Youth, mine so long past, so long forgotten.
Yet I can still feel the power of my first paycheck.
I made enough to buy my first car,
a 1962 Pontiac Hardtop, a life of Wow,
independence, freedom, the ability to call my own shots
and ride my black and white pinto into the sunset.
Then on to more important things.
I achieved my first degree, a second, and then a third.
I worked my way up the ladder to greater and better.
Money flowed in like a river on a dry desert river bed,
ripping and roaring over the rocks,
carving my identity on the desert floor.
I forged my own path and dreamed my own dreams.
I found a woman to share my meaning and purpose.
I had the power to support a wife and then four children.
I give them the mother that could be there
when they came home from school.
I gave myself the wife that could be there
when I came home from work.
I gave her the power to be the mother she wanted to be.
And on the seventh day I could rest,
overlook my Kingdom, and know that it was good.
I lived a life filled with meaning and purpose.
When I look at my grandsons, I see I different world,
a world they must enter and compete,
nothing given, chances few and far between.
I see that the day of one man, one job, has gone.
It now takes two to make a living, to raise children.
They must share the responsivity and the spoils,
two people in complete cooperation
shaping two different futures together but apart.
May these young men find the courage
to pursue their dreams and live at peace.
May they learn that the meaning and purpose of life
is to create a new and better world,
to share the kingdom of two, and forgo the kingdom of one.
May they rest of the seventh day and see that it is good.
The media has been very responsive in dialoging the plight of young women seeking equality of wages and respect in life and in the work force. But what about the lost generation of young men? In an attempt to understand the dynamics behind the political crisis in the United States, I decided to take a closer look at the population group that supports Donald Trump with almost fanatical cult-like devotion. Even though the following observations are directly based on young men without college degrees in the United States, I think the findings may also apply in part to the dynamics facing most young men in Canada during these difficult times of transition.
In the late 1960s, 95 percent of men between 25 to 35 worked in the work force earing wages by which they could take care of themselves and their families. The majority of these men were able to find and grow a job that paid well without having to have a college education. Most of the good-paying jobs in the manufacturing industry have disappeared. That figure had dipped to 85 percent by 2015 which indicates that 1 out of every 10 young men have simply dropped out of the work force.
A recent working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests a complex combination of low wages, incarceration rates (which are higher among men without degrees), and a sharp decline in marriage rates, taken together, may have reduced the incentive to work. Wages for men without college degrees has decreased sharply. A 2014 poll found that 34 percent had criminal records which indicates a great deal of anger and helplessness in this group of young men who have difficulty obtaining a job that meets their economic and social needs. In addition, family dynamics have shifted and more women have gone to work, thus decreasing incentive. Men might not have families to take care of, or their wives might be doing most of the providing. At the risk of sounding sexist, this lost sense of responsibility and respectability that was often connected to their ability to care for their family seems to have removed a great deal of their incentive to be good husbands and fathers. This is the group in society that supports Donald Trump who realized that these young men were a political force that he could use to achieve his personal goals. They support him because he promises a return to the good old days of the 60’s where they can once again be the macho men of the twenty-first century.
So what is the solution? We have to listen to the pain of these young men. Our education system has to prepare them for these cruel and harsh realities. We have to help train them to fill meaningful work positions. We have to help them focus on their talents and gifts so that they can make a meaningful contribution to society. We have to look at crime and drug abuse as a cry for help and use incarceration to help them get refocused and prepared to enter the workforce in a meaningful way. We have to retrain them psychologically to realize that having a marriage and raising a family is a partnership that they can share with their life-mates. We may have to be willing to support local industries even though they may increase our cost of living. We should also be prepared to set minimum wages high enough for them to make a decent living while working in the service industries in society. That means we have to be willing to pay more taxes and pay higher prices for some of the services we now take for granted.
Let’s not forget that the GDP is the sum of production from all members of our society. The more we create, the more there is to share. These young men represent a great deal of talent and energy that can be employed to grow the economy so that there is more for all of us to share.