There’s a new living meme I’ve been closely watching as it achingly creeps into an everyday reality because of economic compression and the new relativism of the repression of the American Dream for a growing generation of born scavengers.

I’ve been cautiously observing the new momentum of young people moving out of big cities and into small, rural, villages — or their parent’s basement — where the rent is cheap, the food is affordable, and the quality of life is quiet and unsubstantial.

At a time when these young people should be at their maximum earning potential, they are instead in “retirement mode” and collecting welfare subsidies and banking the goodwill of the generation ahead of them.  When it comes time for them to pay back the deed, they will be able to do so because they were never in the earnings game in the first place.

There are no jobs in these dying villages, but the influx of young people in the prime of their lives, with pocketsful of Federal and State money to spend, are keeping these separate, sovereign, archaic archipelagos — stuck, and hiding in the middle of the United States — alive in the midst of an overall economic meltdown of both representative democracy and the social welfare safety net created to only catch, not sustain, these fallen folks.

These young people have taken refuge in the small town and the village and the hamlet to avoid the hard reality of an ever-coarsening world economy that hits them squarely in the face upon graduation from high school or college.

There are not many manufacturing jobs to be had, unions are dying, and nobody really cares to hire the fresh college graduate at an affordable, and righteous, living wage.  How can you fight when there’s no opponent waiting for you? When despair is the only life choice available, the safest bet is to recoil and retreat and hope to gather a win on another day that will never arrive.

For many, the only option is to revolt from the unrealistic expectations of mainstream society and recede into towns and the oasis of villages stuck in 1950’s technology and mindsets.  In the smallest towns, the world has changed very little over the last 60 years, and that affordable fact is appealing to the fallen Millennials who are flailing in the marketplace.

Since these young’uns have no earned income, they rely on either long-term unemployment insurance payments, or when those benefits run out, they try to transition into permanent disability payments or supplemental security income.  Their rebellious protest against the power majority arrives monthly in a direct deposit.

Those small payments carry little weight for value in modern cities, but in the smaller hamlet of antiquity, those Federal and State monies can allow the twitchy leading of a somewhat regular, if not imaginary, life.

Yes, these young people have nothing to do all day, and yes, they are wasting the money given to them by “retiring early” and giving up on a life of work and burden in the machinery of society, and so they become soft and reliant and malleable, and addicted and unimportant in the forward movement of social dreams becoming individualistic accomplishments.

What happens to the American Dream deferred?  It withers back into fallow ground, poisoning the land with barren wishes and broken hopes — and the only way out of the grave is to reimagine a world where the worker wins the world and is able to sow, and reap, the rewards of living a real life of labor where the body pays the mind forward in meaningful, and sustaining, pay for a hard day’s work.

112 Comments

  1. I am familiar with the “quiet life” but it has been one of self sustainability, making ends meet however I can without help from the state. Larger numbers of children are not migrating to the “big city” in the UK but staying at home locally where they can, with their parents if they cannot and even returning to their parents in some cases.

    I have some sympathy with them – I would not want to live in a city and certainly not on welfare or on a low income. Having said that to idle away ones life at the expense of others as a lifestyle choice hardly seems fair to those who ultimately pay the welfare bill.

    A good society/government would hopefully find the middle way – allowing for most to make their ways through life working as they please in occupations that enrich them and society.

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    1. It’s alarming this USA trend isn’t limited to the USA, but it includes much of the rest of the world. This weariness I see in young people who have no real opportunity in their lives except to stay put and relatively safe as the world externally spins around them is tremendously sad. If you never leave the home awning — even for a few months out, away, standing on your own — then you’ll never really know the world or freedom or the terror of self-responsibility. That makes for conservative, frightened, people who wish to be taken care of by venturing nothing and it creates a conservative conservatorship that does not play well for a democratic future where everyone is equal and sustainable and free.

      The problem we have with extended unemployment insurance is that the GOP now want people to have to work/volunteer to keep their benefits — but that really isn’t fair because those getting that particular payment WERE WORKING and were taxed for the benefit in case they needed it later; so there’s an odd form of not double-dipping going on, but one of a forced double-working for the same earned benefit. It’s a mess!

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      1. Good points there. The crisis for young people is international: I see it all the time in Spain and the UK. One of the reasons there are so few opportunities in the modern world is the schoolification of society. Where everything is tested, measured, certificated and controlled there is little room for that old-fashioned gumption and get-up-and-go. If we don’t do something about the deadening effect of so much education we are going to end up with a completely useless generation!

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        1. I agree education isn’t for everyone — but craft, skill, insight, logic and innovation must be taught somewhere in the lifeline — or society will not advance.

          Not everyone needs to attend college, but everyone must have a way to earn a living with their hands or minds or backs. It isn’t enough just to exist and to expect to be fed and catered to — and in the USA we’re quickly heading down that path where the only thing that matters is breath as a sign of life instead of acts and deeds and accomplishments as indices of living.

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    1. That’s an excellent question. I think they’ll want to remain safe, and paid for, and in an affordable place — and my sense is that the conservatives will see some benefit in this new “Rural Welfare State” — and to keep the far reaches Red, they’ll find ways to subsidize these non-working young “farmers” with protective chits like crop guarantees and drought insurance and milk subsidies that won’t be called that, but will still be there anyway to pay off the idle poor in exchange for a loyal Red vote.

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  2. Perhaps when the economic boom was happening adults felt part of the buildingbprocess and a sense of purpose that this generation of growing adults can not relate with so they reject it, as with most ungrateful youngsters they see the life of their parents and want something else. Whereas when their parents were growing up they had less choices and opting out wasn’t one of those choices, besides why would you you were prospectors back then chasing this economic gold on offer, your own stake. What now, what stake, what gold? The reserves and mines have dried up and now the younger ones cant afford to live in the old mining villages ie cities so they are moving on but no longer carrying hopes and dreams but a chip on their shoulder and a gov. Cheque.

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    1. Hi Benji!

      Thanks for the keen comment.

      This article is sort of a follow up to my previous piece on Millennials:

      https://bolesblogs.com/2014/01/06/the-new-rude-millennials/

      There has always been a concept in the USA that children will do better than their parents. When a parent leaves the hometown for a new life, the expectation has been that their children will do the same, and so on and so on… and that, we had naively, yet evolutionarily, hoped, would lead to a more globally aware citizenry.

      Because we have wrecked the Middle Class — we now have the ultra rich and the very poor — and the few, miserable sloths caught in the middle are the suckers who pay for everything in taxes and wage deductions.

      The wealthy are still following that evolutionary model. Their children are boors and impatient and impolite but they are extremely well educated in private schools and they’re connected, and they take care of each other, and they attend the world when they go off to college together in another country. The rich and their offspring are doing fine.

      The poor never sent their children anywhere. The expectation was, and is, they will never get out. There’s no way out.

      So we’re left with a withering middle class who have no hope, but lots of expectations that are being shattered every year budget crisis by budget crises. Their children are miserable and returning home to save money and incentives, and the tax base is dwindling because the rich don’t pay and neither do the poor.

      So where are we all headed in this? The urban core becomes the playground for the rich? The poor are born and die in the same ghetto tenements? The middle class recedes to the hinterlands to lock down and preserve and save and live as cheaply as possible… for what? A Social Security check they earned, and paid for, and will never be able to collect?

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      1. Interesting post. I don’t agree with the subtext that there is a moral imperative to make money for the next generation. It is interesting to see that there is a movement towards the abadnoned village in the USA. In Spain, where I live, there are increasing numbers of abandoned villages. Young people trade in the properties their ancestors would have died to protect to agri-business so that they can buy an apartment in a city. A new generation of professionals doesn’t want to smell the cowshit let alone shovel it. If those young people are taking the federal paycheck and spending it in the village, good for them and good for us!

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        1. If the next generation doesn’t earn their own money, and become wards of the State, then I believe they have failed their moral imperative to live an engaged life where they can make a difference matter.

          I’m not sure the re-ruralization of the USA is a good idea, because it moves a generation backward. The small towns and villages are not as advanced as the cities and there’s no money left to update infrastructure and create vibrant wireless and cable and satellite connections. Some prefer that clear disconnect, but for others who are forced back to the fields and farms against their better wishes, that is never a trend you would hope to continue. Unfortunately, once the feet are planted in the earth, it’s almost impossible to release them back into the city again.

          When you don’t earn your own way in the USA, you have a problem, because you have no power, you are marginalized, and others tell you what to do and how to behave — and if you don’t fall in line, then benefits are cut and access is vanquished. It creates a modern day slave State.

          It’s always better to turn down the Federal check than to rely on it for the rest of your life. Unless, of course, you no longer care to be engaged in the future and you just want to eat and breathe as a sign of life.

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  3. I completely agree, back to the old ways, virtual slavery, lords and peasants slaves and masters, since civilizations began. There was a few good yesrs in the middle but it wasnt working out for the rich as their wealth devalued because of the up and coming middle class investing and increasing their portfolios. They had to put an end to the wealth share I guess.

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    1. Right! Now there’s an effort to dismantle unions and the right to gather. How can you join together in solidarity to protest inequality if the laws of the land have been written against you to silence you?

      I’m sure they prefer to “ruralize” America again. Separate. Conquer. Quiet. They’ll decide our lives for us.

      Our one true hope at freedom was in the worldly strings of the internet. Those tendrils are now being cut and listened to and intercepted — and unequal using is waiting for the wealthy to pay for faster, exclusive, access to the rest of the world.

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  4. You’ve given us so much to think about…. The advice of my parents “work hard, get good grades & get a good job” I fear is not going to produce results in the economy that is taking shape – so what do we tell our kids?

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    1. Yes, your parent’s advice was correct 30 years ago, today it’s quaint and unrealistic because the world has changed so much. Hard work is no longer ever enough. Money really isn’t even the real key.

      We need encourage our kids to be brave and risk and make connections with the world far beyond their upbringing. They need to live in many faraway places. We need to internationalize them, so they get a realer sense of the world spinning around them. You can’t know the game if you’re never vested in playing.

      We must also insist that our kids make it on their own — and that means kicking them out and cutting them off so they can taste the hard reality of the world just as we did — and they should be supported in their effort to wean, but they should never be allowed to recoil back to the family nest because then nothing whatsoever is gained and absolutely everything is lost.

      Only the young are naive and foolish enough to think they can make a real and substantial change in the world, and the longer they delay that risk to safety, the better bet it is that they’ll venture absolutely nothing over the arc of their lives and they’ll become passive and acted upon and easily threatened and frightened by those who are more worldly than them.

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      1. Couldn’t agree more – we have been trying to prepare them for a more global future. Our greatest challenge right now is living amongst the “Joneses” while trying to explain to our kids why they dont need a cell phone at age 8 or that they have not earned a ipad when all their friends are simply given them. They dont understand these are the kids that are not going to be prepared….Its maddening !

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        1. It’s a hard line to navigate — because your kids absolutely need iPhone and iPads to keep up with the rest of the world right now — but I agree there must be a sense of purpose behind the devices. It isn’t a matter of keeping up with material things, it’s a matter of learning how to access the database of the world at the earliest possible opportunity. They need that inherent equalization in learning experience.

          I don’t know where you live, but start prepping your kids for college now with the idea that they’re going as far away from you as possible because that distance will enhance their future. If they can’t go International, at least put them on one of the Coasts. Far enough away that they’ll sense their own divinity, and yet close enough to be within a day or so of getting some family love in person.

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          1. I think they are already over-exposed to the tech at school, during free time etc, they dont need it 24/7. And Funny you should mention college…. our hope/plan is along that line – drop them off in their dorm rooms and raise our sails for weeks at a time, head out to sea, leaving them to their own devises. (we do have a large extended family for emergencies).

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          2. Very interesting discussion. I’m not at all convinced kids need all the technical gadgetry since most of what they do seems to be to incessantly check Facebook, look at youtube, send messages to friends and play games. How does this expand their world and make them prepared for their future? Learning to access data bases is OK – if they also learn to question who put the information there and for what purpose. Funnily enough, the urban myths I encountered when young (in the 60ies) are more or less the same that the kids pass around today. In spite of all the high tech gear and the information available on the net. Even more funny: my parents’ generation complained on their offspring that they read crap literature and watched inane television programs. Ah well, each generation have had serious doubts of the young and somehow our species has survived so far. The balance of power has shifted of course, from the ones that have grown soft to those that are hungry. For my own kid, I hope that the shift will be delayed for a long time.

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          3. You’re right on all counts, Freddy.

            The charm of gadgets and technology is, in the right hands, the ability to compress time and space. You can do scholarly research much faster on an iPhone today than you ever could 20 years ago standing alone in the library stacks — and that’s beautiful — and I know that joy because I have lived through, and directly experienced, both sides of that light and dark dyad. That’s a good thing, but I wonder, as you do, if the young people are using their phones for learning or wasting time playing games?

            There is certainly a generational divide happening here — but every generation so far has pressed the bleeding edge of the world forward — and I fear the current generation is actively choosing to pass their turn on that bloody task because they’re too poor and too scared to try and that’s a dirty rotten shame because it falls out of the direct experience of the American way of life.

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    1. I appreciate your comment, Barbara. I think more than usual, the kids are tending to recede more than conquer. Some are born to conquer, many need help learning how.

      The determination must be made at the parental level. Millennials are, statistically speaking, much too connected and reliant on their parents to forge their own way in the world.

      The idea is to kick the kids as far away from you as possible whether they are ready or not; and historically, for the middle class, that has meant college.

      Nothing angers me more than parents who tell their kids they’re going to college — but only to the school right in town down the road. That’s the wrong idea in every way.

      Kick your kids to the coast and pay for it so they don’t have to — if you have the means and the ability — send them overseas. All the major universities now have international campuses, and there’s a distinct reason for that — it’s becoming the way of the world.

      Here’s an example of how NYU is pushing their own students outside of New York City at every possible chance. Even NYC is not enough now:

      Our newest international study center recently opened in Washington, DC–the 11th of our international academic centers, which also include Accra; Berlin; Buenos Aires; Florence; London; Madrid; Paris; Prague; Sydney; and Tel Aviv.

      Even our curriculum is changing to reflect both the desire and the need for our students not only to attain an education but also to become world citizens: two new globally oriented undergraduate majors are being offered this year as NYU more fully integrates international study into its academic programs.

      http://www.nyu.edu/global/the-global-network-university.html

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  5. eat sleep lose —

    Good! I’m glad to know your kids are connected, and I agree knowing how to disconnect is an important skill to master even the world disagrees 24/7. SMILE!

    Love the idea of setting the kids free to fail on their own — you’re there to help them if they have trouble, but their lives belong to them, and in that handling, their find their own way.

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  6. I guess I didn’t realize this was thing amongst the younger generation. Of course my plan has always been to settle on a farm and be away from cities. But close enough that we still have all the employment options. I have no desire to live on another’s dime. We live in a small town right now and my fiancée holds a corporate IT position in a larger town close by. I work from home and am saving to buy land to start up a stable for disadvantaged youth. I’m 23 so I’m sure I for in the you get lazy generation but I assure you I have no desire to be grouped in with them. My brother also lives in the country. He is a foreman at a local construction company and will be taking over the family farm when my father retires. So there are decent options in small rural areas should one look for them.

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    1. I realize you are content staying rural and working a farm — but I would argue, just for its sake — that the urban, international, globe — needs someone just like you with earthy, common sense, taking a public leading role in helping reform a virtual, international, interconnected, world and not just your corner of it.

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        1. I could tell you what I think you should do, but what good would that do? It’s your life, not mine! SMILE!

          So, I’ll ask you a question instead: “What do you have to offer the world beyond the corners of your current, rural, life?”

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          1. behind blue eyes —

            I humbly and respectfully submit your reply is a concern — and you’ve precisely made my point today.

            You have a lot to offer, as I’ve previously suggested here to you, and the time for contemplation and building is over. Now is the time to act and deconstruct. Today is your moment. The world is waiting for you. You either know this in your bones or you do not. There is no such thing as a coincidence.

            The first question I ask my college students on the first day of class is this: “Who are you, and what sort of life do you want to have?”

            Many of them had no idea what I mean, or what I am talking about, and they want me to answer for them.

            I tell them I have no notion, but the first thing they need to do is ask their parents about their dreams. Not one student I’ve ever taught has ever asked their parents about their dreams — and when they find the courage to ask, many of them are shocked and heartbroken by the answer.

            Then I tell them they have the rest of the semester to work out that first question and, by the end of the course, I want an answer.

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          2. My dads dream was to have sons. I ruined that. But he now dreams to have my brother take over the farm. My mom….. She doesn’t like to dream…. The most she will say is that she wants to be buried on the farm and be surrounded by cats..

            My dream is to be a mother. Of which I am. And to run a stable of which I am working towards. I really have no audacious dreams to travel the world or anything. I am a simple person and I wish to lead a simple life.

            If somehow my simple life changes the world, or at least changes the world for some people, I won’t have any complaints. But i am not setting out to do that.

            When I get my stable up and running, I will be helping people. Hopefully helping some troubled kids going down a bad road to think again and straighten out their life a little bit. And when I adopt a child, as I plan to, I will be changing it’s whole world. And that is enough for me.

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          3. behind blue —

            I think your parent’s dreams have formed you in ways you should continue to contemplate.

            My final question for you today, is this: “Why did you choose to participate in this discussion?”

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          4. You made it sound as if young people, of which I fit the category, are lazy and have no desire to do anything. So they move to places in which I choose to live, to avoid working and having a real life. I just didn’t see how living in a small town or farm left you with zero opportunities like you have implied.

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          5. That’s interesting what you took away from the article.

            Here’s what I take away:

            There are not many manufacturing jobs to be had, unions are dying, and nobody really cares to hire the fresh college graduate at an affordable, and righteous, living wage. How can you fight when there’s no opponent waiting for you? When despair is the only life choice available, the safest bet is to recoil and retreat and hope to gather a win on another day that will never arrive.

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        2. I urge you to be proud of your decisions. The world needs people like you (as you’ve defined yourself) just as much as people like that (that Mr. Boles described). How would urban people eat without men like your father running farms? He should feel very proud of his contributions, and you should as well.

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          1. Thank you Meredith. I think people need to realize not everyone wants to be in the spotlight or have the ability to “be heard” easily. Right now, I don’t but that doesn’t mean I won’t. If I decide I want to. And if I don’t want to, I see no reason that I should feel obligated to do so just because others are lazy and I need to show them I’m not the same.

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      1. Unfortunately, you, and the masses of sheep like you, hold “that the urban, international, globe” is the one and only reasonable way and place to live. Friend, you need to get out more. You can start “getting out” by reading Thoreau. Thoreau? you ask. Never heard of her. But wait! … was she screwing Beyonce for awhile?

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        1. We don’t allow personal attacks in the comments stream, but since you’re attacking me, that’s fine for now, but this will be your one and only published comment.

          I’d reply in full if you had actually read the article, but since you didn’t, I letting you loose just so the kind good people participating here — who are reasonable and interesting and thoughtful — can see and smell and feel what it’s like to deal with an internet troll.

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  7. Nicely put, Boles. If you ask me, or if you don’t, the main thing youngins suffer from today is the lack of a higher purpose. I wish I’d read the Gospel as a teenager. It would have totally salvaged my early twenties. Regarding money, we’re not even supposed to worry about tomorrow, much less two decades from now. Serve God with faith and love and He’ll foot the bill for your life. Stressing over finances is putting the cart before the horse.

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  8. I don’t know if you’ve heard the recent news spin on this. Because social mobility is in tact there is less of a problem… I think what you are identifying are the socially immobile. Perhaps people that did everything right and still encountered a wall or even a new ceiling.

    Thanks, David.

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    1. Hi Justin!

      Thanks for the comment.

      I don’t think it’s enough to be connected only virtually to the world. Social networking — what I call the “Social Mesh” — can never replicate the warmth of a handshake or actually standing in the same room with someone. You have to learn how to read a person in person. You need to understand the context of the flesh.

      That said, I prefer the virtual — email and the social meanderings, mainly because they save time and money — but I grew up in the Midwest. I’ve tasted dirt and shucked corn, and I’ve traveled the country and live on the East Coast with a wide variety of people that require attention and attendance in the same room. I know what I’m missing by going virtual — and I have concern for those who have been weaned to only experience the world through a screen.

      https://bolesblogs.com/2013/09/23/the-venus-effect-and-the-artifice-of-assumption-watching-the-world-watch-you-watching-your-screen/

      I don’t buy the current theory that young people are hungry to connect and to be a part of something grander, and that’s why they participate in social networking — they’re being fooled by a false memory that imagining and pretending are always enough to form a whole human composition, and it isn’t true:

      https://bolesblogs.com/2013/11/13/the-eggshell-generation-no-freedom-for-danger-children/

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          1. Oh okay! Thanks! That was not one of my best portraits since I only had one light and only one spot to take the photograph in. She was pleased with it since I improved on her facial features. She was 62 when that was taken and you know most women are vain about their looks. Me I could care less about my wrinkles since I earned every one of them. 🙂

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  9. This topic hits home all too well. I’ve got an independent streak a mile wide; I paid for my entire college education out of my own pocket – no help from my parents, loans, or anyone else – and held a job down for more than 12 years. And while everyone my age was racking up debt, I was saving up without owing a penny. But now that I’m unemployed for the first time ever, I’ve realized that everything is changed. It’s driving me nuts, because I KNOW I’m capable of so much more than just staying at home all day and reading. I’m intelligent and skilled enough to do far better, but how am I going to make it in a market like this?

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    1. I feel for your polymathically — you sound like one of the few Millennials who is not the name and you reject the moniker and the categorization. Your lot is a difficult one to overcome.

      I think the answer for you is in a recasting of expectation. You need to shift and go somewhere else. When you’re stuck, get up and start walking. You aren’t searching or running away. You’re looking for a new and friendlier path and you need to do what you haven’t done much of so far: Ask for help.

      Asking for help doesn’t mean a handout or even a hand up — you can’t get a “yes” unless you ask.

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      1. There is no shame in taking on a loan in order to go back to school or bettering yourself. As another millennial, I worked my ass off to make money but at the same time, I didnt want my grades to suffer. Student loans are there for a reason.

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        1. Out of the nearly 40 million borrowers, about seven million have defaulted on these student debts. Translation: 7 million (or about 2 percent of the population of the United States) have had their credit trashed as a result of their student loans and can have 25 percent in penalties added onto their total student loan debts. To add insult to injury, about 60 percent of employers run credit checks on applicants before hiring or promoting, making it close to impossible for millions to get a higher paying job to actually repay these debts. …

          Since 1999, student debt has increased more than 500 percent. Unfortunately, average salaries for young people have not. In fact, since 2000, the average salary for young people has decreased by 10 percent. It’s no wonder that we are seeing millennials delaying starting families, making car purchases and buying homes.

          http://boles.co/1dGjCMC

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          1. Fair enough, I think a lot of the problems we are seeing have to do with students not being aware of their options. Thankfully my parents have made me aware of my options, I just wish more people on campus would take time to do their research. They are dealing with their own lives here after all.
            That article from Huff Post is fantastic by the way.

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          2. Student loans are a difficult thing. You were smart to go into it eyes open.

            The problem comes when the genius middle class student, with no parental financial support, has to go into deep debt to attend an expensive private school that, they are hoping, will give them an edge and a leg up on the competition.

            No young person ever expects to fail or to not find their way to the golden land, so they’re perfectly willing to take out loans in a bet against a profitable future. Unfortunately, reality sets in, they can’t pay — and they’re in a downward spiral with a golden diploma and no financial prospects to pay the dime they owe.

            https://bolesblogs.com/2009/06/03/the-perpetual-poorhouse/

            https://bolesblogs.com/2012/06/01/smart-students-crushed-by-dumb-debt/

            https://bolesblogs.com/2013/03/20/the-economic-fraud-of-the-american-dream/

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    1. Hi Marianne —

      As I mention at the start of the article, many of the arguments are my direct observation and experience — but the idea isn’t new — I’ve written about it previously in this article:

      https://bolesblogs.com/2014/01/06/the-new-rude-millennials/

      There are several good NYTimes links and an interesting infographic with a link in that piece — and YouTube videos linked in the comments — that prepare the ground for the argument.

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  10. As a boomer, I made my way to a rural setting intentionally many years ago. Crime, noise, pollution (and other obvious reasons) were no longer desired. Over time, the city life is moving closer. An unforseen accident has left me disabled in my mid fifties. This is a very small rural area, with a mix of every age. On the whole, we are poor. Some more than others. There are no iPhones, iPods or iPads here. All my neighbors work, even young single mothers with children. It’s not fancy, but it is safe. It is quiet and friendly. There is not a human to be found here, in these days and times with pockets full of cash. Not here. No matter it seems what the age, we are fighting the same struggles as much as anyone. Each generation grows up with its own unique set of problems. Millenials who grew up spoiled and feeling entitled, will have to struggle with their family on that one. As for the massive economic downturn, corporate greed, corporate entitlements and welfare..non-living wages, massive reductions in the work force worldwide, corrupt politics, well now…that’s everyone’s fight.

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    1. Hey Leslie!

      Boomers have a terrific advantage. They’re a massive amount of people. They have always held tremendous political power because they were the ones who rightly saved the world. They set the agenda. They start. They end. It’s us trailing that generation who are in trouble, and in truly “Trickle Down” economics, the pain becomes more solid and more reliable with each emerging generation.

      A long time ago, my family originated in what was then Czechoslovakia and migrated to the middle of Nebraska. My great-grandparents were farmers. My grandfather was a pharmacist in a village of 150 people. The rest of the family were teachers. My mother and her sister got out of the village, via college, and made their way into the wider world, but only by a 100 miles or so.

      My wife and I left the Midwest and settled on the East Coast — a 1500 mile or so journey out — a traveling, that if we were to make today, we would not be brave enough to risk because we are wiser now to see how completely ridiculous it was to leave a safe life for the wild unknown with only $25 and a full tank of gas. We really don’t recognize the young fools we were when we met. We miss them, but only conditionally, and mainly when reminiscing.

      Now that the world economy is tightening, there is a certain charm and nostalgia to go back from whence we came — if not for the easier life and the moderately quieter environment — but we stop ourselves from that false memory, because you can never really go home again, because the home that once was, can never be, and that misconstrued hoping only fosters resentment and hostility against a past that never changes, but has forever been changed.

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  11. At 62 I grew up country impoverished (outhouse, no running water) and have lived, mostly due to family circumstances and not by choice, rural most of my adult life. I think that the rural life style is a narrow-minded, tradition crippled and brain dead affair and small towns are deep pools of the sort of tawdry oppressive group think we would be well rid of. If you want the peace of the country just remember all you’ll have to give up and all the idiots you’ll have to deal with.

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  12. I’m just wondering where the young are getting these supposed wads of federal and state welfare cash. UI benefits usually are for 6 months, although extensions have been allowed due to high unemployment and another such extension is being considered. These require a current full-time work history with your last employer, who also must be generous enough not to contest your drawing UI against their charge-off, which can cause their UI tax rate to go up.

    Other social welfare programs like TANF, Food Stamps, or Social Security Disability impose categorical eligibility barriers and it’s not really easy to get on any of them, even if you are desperately broke and on the street. If you do get them, it’s time-limited. None of these programs pay enough for you to pull up stakes and move off to a rural area.

    My guess is that some young folks are smart enough to game the system, and draw benefits in addition to income they get from family or working under the table, although this is illegal.

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    1. You make an excellent point, Galaxian.

      Just watch “Judge Judy” for a week, and you’ll see how she unravels these Federal and State “wads of money” schemes by those who appear before her. It’s an intricate game of round-robin benefits — one runs out, you start another vein — and scamming the system, and the IRS and housing, and sometimes even the family courts come into play.

      By far, the most lucrative way scheme is to get SSI or permanent disability payments — those methods can take time against repeated denials, but for those who only have time and more time to keep appealing — it’s not that difficult to make happen, and once you’re in, you’re in for the rest of your life.

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  13. We’re going to have a global “lost generation” because of the Great Recession and the ensuing hegemony of austerity. To see so many young people in their prime just give up on getting gainful employment is simply astounding. A lot of my contemporaries like to say those young people are just too lazy to make it, but I disagree. There’s no real opportunity, no real way to build a career for most people. So they end up flipping burgers or moving back to their folks’ house.

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    1. That really is the root of it — we’re losing an educated and eager generation because of the great, communal losses, in the forward thriving of our nation — and I don’t see an easy way to restore the faith, and that makes me wonder if we’re in for a revolution or a restart that will be sparked from the fields and the farms against the wealthy, majority, mainstream, power.

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  14. I watched something on the Victorian Age and despite its faults (and there were many) it seemed a time of creativity, forward-thinking and dreams . Now there seems to be a couldn’t-care-less attitude to the future.

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    1. Yes, it seems we’re in the Age of Hatred — where nobody wants to get along and move forward and we argue about social morality while the bridges and tunnels and infrastructure crumble around us. There isn’t a lot of innovating going on — except in social media — but that doesn’t help anyone feed a family or survive in the coming wilderness.

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        1. Yes, I think you’re right and it’s terribly sad because there’s no end. You think you have the most and the best and then you turn around and you’re old and out of date and have to play catch up all over again! We’ve lost a sense of satiety when it comes to getting stuff.

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  15. I have three children. Two seem to have taken up the entitlement option, while the other is working hard and never giving up. I don’t understand where this is coming from since both me and my wife have been hard-workers for all our lives and have successful careers and live comfortably. I watch all three of them carefully and also the impact it has on their children (that next generation.) We raised all of them in a rural area but always reminded them that the opportunities available are not geographical restraints. Why two choose the lazy option and only one took the ambitious approach is still a mystery. Are the successes of the parent sometimes a detriment to the child? Creating a safe, rural haven of simplisticness and entitlement seems to be giving up on life itself and one’s own potential advancement. If this is what society is creating throughout the world – the world is in serious trouble.

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    1. Hi Joseph!

      Now we’re getting into the meat of it. Why do some take one path and not another? In your example, I wonder if it has to do with peer modeling? Why should I work and kill myself when I can sit back and collect like so many others just like me? I won’t have to pay taxes, I can sleep late and do what I want and nobody will tell me what to do as long as I stay below the poverty line, or don’t lift heavy things so I can keep my disability payments unchecked. I can’t afford to live in a big city, but I can make it in a mobile home on the side of the road in the woods…

      I think we’ve reached a peak where kids naturally outwork and out-success their parents. The economy, and even Obamacare — where kids can rightly stay on their parent’s insurance plan until they’re 26 — does not help create gumption and get-go for survival.

      They’ve hit a wall of expectation that cannot be maintained at the current level — mostly because the Boomers are still in all the good jobs — in 10 years it will be even worse, because the Boomers will need more tax support, there will be fewer workers to pay for it and even fewer jobs now that the Boomers aren’t actively spending to speed the economy… and the temptation for the young to just give in and “retire” from a life of work that will never end will be too good for too many to just let pass.

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  16. This is a thought provoking article. As a “millennial,” I definitely see some of these trends in my peers. However, I think your pitting rural and urban against each other can come across as elitist. I grew up in a rural community, and went to a small liberal arts college near my home, because being near family is more important than social or economic advancement.

    Sure, there are no Fortune 500 companies around here, but that doesn’t really matter. I have a job that pays the rent, puts food in my belly, and keeps me out of the welfare zone. But more importantly, I have deep roots that keep me grounded and focused on who I want to be.

    A tumbleweed might see the world, but will never be as strong as the mighty redwood. Even an ugly little tree like the bristlecone pine can endure for thousands of years if its in the right spot.

    Living in a rural place may smell like manure sometimes, and there aren’t a lot of opportunities. But even with all the great things in the city, it still smells like urine, and you can’t even see the stars.

    The jury is still out on the millennials. Maybe they will bring the downfall of our society, just like Rock and Roll music and women wearing pants. But give us a chance, and some of us might surprise you in the future.

    As to those young people that are surviving on federal and state benefits for no other reason then they have given up, well…maybe they just don’t matter very much. Civilization is all about the noble few dragging the masses up the mountain so we can all get a better view.

    A last note: Older generations blaming the younger ones for problematic trends is as old as history. Its something I’ve never understood, because it can’t be the young people’s fault. They haven’t been around long enough to do that kind of damage. When you point a finger, make sure theres not another one pointing back.

    Thanks for the interesting read. I’m sorry if this came across as negative or, “attackey,” in any way. That was surely not my intention. Just wanted to share my thoughts.

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  17. Reblogged this on Clockwork Vardo and commented:
    Read this or fail to understand the American dream. When I started reading this I interpreted this as a bash on the current lifestyle young adults are creating. Then again I also feel that this article makes some great points and it raises some good questions.
    Is it ok to live a thrifty lifestyle, be it bohemian or just poor financial situations? I agree with the fact is businesses are all about more profit but seem to have forgotten who creates that profit and that is their workers. Henry Ford designed the assembly line to make his cars affordable even for workers. Genius, put affordable quality products that even your workers can get? Apple, Microsoft and even Ford today should take this philosophy back into consideration. The average American may ‘technically’ be able to afford their products but I technically because we as readers, writers and viewers don’t see what struggles occur behind closed doors to purchase their beloved iPhone or Surface.
    While we Millennials live ‘hipster’ lifestyles thrifty, and what appears poor and eco-friendly. When we are mostly just poor. What we do is fund ways to make our lifestyle acceptable. Creating communities, gathering at local markets.
    Maybe its time America opens it’s eyes and realize we need to live within our means. Perhaps we need to be thankful for what we have not what we don’t have. I am not denying a company it’s capitalist rights to profit but maybe just maybe, profit is better than more and more profit. You dig?

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  18. I am compelled to comment. I am exactly the kind of youth that is being described in this article, and I am unsettled that someone else is noticing and calling out the trend I have so easily a part of.

    I have no job, and I am struggling to get myself the motivation to get one. Why? Because it is comfortable for me to stay where I am, living off of the goodwill of the government. Part of it is fear that I will be inadequate at any job I get, due to confidence issues, but YES, some of it is the fact that I will be actually having to “work.” The word feel foreign to my tongue, still.

    I still have an interest in reality and the world, however. I absolutely ADORE life, and want to live it to its fullest. That requires me getting out of my comfort zone and getting a job, and, once out of university, a career.

    I have more to say, but I’m struggling to write it down…

    I guess what I am saying is that, I am in this trend, and I, for all intensive purposes, KNOW BETTER. Because at the same time, as you said, it is a simultaneously thrilling and terrifying thing, to become truly independent.

    I am saying I want a fulfilled life, not a “satisfied” one, if you can catch the difference, and, like all things worthwhile, it requires WORK.

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      1. My mother is in and out of the picture, hopefully out for good. My father is helping me through my education financially, and just wants me to do well in school. Everyone else knows I should get a job, however, including me. I am tired of not being able to get myself things on my own, and I want to be a supportive part of my family when I get married. The last thing I want to do is sit on my butt when everyone else is doing their job and contributing to society.

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          1. I do go to school full time. Three out of five courses required per semester is the minimum to be a full time student. I would have been taking four, but one of my classes was cancelled, and I’m not the one paying for my education–my father is. So, no debt, not yet, but I’m still not the one paying for my schooling. I have a scholarship which is going to help pay for my semester, but my father is taking most of the weight.
            I am going to school of my own volition, however. No one forced me into it. I quite enjoy university and learning. I am not sure what career path I would like to take, but I am taking a Bachelor of Journalism, and am hoping to become a freelance journalist, or possibly an English teacher for high school, or a kindergarten teacher (I love children, but am a pushover, so maybe not). If I were to get everything that I wanted, I would take the rest of my J-school, a BA, and Bachelor of Education or a Bachelor of Social Work, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts. As it is, however, I know that’s a ridiculous amount of school to take before getting settled, so I’m sticking with J-school for now.
            I am a motivated person when it comes to school work. My main problem is that I am afraid to ask for help, because I feel I would forget the answer I got, and need to ask the same question five minutes later.
            I did procrastinate a lot on my assignments last semester, and my GPA is lower than I would like, but I am doing much better with my reading and keeping up on assignments this semester.
            My free time is spent hanging out with friends, drawing, reading, and writing, and sometimes watching television, though television not very often. I keep up with my homework and reading, but I do struggle with it at times. Sometimes it’s motivation problems, other times it is fear I will screw up royally.

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          2. GlitterDuster —

            Thanks for sharing the intricate details of your life. You’re helping a lot of people understand your point of view. It seems like you’re on a good track, and you’re getting antsy to start your own life. That’s a good thing! The fact that you don’t have any debt is a blessing — keep it that way and you’ll be so far ahead of the bell curve it will make your ears ring! SMILE!

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  19. Where are you getting your information? When you talk about “they” and “them” this “stuck” generation that aren’t grateful to the generations before them and are therefore damning the ones to come later with debt, who are you talking about? People are not moving into their parents basements because they are giving up. your 99%ers are not a bunch of lazy loafing welfare recipients. You know that big money has outsourced jobs and slashed funding for education. You know big money is polluting the food and water as it eats up every resource for the “sake” of the economy. That the corporate energy race is devouring the individual. You can’t blame poor people. You can’t get rid of the middle class and have a healthy society. You can’t blame people for leaving cities they can’t afford to live in. You can’t blame people seeking simple lives in small towns. You CAN blame big money interests. People are not feeling fulfilled by the promises, broken or otherwise. We as a collective are out of touch because we see nature as something to sell off. We compete with money, we do not nurture community with it. The only thing you should be concerned about is oil drilling in the ocean, nuclear power plants spilling in the ocean, chemical spills in west Virginia, natural gas pipelines across farm land, and monsanto taking over the seeds. Then cry me a river about the generation that has given up politically. You have one world to care for.

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  20. I think what is really missing in articles and blogs such as these is a discussion of the human spirit,of the feelings and situations that motivate and fulfill. And perhaps people are just feeling that the society that they find themselves in is no longer worth preserving.

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  21. The economic situation certainly does not help. They say that the Recession is officially over in the US, but there are still many people that are unemployed and begging for food on the streets. I think governmeents are telling lies to their people.

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  22. Much of the above on the surface makes sense. BUT, the real problem is more complex. The time from weaned baby to full grown self-reliant adult is a whole lot longer, due to the complexity of lfe, the rules that are ever changing, as Governments meddle in the affairs of business, and interferes in individual’s lives, rather than allowing people to make their own judgements, in the full knowledge of what they’re getting.

    In a simpler world, knowing what you were buying, and therefore what VALUE to expect was easier. When the product or service is exceedingly.complex, this becomes a whole lot more difficult and thus we’re all prone to rely on the sales patter of the person selling the product. – How do you determine if the software suits you when you can’t see it? (How do you know it is in your interests rather than some faceless beauraucrat, when there’s several million lines of code?)

    Also we have nurtured the safety net to the point, where people don’t know how to be self-reliant, and BIG Corporations have become so efficient at producing their limited range of products all manufactured to a largely quiescent public.

    BIG Government, BIG Corporations, and BIG money in the families that run both. Perhaps the idea of a revolution every three or four hundred years or so is a necessary evil to return us all to the same level.

    Today’s young also seem apolitical, focussing on single issues and local problems, or the left-wing international agendas inculcated in an education system that provides economic stability, and thus attracts those who seek security and entrenches problems as societal, rather than idividual..

    These left-leaning teachers therefore subtly indoctrinate their students, who assume that security is what they should aim for. Robert Kiyosaki famous entrpreneur and author, compares this in the title of his best seller – “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”, (His real Poor Dad was a University Professor, his Rich Dad a businessman)

    People need to re-learn how to take risks and fail, or not get immediate reward, but build something that is satisfying. I’m going to be sexist for a moment – What we are seeing is feminine values replacing masculine values in society. Women seek security for themselves and their off-spring – perfectly natural.

    Men on the other hand are more prone to risky behaviour, but women now wrap their kids heads in helmets, cut off the lower branches of trees so that little Johnny can’t climb them, put Health and Safety as their number one priority, Stop kids from playing outside by building on public land, all in an attempt to minimize the outgoings of their local councils. I could go on.

    As the U.S. teeters towards National Socialism with a global Police Force, staffed by people who are so ignorant of global affairs due largely to a Mainstream media who are obsessed with celebrity rather than educating and informaing the people, and the markets are so massaged by the state to “Stop the downturn” that is inevitable, people are made ignorant of the slow changing events, and thus the information needed to react to them.

    I fear that rather than a slow progression, we will soon experience a stock-market crash that will make 2008 look like a walk in the park, and we can only blame those who seek to minimize risk. and the people who elect them.

    Living in the countryside, where people can re-connect with the soil, understand the rythms of nature, feel how when you make changes the effects are not immediate, but still highly important, and can see and learn how much effort is needed to bring a calf to a cow/steer, long before it makes its way to a fast food joint in the city, may just be what’s needed.

    Today’s city dwellers have no idea of what damage they are inflicting on the bio-diversity, and care even less. We face an environmental disaster of epic proportions, where food output collapses due to the deaths of millions – or even BILLIONS of bees who rely on a variety of flowers for food, rather than the mono-culture, or even lack of culture altogether in today’s increasingly overcrowded cities.

    I fear we have less than 30years before we see WW3, as almost an inevitability as food production collapses and manufacturing goes back to its roots in the home with 3D printers. I just hope I can secrete myself somewhere safe from the coming conflagration.

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  23. I can relate to a lot of what you say here. Though I don’t fit the mold you so eloquently prepared. Being a country bum my whole life, I can tell you there is more to getting out of the city and into the country than just collecting social assistance. There is still community out here. We help each other out and our cost stay low because of it and I think that’s a measure of wealth uncharted.
    I don’t fit this description because I have worked.and worked hard and now my body at an early age is already breaking down and I think if I continue to work this way I’ll be crippled and on social assistance any way. As long as there is a government around I might as well exploit it. But here in lies my mental dilemma. Why does one take money from an entity he despises so much? I am well aware of this blatant hypocrisy and I despise it. I can hide behind excuses that life is harder and more regulated But I don’t think that’s the problem as the poster above me writes.

    “Much of the above on the surface makes sense. BUT, the real problem is more complex. The time from weaned baby to full grown self-reliant adult is a whole lot longer, due to the complexity of life,”

    I think the real problem for kids coming out of school is that schooling itself is a waste of 15000 hours of your life and as the whole schooling system changes and adapts to this everyone is specail and everyone gets a passing grade fantasy that is an outcome based conditioning program designed to make people dependant on the state.

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  24. Timbermann.

    I agree with much of what you say about the education system not being suitable for today’s world, and which is designed for a society that no longer exists.

    In my lifetime, I’ve come from countryside farm worker in a small South-Lancashire former mining village, in rural England, where the local industry in the nearby chemical and glass manufacturing towns, has all but disappeared. I’ve been a manual worker, and a professional – worked in warehousing, retail, logisitics, education, software and computer hardware assembly and manufacture. I’ve recently completed a book on Banking, Economics, Politics & Finance, and read extensively.

    I say that not to brag, but to show that the world is changing fast, and that the average person needs to be adaptable – BUT, the education, training, and work-skills industries all need to be sufficiently adaptable to cope with the continuing need for skills and knowledge upgrade until the average worker finishes work.

    As a former Software Engineer having used over 30 different programming languages (inc. variants), a good knowledge of French, and a passing knowledge of Russian, with 3 post-grad qualifications, you’d think finding work would be easy. The current needs of industry cannot be met, because all those who trained during the boom years, left the industry during the early noughties, and now need skills updates because they left during the bust. Also required skills in I.T. change with every new operating system release, or paradigm shift.

    We need to rebuild our industrial base, to add more value per worker, and thus raise the wages of our workers. Rising commodity prices, will price us out of the markets, unless we do this, and a major conflagration over food, water and materials, is not outside the bounds of possibility – WW1, was fought to secure Coal and Iron ore, and WW2 to secure oil and other materials necessary for German industry.

    The Industry Training Boards, need a new lease of life, and it should be industry that is forced to pick up the tab, in consultation with government. the alternative wil be poaching labour, by jacking up wages for the few already in the industry.

    Having 1.4billion people with mouths to feed, and a few hundred million rifles, tanks, jets, warships and missiles is a recipe for a conflagration by any stretch of the imagination.

    W.

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