Friday, October 07, 2011

Dear 99%er



I was listening to Marketplace with Ky Ryssdal this morning and I heard this:

”It's protesters who say, in personal detail, how despite doing what everybody says you've got do to -- get an education, work hard -- they're falling behind while the other 1 percent, the rich, get richer.”

Oh, how I remember that feeling. You see, 30 years ago, I was in exactly the same spot with the same feelings. I had been working since I was 16. I had worked my way through college, graduated and...Nothing. Nobody “wanted” me. I had done what I supposed to do. I had held up my end of the social contract. But society hadn’t held up its end of the bargain. Of the two dozen-or-so friends I graduate with in college, only three got hired for “real” jobs.

But that’s where our similarities end. I didn’t graduate with a lot of debt. My parents had helped out and, despite being the worst recession since this one, I was able to work the whole time. As a matter of fact, I never really considered myself unemployed. I took a couple of odd jobs here and there. Once I gave up hunting for a “real” job -- full time -- I went back to work at the job I had had all through college -- pumping gas at the airport. (Just as an aside, a job at a General Aviation airport is was a great place to meet people that run businesses.)

The recession of the early 80s was bad, but it’s nothing like what is happening now. The Great Recession is much, much tougher. The casualties from it are going to be much worse. That -- of course -- means you are going to be hurt much worse.

My whole point in writing this is to say that some of us get it. Some of the “old” folks watching you on the nightly news know what you are feeling. And we recognize that it wasn’t tougher in our time. We recognize that the society we helped build -- or at least allowed to develop -- wasn’t as fair or as just as the one we were given. We fell asleep at the wheel. We let Wall Street and our greed get out of control. We got comfortable. We got lazy.

Keep your eyes open. My generation elected Ronald Reagan because of economic tough times. Trust me, we didn’t all think he was a hero when he was in office -- or afterward. We remember the Iran - Contra scandal. But mostly, we remember he fired the air traffic controllers. We did think that was the right thing to do at the time. At least we let ourselves think that. I thought something didn’t seem quite right about it. But I didn’t know what, much less how to verbalize it. So I let myself be convinced that I was young and stupid.

Don’t let anybody convince you that you are. (Young and stupid that is.) The important thing is what you know in your heart. And yours is in the right place. So stand up for yourselves. Demand better from our society. You have every right to do so and every right to expect better.

Don Brown
October 7, 2011

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