I was at a Christmas party last week, hanging out with friends whom, due to my crazy work schedule, I have not seen for a couple of months. So there I was, relaxing with friends, when it dawned upon me that nearly half of the men at the party are unemployed.
That's an astounding number, considering that every man there is between the age of 22 and 35. We're talking about guys in the prime of their lives, it's amazing that so many young men are now without gainful employment. Every other guy that I talked to was either living with his parents, borrowing money from his parents, or (gulp) living on his wife's salary. The people with jobs were either pulling double duty(clinging onto their paychecks) like I am or they were scrounging a living doing multiple odd jobs, part-time gigs delivering newspapers, waiting tables....etc. Most of the guys there seemed rather grumpy and restless. Whether holding down a job or not, the average guy of my generation seems to be shackled with debt and liabilities while facing an uncertain future of scarce, low-paying work. How did things become so grim? Are we all slowly transforming into a listless, semi-villainous rabble?
Things You Will NeedThis current state of economic malaise was, in truth, a long time coming. It started at least 3 decades ago when the off-shoring of light industries removed all the low-end factory jobs. Now it seems that anything which isn't nailed down to the floor is being shipped to a factory or data center in China or India. That being said, in the long run we simply cannot compete with the 3rd world without lowering our own cost. If we are to get back a large portion of the Industrial and Engineering jobs that have been lost, we will one way or another have to take a massive cut in terms of real wages. In my mind, the most important question is.....how to deal with this reality?
I have been reading an interesting (ok...it was MIND BLOWING) book the other day. It's called Possum Living: How to Live Well without a Job and (Almost) No Money, basically the book is about an American family living a comfortable and happy existence on only 3 thousand dollars a year. Granted the book was written in the late 70s, but it's core lessons are just as relevant today:
1. Live below your means
2. Work to live rather than living to work
3. After a certain point, more material things do not produce more happiness, human relationships begin to matter more
4. Becoming Self sufficient and not relying on a centralized system(aka Corporation) for your survival
So while a lot of men in America have to go through a period of scarce work and lowered pay, it doesn't mean that we have to loose hope for a good life. At the very least, if we can become a bit more self-sufficient and a bit less consumerist, our dollars would stretch much further. And while we might have less stuff, we may yet become prouder and happier people because of it.