I was born in 1965 & have often compared my generation’s prospects to my depression-born parents’. One factor very salient in Canada is housing prices. It’s easy to see how my parents’ generation (married in the sixties) could both buy a house and save money. Their house cost an equivalent of their combined annual incomes, was mortgaged at a fixed rate of about 2-3% over the entire 25 year amortization. In the 80’s, when I came of age, a house cost more like 4-5 times a 2 worker household income, the mortgage rates were double digits, and could not be fixed for more than 5 years at most. My parents rented an apt. for 6 months after they married and could easily save their down payment because rents were likewise cheap. Granted, my parents were better off than many: mom was a registered nurse and dad was a unionized printer. This said, in the 70’s, most of the folk in my lower middle class/working class neighbourhoods lived in single income families.
In my grandparents’ generation, one income could easily buy a comfortable life. All of my grandparents, my great-aunts and veteran uncles owned bought homes in the post-WW2 building boom. Only two members of my family were in a union – one grandpa was a postal worker, one great uncle was a printer. My other grandpa started as a gold miner and became a salesman; 2 uncles were gas station attendants, one drove a delivery truck. One aunt was a secretary, one a waitress, my grandmothers & the rest of my aunts were homemakers. They all lived comfortably and retired reasonably well-off.
Then I think of my kids! Yeesh! What hopes do they have?!
In 3 generations my family has gone from high school graduates who led comfortable lives, to university educated folks who can’t get a decent full-time, secure job, and might be lucky to get a shoebox condo, shabbily built, if “choosing” to be mortgaged to their chins.
That’s *if* the economy doesn’t completely collapse, or climate change doesn’t wipe us all out: this is what energy depletion looks like in North America.
Unless you give up on that old way of life and embrace a more self-reliant existence on the fringes of the global economy, things look pretty depressing.
The reality is we’ve gone from a frightened elite, desperately avoiding communist revolution by sharing out an ever-expanding GDP pie, to an emboldened elite extorting every last crumb they can out of an ever-shrinking pound cake and whipping up fairy-dug frosting in the global casino. Real productivity has been steadily declining in North America since U$ oil peaked in the 70’s. As you would expect. That is when the so-called “middle classes” stalled out – not a coincidence.
In the 80’s the neo-conservative stealth revolution began consolidating more and more in the hands of the wealthy. The “more” since than has been a bubble economy, fuelled by super-exploiting poorer nations and by gambling in financial markets. Most of the world’s GDP is now cotton candy fluff — digital blips flittering about on screens, pretending to be economic “growth.”
It’s enough to make even a socialist long for “the good old days” of actual capitalism – when, as exploitative and unfair as things were, at least economic growth was real; real machines were built, real infrastructure was laid down, and real people could shut down production and demand a share in the perks. of course, what we didn’t know then was that all that real growth was killing the planet. We are only now beginning to see the real cost of real industrial growth. And it ain’t pretty.
Most of my grandparents’ generation are dead now. may they rest in peace. They had no idea what they were building and i am very certain would be absolutely appalled to see what price we are now paying for the prosperity they enjoyed. They were also of a generation that knew real poverty. They used manure pucks and newspapers wrapped round their legs to play hockey as boys. They all worked as teens to support their families during the last Great Depression. As adults, they knew how to fix things, they built bookcases, fireplaces, & sheds, they pickled and preserved, they knitted and mended. They would easily have adapted to a permaculture homesteading life on the fringes of a collapsing economy. These people had the skills, my friends. They were competent. These three genertions have seen a skills-collapse of epic proportions. Now I am learning many skills from the internet that they easily could have taught me. Thanks largely to the DIY-attitude that they passed down to me. I am grateful for their stories, because I know that simple living is both possible and pleasant. I am sad today, writing this. I am missing them, my elders and wishing they could be here to guide and advise my children.