Sunday, April 27, 2008

Poetical Economics

The Burghers of Calais by Rodin, Image via Guardian

I've been neglecting poetry these past two weeks looking for a full-time job. I'm 25, and not proud of never having had a full-time, occupational job. I've supported myself since junior year in college (three years ago) working a bunch of part-time and internship jobs. These have, in the lingo, really *helped me grow*. But somehow I've had neither the guts or the focus to settle down and really start producing--all those grown up things. Wealth, worth, connection.

This is all set into sharp relief living in New York City in a time of a staggering economy. I look at the general state of the country and am not impressed. Since when has a nation run up exorbitant debt, generated insane inflation, thrown itself at a loosing war, and come out the better for it? It has the ring of civilization set-back and empire dismantlement. This is not a reassuring time to sort out a sense of self. Fundamental issues of a healthy society seem to be at stake and I try to figure out which of my fuzzy ideals to chase.

I keep thinking of two articles. One, a USA Today piece on just how many in my age group are in a similar situation. I am not the only full-blown college grad contemplating dog-walking to support poetry-writing. We've been raised to chase passing fancies as a means of income. But on coming (reluctantly) of age, find ourselves, our parents, and our nation sunk in debt with decent jobs on the decline.

So much for doom prognosis. The next article's more optimistically oriented. It's called Youth quack--Millennials fired up over jobs, health care, and debt. I was flabbergasted at how much of it rang true for me. It's about how previously inert young voters are taking a sudden interest in the current presidential campaign, fanning the "change" rhetoric as candidates take notice of their new cohorts. But it's about much more as well, and successfully examines the contradictions of a generation simultaneously "weaned on self-esteem" and raised in the "epic uncertainty" of "the dot-com crash, terrorism, war, and climate change."

Quote: "Given all the might wonder why today's twentysomethings don't despair and disengage. There's a simple answer: They weren't raised that way." Instead, "they were the most coddled generation ever" and had the additional satisfaction of "bringing the music and media industries to their knees... providing Gen Yers with the self-confidence for a third-way, post-partisan manner of doing things." Wrapping it up: "Millennials, like many Americans, may have lost faith in the political Establishment, but they have utter faith in themselves and their wiki-inspired abilities to get things done."

This is so close to my way of viewing the world it's uncanny. To some, it may come across as an arrogant sense of "entitlement." But when all the major engines of a healthy society are out of wack, it's all I have to go by.

Anyways, as I continue to look for jobs I'm going to conflate (I think that's the word) the state of society with myself. If a shy, socially challenged, in debt, sometime poet can settle down and start conducting life properly, I'll take it as a sign that society in general is capable of the same. Meh, this sounds so pompous. But is something to start by

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