When we were younger, a good many of us were given some version of the motivational speech, “if you go to college, you won’t have to flip burgers for the rest of your life,” and for the most part we absorbed that message- fearing it even-not wanting to join the Mc’Army. Unlike the generations before us, my generation did not have the luxury of a healthy and thriving industrial sector, we couldn’t go into a manufacturing job straight out of high school and build a life on fair wages for fair work. We were a product of the 1980’s, we grew up osmotically absorbing the rhetoric of Reagan and the Gordon Gecko Wall Street types; we partook in a vast cultural and technological explosion encapsulated in that prolific 1984 Apple commercial; we’ve seen nations invaded and destroyed because the great “beacon on the Hill” willed it so, and for what? Our collective experiences do not define us in this modern world, our entire existence is premised on some abject mathematical formula used to evaluate our creditworthiness. In my case, my existence has been reduced to nothing more than a number, an exponentially growing, never decreasing liability on some corporate balance sheet: I have become my student loan debt.
It is this debt which bonds me to the green-eyed monster of corporate Amerika, like some chattel slave farming the lands of a 5th century Nobleman. The abject commodification of higher education has created an “economical arms race“, pitting college administrators against students, unable to explain why the cost of education is increasing far beyond the rate of inflation in this country. This means many of us have little choice upon graduation, we accept jobs we are over-qualified for just to make our loan payments because our education was driven by market demands rather than social good. We are bonded to loan companies whose legal ninjary chained us to the financial wheel of their Faustian profit-mill. This abject valuation of higher education is making it inaccessible to those who do not have the financial means to afford it and ensures that those whom desire a greater knowledge cannot attain it without financial enslavement. I reluctantly accept my fate and work two jobs to make good on the contracts I was conned into agreeing to, and yet there are individuals out there who think I deserve criminal interest rates and crippling monthly payments, having no right to vent or advocate for change.
All too often I hear a resurrection of the perverse Algerian battle-cry of “pull yourself up by your bootstraps lad”, it’s undertone is far too prevalent in the ideological ethos of some of the more radical and unstable factions within the GOP. I would dutifully accept this call to a higher morality had not Horatio Alger resigned as minister of the First Parish Unitarian Church in Brewster, Cape Code, amidst a scandal involving sexual misconduct with young boys that he neither denied or refuted. This leads me to wonder if his affinity for the unique situations of working class children in Industrial America was nothing less than sinister, with the title “Ragged Dick” I think the message is loud and clear. On the other I want nothing more than “to pull myself up by my bootstraps,” to co-opt the ethos of the can-do American attitude, attaining the dream of the white picket fence, 2.5 kids, a dog and a minivan. The quintessential slice of pre-1980’s Americana–a post World War II utopia where everyone called everyone sir and madame, a place where you could walk down Mayberry Street listening to Sheriff Andy whistle a happy tune-but in reality when your bootstraps are covered by the manacles of the unregulated profiteers of the Student Loan Industry, it is hard to see the value in mindless euphemisms written during the height of the American Industrial Revolution. It is harder yet to see individuals co-opt this moral ethos, accepting their fate rather than questioning it, relegating themselves to a servitude that is more violent and everlasting, one that the Founding Fathers tried escape.
When I first read the Declaration of Independence, I must have missed the subtext, the unseen meta-narrative which outlined the real rights of man as opposed to what Jefferson had penned. I had no idea, that when they had written, all men are endowed with certain “unalienable Rights…….[to]………Life Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” that they forgot to put “If they can afford it.” That seems like quite the oversight from a group of individuals that were tired of the collective actions of not only the crown but of the East India Company acting as a political entity over the crowns lands as well. I mean really, who knew my Happiness would cost so much and come at the cost of my future Liberty and Life, student loan companies don’t like to hear, “I’m sorry but I got sick this month, so your envelope is a little light” they react very poorly(Language NSFW).
At one of the jobs I work, to make sure that my envelope is always flush, there are international students on a work exchange program from Latin America. In conversing with them I have come to realize that Amerika is the least civilized compared to the international community. These students are offered government subsidized higher education- not because of some socialist plot to destroy Big Business and Corporate Amerika while dismantling the marketplace of exploitative commodification of intangible resources- but because their nations realize that the most precious resource they have is its citizenry. Who knew the philosophical mathematics would come down to a simple utilitarian argument against economic exploitation of the only resource that a country will always possess.
A market crash is looming, even larger than the Housing Bubble of ’08 and although it won’t be sudden, it’s effects will be felt for generations, with people owing fealty to their bankster lords, the trauma and violence from this collapse will have catastrophic effects. With no disposable income to purchase a home, buy a car, or the latest electronic gizmo, the lack of purchasing power in my generation will cripple the marketplace for years to come. A Political Economy professor I once had said and I paraphrase, “You cannot stabilize an economy and generate growth by asking “do you want fries with that.” The service industry is a value-neutral option, there is no economic gained value from standing behind a counter, doling out high processed disposable food, for a corporate wage. In a world of limited to no industry, highly specialized production, and limited options for advancement, there is no way that anyone can “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” anymore, this pedagogy of the working class was a noble lie used to hide the deceit and deception of the bourgeoisie.
So I sit, waiting, wondering and watching, someday the people will wake up from their illusion of prosperity, spill their Tea all over their laps and realize they have been tools of an oligopolisitic machine the whole time.
Until then “Welcome to Costco……….I love you.”