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War on Youth?

Author Mike Males list the myths about violent, drugged, morally challenged US youth, and defends the reality of good youth behavior. He blames the myths on adult bad behavior. He ascribes adult fear as partially due to the increasingly multi-racial and less affluent youth. Males maintains that, “The rapidly deteriorating behavior of American grownups (particularly aging Baby Boomers) in both personal and social realms has led to a crisis of adulthood in which youth is the target of displaced fury.”[i] Researcher Don Tapscott also believes that the reason for the harsh criticism of youth is a generation gap. The individualistic and self-centered Baby Boomers are afraid of change that youth bring with their use of electronic media and ability to collaborate. Therefore Boomers criticize youth for being “dull, celebrity-obsessed, net-addicted, shopaholic exhibitionists.”[ii]

[i] Mike Males. Framing Youth: Ten Myths About the Next Generation. Common Courage Press, 1999.

[ii] Don Tapscott. Grown Up Digital. McGraw Hill, 2009, p. 289.

Professor Henry Giroux agrees that youth are unfairly blamed and that there’s an escalating war on youth, but rather than blaming a generational struggle, he faults neoliberal or casino capitalism. The wealthy don’t want people questioning the economic system that accumulates power in the hands of the few. Neoliberals push for privatization, reduction in government services and regulations of finance, and “militarization of the entire society.” [i]What sets aside young people is they’re the first generation to be exposed to neoliberal propaganda all their lives with its “near pathological disdain for community, public values, and the public good.” The culture of competitiveness and consumption  leaves their future security in doubt.[ii]

The 1% are afraid of youth’s push for democracy, open discussion, and creation of alternative support systems, as evidenced in the overly violent police response to the Occupy movement and youths branded as terrorists in a “war against youthful protesters.”[iii] Giroux believes we live in a “neoliberal culture of cruelty.” The OccupyArrests.com website reports that 7,732 people were arrested by the end of February 2013.

The 1% is disassembling social safety nets and freedom of speech globally under the guise of austerity and protection from terrorists. They fear youth who are “producing new ideas, generating a new conversation, and introducing a new political language.”[iv] Young people like those who participated in the Occupy movement value the social sharing rather than individual competition and they question “banal fantasies of consumption.”[v] Especially minority youth are considered a threat to adults, housed in prison-like schools and then actual prisons, resulting in a culture that “cannibalizes its own young.” He advocates that young activists reclaim higher education as a place for critical thinking and questioning the existing power dynamic, as it may be one of the few public institutions left where this dialogue can occur.

As Indian author Arundhati Roy said in an interview after visiting Occupy Wall Street in 2011, that “it seems to me to be introducing a new political language into the United States, a language that would be considered blasphemous only a while ago…reigniting a new political imagination…. an imagination outside of capitalism, as well as communism.”[vi] She urged that protesters be aware of a global pattern “that their being excluded from the obscene amassing of wealth of US corporations is part of the same system of the exclusion and war that is being waged by these corporations in places like India, Africa and the Middle East.”

[i] Henry Giroux. Youth in Revolt: Reclaiming a Democratic Future. Paradigm   Publishers, 2013, p. xiii.

[ii] Ibid, p. 135.

[iii] Ibid, p. xi.

[iv] Ibid, p. xvii

[v] Ibid, p. 125.

[vi] Arun Gupta, “Arundhati Roy,” The Guardian, November 30, 2011. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/nov/30/arundhati-roy-interview


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