Now that the Class of 2009 has finally gotten jobs ... waiting on tables, there is not much left for the Class of 2010.
Discouraged and demoralized these new graduates are not just facing a difficult job market. The lost wages and the lost opportunities are likely going to impact their careers for decades to come.
Dorning also raises an issue I discussed in my last post on the topic (link here), namely the extent that the millennial generation (those born after 1980) supported President Obama. In the last election this group went for Obama 62%-30%. Now some of them are beginning to wake up; their support for the president has declined to 55%-37%.
But this leaves the larger question open. If we are going to label this group Generation D, as some have done, what does the D stand for?
Some have suggested that D stands for "digital," since the millennial generation grew up in a digital age and is far more tech savvy than any of the preceding generation.
But maybe D stands for depressed and demoralized, given how depressed these students are at places like SUNY Albany.
This morning, however, I received some anecdotal information, to the effect that Generation D is far more reliant on psychotropic medications than any other groups of Americans. Maybe D should stand for: drugged.
Surely, this is dispiriting. To think that the millennials are the most drugged generation, not in the sense of overusing banned substances, but in the sense of using medicine to control mood and emotion.
We are not talking about someone depressed being prescribed anti-depressants. The members of Generation D use drugs to maintain their moods, to keep their emotions in check, to get to sleep, and even to stay alert and awake. This goes well beyond the proper use of psychiatric medication.
Generation D stands out for having made psychiatric medication an integral part of everyday life.
To its detriment, I would say.
Whatever good these medications do, they can easily be abused. It's one thing to treat pathological depression and anxiety disorders, but it is quite another to use pills to stifle normal emotions.
The irony is rich, indeed. For more than a century psychotherapy has worked long and hard to help people to get in touch with their emotions. Now we are at a point where young people are using medication to repress their emotions, to distort them, and ultimately to ignore their messages.
I cannot help but think that if therapy had taught people how to deal with emotion, Generation D would not be demanding prescriptions for drugs that can repress them.
It is a bad day indeed when people listen to Prozac more than they listen to their own feelings.
Many of you know that I have very little sympathy for therapy that tries to help people to get in touch with their feelings. When I say that we need to learn how to listen to our feelings, I am referring to something else.
When you are walking down a dark street and feeling a premonition of danger, you can either search your memory for a past trauma that might explain why you feel afraid, or you can accept that your anxiety probably means that you are in some potential danger. In the first case, you would introspect and rummage through your past memories. In the second, you would take action to deal with the potential danger.
Therapy tends to favor the first approach; I favor the second.
Emotion is trying to tell you something about reality. Listening to it means directing your attention out of your mind and toward the real situation that might have provoked the emotion.
Emotion may not be telling you what to do, but it does tell you that you probably need to do something.
Normally the members of Generation D would be feeling some considerable despair and anguish over their future career prospects. If they heed their emotions they will be doing something to deal with the problem. If they have repressed their emotions they might feel complacent, to the point of saying that they can move back in with Mom and Dad and wait it out.
Consider this: during the 2008 financial crisis the administration point man was Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. And Henry Paulson was a Christian Scientist, which meant that he could not take medication to deal with the emotional turmoil the crisis provoked in him.
As we know from his memoir Paulson was, at the time, consumed with anxiety, to the point where he would have to excuse himself from meetings in order to go to the rest room to vomit. And we know that he also had trouble sleeping.
There are two kinds of anxiety that accompany a crisis. In the one case you might feel anxious because you cannot grasp the reality of the situation. For many people the financial crisis was simply too complicated and too intricate for them to understand fully. In the other case you might feel anxious because you understand fully what is going on and the situation is very, very bad indeed.
Let us place Henry Paulson in the latter category. His gut reflected his understanding of the danger the financial system and the country was facing. When he proposed the TARP program to deal with the crisis, he was listening to his emotion.
This does not mean that the TARP was right or wrong. It shows someone listening to his emotion and concluding that the crisis he was facing needed quick and decisive action.