"Enraged young people," The New York Times worries aloud, are kicking off the dust of phony democracy, in which "the job of a citizen was limited to occasional trips to the polling places to vote" while decision-making remains in the claws of a rarefied elite of corporate executives and corrupt pet politicians.
"From South Asia to the heartland of Europe and now even to Wall Street," the paper continues, "these protesters share something else: wariness, even contempt, toward traditional politicians and the democratic political process they preside over. They are taking to the streets, in part, because they have little faith in the ballot box."
The rage of the young is real.
Who can blame them for rejecting the system? The political issue people care most about--jobs and the economy--prompts no real action from the political elite. Even their lip service is half-assed.
Here in the United States, no one should be surprised that young adults are among the nation's angriest and most alienated citizens. No other group has been as systematically ignored by the mainstream political class as the young. What's shocking is that it took so long for them to take to the streets.
Every other age group gets government benefits. The elderly get a prescription drug plan. Kids get taken care of, too. They get free public education. Obamacare's first step was to facilitate coverage for children younger than 18. Young adults get debt.
The troubles of young adults get no play in Washington, D.C. Pundits don't bother to debate issues that concern people in their 20s and 30s. Recent college graduates, staggering under soaring student loan debt, are getting crushed by 80 percent unemployment.
Un- and underemployment, the insanity of a job market that requires kids to take out mortgage-sized loans to attend college just to be considered for an entry-level gig, the financial and emotional toll of disintegrating families, and our fear that the natural world was being destroyed left many of my peers feeling resentful and left out.
The debts of today's Gen Y-ers are bigger ($26,000 in average student loans, up from $10,000 in 1985). Their incomes are smaller. Their sense of betrayal is deeper.
Young adults turned out big for Barack Obama in 2008, but he didn't deliver. They noticed: His approval rating has plunged from 75 percent among voters ages 18-29 in January 2009 to 45 percent in September.
Politicians like Obama ignore young adults, especially those with college degrees, at their--and the system's--peril. Now, however, more is at stake than Obama and the Democrats' 2012 election prospects. The entire economic, social and political order faces collapse; young people may choose revolution rather than accept a life of poverty in a state dedicated only to feeding the bank accounts of the superrich.
As Crane Brinton pointed out in his seminal book The Anatomy of Revolution, an important predictor of revolution is downward mobility among strivers--young adults whose education and ambition would traditionally have led to a brighter future.
The young are getting screwed the hardest. And with 80 percent unemployment, the young have a lot of free time to rise up.