This is not the 1960s

My latest in Al Jazeera English is on Ferguson, fast food protests, and comparisons between now and the civil rights movement of the past:

In the United States, they say it is like the 1960s: Civil unrest at home, war abroad.

On September 10, protesters in St Louis, Missouri shut down a highway demanding justice for Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager from Ferguson shot dead by a white policeman. The same day, in New Jersey, students chained themselves together during an eight-hour protest over the corporate takeover of public schools. In Pennsylvania, workers at the fast food chain Chipotle quit en masse over “borderline sweatshop conditions”. As night fell, the nation watched US President Barack Obama announce that we are bombing Iraq again, in yet another chapter of a feckless, regenerative war.

They say it is like the 1960s, but that is nostalgia for nostalgia. Baby boomers romanticised those battles, but it is hard to imagine anyone romanticising this era, in part because the era feels like it has no end.

We woke up on September 11, 2001, in a war and a declining economy. We woke up on September 11, 2014, the same way. The only thing that changed is the scale. Thirteen years of waiting for the tide to turn, only to endure an erosion of opportunity – the economic collapse in 2008, the false “recovery” of the years to follow.

They say it is like the 1960s, but in the 1960s there were options. In 1968, the minimum wage hit its peak and unemployment was at a near all-time low. In the 1960s, middle-class youth dropped out of society because they knew they could drop back in. “Cut your hair and get a job” was something people would say, because there were actual jobs to which people could return.

Today’s youth have no such options. We have the institutional racism and civil unrest and foreign wars of the 1960s – along with a decimated middle class, record income inequality, a slashed safety net, and skyrocketing debt.

For anyone who came of age after the millennium, war and economic decline are all we have known. Our country stagnates and generations stagnate with it.

They tell you it is cyclical. But that cycle is spin, spin, spin.

Read the full article, The wages of discrimination, at Al Jazeera English.


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