that, with everything stretched to the breaking point right now due to the recession, all it would take is one nasty large scale disaster and you could end up like those people in New Orleans, unable to get food or water for more than a week and still underwater a month later.

When a nation gets to the point in its life cycle that it starts doing things like ignoring rule of law and brazenly defying its constitution (and, I'm sorry to say, Obama is still wiretapping without warrants) you can take it as a sign that things are not going to truly get better (though what gets reported in an increasingly entertainment-based media might not reflect this).

The fact that the people who have all the power in this country think that things are better now because the market has gone up, even though unemployment continues to get worse (and please don't give me economic voodoo about leading and trailing indicators, I understand how it works and if you think that is a reasonable response to what I am saying you're missing the point), shows you everything you need to see about why I feel pessimistic about the future here.

People so easily forget this nation's recent history. We need to be using what resources we have left to create a buffer between us and calamity, but instead we're eating our seed corn.