The Screwed Generation

By January 14, 2014Issues, James Breckenridge

CBC News

By James Breckenridge. Watching “The Bottom Line: Generation Screwed” on the CBC’s National [Tuesday December 3, 2013] provided a striking example, the second striking example, of the narrowness of the viewpoint presented by CBC News.

It is as if anchors and pundits are wearing horse blinders that prevent them from seeing to the rear or either side. Blinders imposed on their perceptions and thoughts by their life experiences, their belief systems and the point they are observing from.

We all have belief systems. As Canadians we tend to share certain beliefs as a result of being Canadian and the common life experiences we share by virtue of living in Canada. When you have a panel of economic and/or financial pundits who share similar life experiences, it is not shocking that the viewpoints of the members of the panel are similar. Thus the makeup of the panel ensures 1) the thoughts expressed by the panel are going to reflect and reinforce each other and 2) that the views, interests and needs of a significant and growing number of Canadians [perhaps the majority] is not raised or given voice to because these Canadians are not represented on CBC broadcasts.

Mr. Mansbridge and his panel speaking to “Generation Screwed” reflected an earlier panel hosted by Wendy Mesley on the weekend National two weeks earlier. Ms Mesley and her panel were commenting on British comic Russell Brand’s statement to a BBC interviewer that the majority of the people needed a revolution to bring about a government that would focus on the needs and issues affecting the lives of those citizens, a change from the current situation where the negative consequences of government decisions and actions on these citizens are ignored or not even perceived.
The discussions of both anchors and their respective panels highlighted the fact CBC is, as is the rest of the national media, blind to the realities of life, the needs, issues and vision of this growing segment of Canadians and citizens of countries around the world. This blindness enables not simply the media but politicians and Canadians as a whole to avoid examining our ethics, not in terms of what we say about ethics, but the ethics inherent in our behaviors and actions; which is where the ethics we actually live by are revealed..

An acquaintance, Mike Jackson, has on several occasions poised the question as to why his point of view, and that of so many other Canadians, is unrepresented by any politicians, political party, media, pundits, experts or think tanks. He questions why his issues and needs, and the issues and needs of a majority of Canadians, are never raised, never discussed and never come close to being addressed. He questions why the consequences of the behaviors and actions of politicians, governments and businesses on himself and others are neither taken into account when decisions are made nor receive any coverage or consideration by the media.

Writing these words, posting them on, sending them to Mr. Mansbridge, Ms. Mesley, the CBC, other members and sources of the media is part of keeping a promise I made Mr. Jackson to write about the issue and to disseminate what I wrote in an effort to bring Mr. Jackson’s question and concerns to the attention of Canadians. Perhaps even spark a curiosity about the issues, needs and consequences Mr. Jackson is concerned about.

While most would judge Mr. Jackson an uniformed bum based on his appearance and demeanor, getting to know Mike would reveal that, while he may not be able to hold a traditional 9 to 5 job, he works very hard to pay his rent and other expenses by collecting and returning drink containers. Indeed I know more than a few ‘bums’ who, while they cannot hold a traditional 9 – 5 job, work hard to pay rent and bills in occupations or businesses that allow flexibility in earning their living.

Talking to Mr. Jackson and other ‘bums’ would reveal the fact that they read, watch and listen to what passes for news in the media today and as a result they tend to be more informed, not just about what is going on, but the facts behind what is going on than many of those the government and media pander to.

The broadcasts of both Mr. Mansbridge and Ms Mesley present the opportunity to speak directly to Mr. Jackson’s point and provide examples of the lack of representation as well as comment on the effect this lack of representation has politically and economically as well as the negative consequences and negative effects this lack of representation has on these Canadians – and will have on the rest of Canada and Canadians.

Let us start with Ms. Mesley and her panel’s comments on what Mr. Brand had to say since it occurred first, in terms of time as experienced by human beings.

‘Pooh-pooh, what does Russell Brand know about this since he is a famous, multi-millionaire comedian? How can you take anything Mr. Brand says about this seriously?’

The irony here is that should the comments about how the system has ceased to represent or consider the needs of the majority of Canadians have been made by me, Mr. Jackson or other disenfranchised and trivialized Canadians – those of us living with being unrepresented and not considered in the decision making process – the comments would not have been noticed by the CBC much less made it onto the National and before a panel of pundits.

The comments received attention precisely because they were made by Russell Brand to a stodgy old BBC interviewer. And no one on the panel [Quelle surprise] considered that Mr. Brand’s comments were made in his own self interest; that Mr. Brand was perceptive enough to realize that a continued failure to consider the consequences of government decisions on the growing pool of income challenged citizens reduces the number of those who can afford to attend Mr. Brand’s concerts and thus threatens his future economic health.

Far too few recognize or understand that Canada is a trickle up economy and that when you continuously reduce the disposable income at the bottom of the economy, you will eventually trigger negative economic outcomes that will ripple upward as drops in revenue, income, profit and increases in the numbers and size of business failures.

When 18% of those who use the Abbotsford Food bank are employed, a significant portion of the Canadian population has reached a level of ‘poor’ where they can no longer afford to shop at Wal-Mart. A Wal-Mart that was not open 24 hours a day in December as in prior Decembers, but closed at midnight.

While Dollar Stores, for the growing number of those that can no longer afford to shop at Wal-Mart, are sprouting up across the Canadian retail landscape like weeds.

Ms. Mesley and her panel demonstrated a blindness of the political reality for these Canadians who, if not yet the majority soon will be. It is a blindness that prevents them perceiving the political and economic reality, the disenfranchisement, of these Canadians and ensures an inability to comprehend the lack of voice or representation of these Canadians and their needs.
I have voted in every Federal, Provincial and Municipal election since I turned 18 and had the privilege and responsibility of voting.

It was only good fortune that in the last BC election an Abbotsford city councillor was running as an independent candidate so that I had someone I could support and vote for. Otherwise I would have faced the choice the majority of eligible voters do: don’t vote or vote for the lesser of evils. That is the harsh choice that faces the majority of Canadians in Provincial and Federal elections.

Should you choose to vote, you are not voting for a GOOD choice, you are voting for an EVIL [harmful, undesirable] choice since choosing among the lesser of evils still leaves you making an evil choice.

So, do you want to be flayed alive, skinned or shot?

I cannot remember an election, although the last Federal election came close, where nobody but those with a vested interest had any expectation that their situation would improve as the result of the elections outcome.

People blame Mr. Dix for the NDP losing an election that everyone felt was the NDP’s to lose. And while Mr. Dix, as leader, bears the ultimate responsibility for the loss, a new leader will change nothing for the NDP [given that the NDP leader comes from within the party] because the party has failed to understand what the election was about.

British Columbians were not choosing the party they though promised a better, a brighter, future; British Columbians were choosing the party they thought would keep the worsening economic and social climate to its slowest progress. Choosing not the party who they felt would improve things, but the party they thought would make things worse the slowest.

None of the many people I spoke or communicated with during and after the last BC election thought any of the parties, politicians or leaders would make things better for them. I have never seen an election where voters, except as noted those with vested interests; felt that none of the choices they were presented with would improve their lives, future opportunities or financial circumstances.

When we have reached the point where only the privileged – politicians, pundits, wealthy, corporations, media et cetera – see government as having a positive effect on their lives while the majority of Canadians see all the choices they are presented with as having negative consequences for them, forcing them to vote for those they judge will have the smallest negative effect on their quality of life……..Mr. Brand is correct, we need a revolution.

A revolution not of bullets but of thought.

Political parties represent their members and those who contribute to the party. The poor cannot afford to either contribute or belong to political party.

However, voters do not have to settle for choosing the lesser of evils, settle for government that does not represent them or their best interest. Yes you have to vote for someone on the ballot, but the ballot does not have to be limited to the bad choices offered by the parties. Although governments have placed barriers in the election process that serve to limit candidates to the members of the political parties, governments have not yet been able to ban independent candidates.

We have allowed an entrenched oligarchical system to grow, a system that insulates the vested interests, the privileged and the politicians from any meaningful political change.

Should those who find themselves and their needs unrepresented ever exercise their right to encourage to run, support and vote for people who will stand up and represent those who elected them – even if it will cost them re-election – revolution will have taken place.

Revolution is what occurs when the people defined as the problem gain the power to redefine the problem.

King’s response to our crisis can be put in one word: revolution. A revolution in our priorities, a re-evaluation of our values, a reinvigoration of our public life and a fundamental transformation of our way of thinking and living that promotes a transfer of power from oligarchs and plutocrats to everyday people and ordinary citizens.

Cornel West

Mr. Mansbridge’s panel focused on the ‘Screwed Generation,’ a panel that included pundit Amanda Lang of the CBC’s Lang/O’Leary Exchange along with other financial /economic pundits.

This topic caught my attention because in speaking to a social geography [planning] class at UFV on homelessness, mental health, addiction and poverty – social ‘ills’ that planners these days must consider and contend with – I began by stating that they should be concerned with these issues not just from a planning perspective but from a personal perspective. That the politics and behaviours that drove these social issues were the same politics and behaviours that would find a significant portion of them graduating and being forced to move home; stuck living with their parents because of financial constraints and lack of opportunity.

At the end of the class one of the students came up and said he had two friends who had graduated and travelled Europe and who, upon returning home, had found themselves living at home because the employment they could find did not pay enough to make student loan payments and pay rent.

A situation many of those “in their parents basements” find themselves in. Which was what made Ms Lang’s comment about the need for parents to toss these graduates out of the house into the real world either blind or offensive.

The implication being that graduates finding themselves at home are sitting around doing nothing [turning into Trekies?] and need to be kicked out of the house into the real world to get them off their asses.

Those I am aware of who find themselves living at home after graduation are not there by choice, but because they are forced to be there by the financial constraints of the ‘real world’ created by Ms Lang and the other members of the panel.

A panel that blithely spoke of the need for the ‘screwed generation’ to adjust their expectations and accept their lifestyle was going to be diminished from the advantages and lifestyles enjoyed by members of the panel and their generation[s?]. There was no mention of adjustment to the lives and lifestyles of the members of the panel and their generation.

If you have a ‘screwed generation’ you also have the generation who did the screwing. Tuition fees are so high because the federal government changed what had been a priority of supporting Universities to keep tuition costs from leaving graduates burdened by large debt, to a policy of withdrawing support.

The reduction in support that allowed Universities to keep tuition costs down freed the federal government from the need to either raise taxes or deny voters the services and goodies they wanted – but did not want to pay for – shifting the costs from voters onto students.

Tuition not taxes you say? No matter what it is labelled any monies paid to a government for its support or for specific facilities or services is a tax. Withdrawing support from education in order to be able to provide services to voters without raising the funding sources labelled “tax”, does not mean the government has not raised taxes. The tuition increases that resulted from the withdrawal of support to education are, no matter how the government [and voters] choose to label them, taxes.

A pre-income income tax as it were.

The generation of the panellists and newscaster were the ‘screwer generation’. The generation that saddled the ‘screwed generation’ with large student loans; saddled the ‘screwed generation’ with a mountain of government debt at municipal, provincial and federal levels that will limit the quality of life for the ‘screwed generation’- a mountain of debt the ‘screwer generation’ continues to push ever higher and that will be left to the ‘screwed generation’ to pay off; left the ‘screwed generation’ entering an economy of entrenched and increasing wealth disparity, an economy of limited opportunities that forces the ‘screwed generation’ to move home to survive as they find themselves among the growing numbers of the disenfranchised poor and powerless

The panel representing the ‘screwer generation,’ a generation which took what they were handed by the generations that proceeded them, frittering away what they were handed so that the ‘screwed generation’ will be the first generation to inherit less.

A generation that, when it was clear that they were leaving the next generation impoverished and drowning in debt‘ tossed the screwed generation’ an anchor. Telling the ‘screwed generation ‘you expect and accept less because we are not going to accept any responsibility for our actions and we definitely are not going to change our behaviour’.

In all their pontificating about ‘generation screwed’ and how that generation needed to ‘make the most of their limited opportunity’ the panel never spoke to the fact that the panel members were the generation who screwed the ‘screwed generation’; a panel that never considered making adjustments to their life styles to benefit the generation they had screwed. All the adjustments – the sacrifices – were to be made by generation screwed – the generation they screwed.

In other words the ‘screwed generation’ should remain in the bent position because the panel are not finished screwing the screwed generation.

Ethics, behaviour and attitude that reflect the worst screwing the ‘screwed generation’ got – the society and world we have created and dumped them into.

Then the ‘screwer generation’ tells itself it needs to toss the bums, ahem the ‘screwed generation’, out of the basement into the real world where they will be forced to get jobs.

Jobs, like those that 18% of those dependent on the Abbotsford Food Bank for food have, jobs where they do not earn enough to buy food for themselves.

Politicians, pundits, financial ‘experts’, vastly overpaid corporate executives, the media all toss the word ‘job’ around as if it was some magical panacea, without ever defining what a job is.

The foundation upon which any meaningful discussion and understanding of employment is built is the definition of a job. Is it a job, are you employed, if you cannot live on what you earn? Or are you indentured, enslaved, compelled, enthralled, pressed, hooked and disenfranchised?

I define a job as work that gives a person enough hours at a rate of remuneration sufficient for that person to live frugally on.
20 hours at Wal-Mart is not a job; 40 hours at Wal-Mart is not a job; 60 hours at Wal-Mart maybe a job – but it is not a life.

Before we get into an argument about the ‘need’ for lower wage levels, remember the history of the minimum wage that the ‘screwer generation’ were advantaged by – a rate of remuneration sufficient for a man, woman and two children to live frugally on.’

It is also necessary in addressing the fallacies inherent in ‘if they don’t have a job it is because they are lazy’ and ‘get a job and everything is fine,’ to examine the myth of 100% employment.

There was a great deal of amusement at the Abbotsford Salvation Army the day someone read of one of the Scandinavian countries running an advertising campaign to encourage workers to consider a leave of absence so someone else would have the opportunity to work.

But like the definition of job or the actions of the ‘screwer generation’ the CBC is silent on the myth of 100% employment.

“Our mission is to inform, to reveal, to contribute to the understanding of issues of public interest and to encourage citizens to participate in our free and democratic society.”

“We are committed to reflecting accurately the range of experiences and points of view of all citizens. All Canadians, of whatever origins, perspectives and beliefs, should feel that our news and current affairs coverage is relevant to them and lives up to our Values.”

So states the CBC Journalistic Standards and Practices on serving the public interest and reflecting diversity.

Yet the CBC fails to reflect the reality of life for many Canadians, fails to reflect experiences, points of view, concerns and needs of a large segment, perhaps the majority, of Canadians.

The silenced majority because as Mr. Jackson laments: his, and that of so many other Canadians, point of view is totally unrepresented by any politicians, political party, media, pundits, experts or think tanks; causing him to ask why his issues and needs, and the issues and needs of so many Canadians, are never raised, never discussed and never come close to being addressed; why the consequences of the behaviors and actions of politicians, governments and businesses on himself and many others are neither taken into account when decisions are made nor do they receive any coverage or consideration in the media.

Diversity is not only a matter of culture, race, religion or language. Quality of life, poverty, economic fairness, jobs that permit you to live on your remuneration without needing your local Food Bank to be able to eat, opportunities – at least a single opportunity, safe and suitable housing, mental illness, economic class; and more are all matters of diversity.

Diversity that the CBC does not address or even acknowledge; a non-representation as judged by Mr. Jackson and others who do not see their concerns, issues and needs reflected in politics, government or media. Leaving them disenfranchised; seeing no point in participating in what is a free and democratic society only for those whose points of view, needs and concerns are reflected in politics, government and media.

The CBC cannot claim to inform, reveal or contribute to the understanding of issues of public need when the realities of life, points of view, concerns and needs of a sizable segment, perhaps the majority segment, of the population go unrecognized, unseen and unexamined.

The CBC has the right to choose what they call news and broadcast.

The CBC does not have the right to mislead the public by claiming to inform, reveal or contribute to the understanding of issues of public need when they fail to perceive or choose to ignore the realities of life that the growing majority of Canadians are falling into. A fall that the media contributes to by NOT informing or revealing (or perhaps perceiving?); a fall that continues to worsen because there is no understanding of this issue, an issue the public badly needs to understand in order to avoid the negative consequences current government policies and behavior are having and will continue to have on them.

It is an informing, revealing and understanding that is needed not just for those who are disenfranchised but for all Canadians.

Consider the Ames Room, a distorted room that is used to create an optical illusion. The room tricks the brain into thinking the person on one side of the room is a giant and the person on the other side of the room is a dwarf by taking advantage of the human brain ‘knowing’ that the floor and ceiling of rooms are parallel to each other.

It is only from a sufficiently different perspective that the brain is able to perceive that what it ‘knows to be true’, that the floors and ceilings of rooms are parallel, is not true in this case and is able to perceive the room is not a rectangle but is a trapezoid.

During the At Issue year-ender the panel and Mr. Mansbridge spoke of Canada’s good economic performance as seen from their observation point.

Yet from the observation point of myself, Mr. Jackson and many others the economic performance and Canada’s economy have more in common with the emperor’s new clothes than reality.

Reality does not care what your ideology says is true, what you believe is true or what you want to be true; Reality does not care what we think, it exists separately from us and simply is what it is. Tao of James

Given that the Canadian economy is a trickle up economy, the economy that actually exists at the bottom of the pyramid that is the Canadian economy [as opposed to the ‘Ames Room’ economy that is seen from the upper reaches of the pyramid] will trickle, with increasing speed, upwards to bring the top of the Canadian economy into line with the reality that exists at the base that the economy is built on.

If the reality of the Canadian economy continues to be unrecognized those with the power, in their lack of understanding, will continue their behaviours and actions until they destroy the Canadian economy’s base, triggering an economic earthquake.

Mr. Brand was right a revolution is needed – desperately.

If we are all in agreement on the decision – then I propose we postpone further discussion of this matter until our next meeting to give ourselves time to develop disagreement and perhaps gain some understanding of what the decision is all about. Alfred P. Sloan


James Breckenridge

The author is not an economist, financial guru or financial pundit.

james-breckenridgeJames W Breckenridge has a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Saskatchewan at Saskatoon, articled with Coopers & Lybrand in Saskatoon, wrote and passed the Uniform Final Exam to earn the designation Chartered Accountant.

Mr. Breckenridge found himself a member of the homeless community on the streets of Abbotsford when he could no longer cope with mental illness and –to quote Emily Dickinson “And then a Plank in Reason, broke, And I dropped down, and down – And hit a World, at every plunge, And Finished knowing – then –

Homelessness; the struggle to find wellness and housing; the experience, education, knowledge and understanding acquired on the journey through the darkness to find the light, wellness and Joy; all contributed to a tempering both mentally and spiritually..

All of which set his feet and life onto a path dedicated to nonconformity and creative maladjustment.

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain, (340)

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,
And Mourners to and fro
Kept treading – treading – till it seemed
That Sense was breaking through –

And when they all were seated,
A Service, like a Drum –
Kept beating – beating – till I thought
My mind was going numb –

And then I heard them lift a Box
And creak across my Soul
With those same Boots of Lead, again,
Then Space – began to toll,

As all the Heavens were a Bell,
And Being, but an Ear,
And I, and Silence, some strange Race,
Wrecked, solitary, here –

And then a Plank in Reason, broke,
And I dropped down, and down –
And hit a World, at every plunge,
And Finished knowing – then –


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