Category Archives: Politics

Student Loans and the New Debt

One of the more sobering things one can do is put all of their investments and debts into the website mint.com.  I recommend it, just to take a zoomed out view of their finances.  Spoiler: It isn’t pretty.

As a child of the 1980s, I have come to terms that I would be in debt.  We are the generation that is tasked with being the metaphorical cleanup crew.  The environment is severely damaged and our economy is in dire straits.  Just like many previous generations, we are being held responsible for our previous generations mistakes.

The difference for our generation is the fact that we live in an age with debt that we can’t control.

I’m talking student debt.

student loans - google

Student loans, as described by Google

For the most part these days, organizations that give school loans are no different than pawn shops or other businesses that prey on desperation.  They target those who have no other choice, but to beg at their door.  We come from a generation where familes and communities are frayed and distrusted, where there is no advice for the young, naive, and uneducated and individuals must go into tremendous amounts of debt.

As a youth, I was never given advice in terms of financing.  I was just told by my parents that “everyone goes into debt these days”.  While that is true, it doesn’t make it right.

Just like other predatory lending practices, the school loan application process is remarkably painless and has few barriers. Entrance counseling is mostly a scared straight session focused on stating to potential students that they have a debt they need to pay at some point.  Exit counseling mostly is an attempt to get contact information so these organizations can hunt you down, if need be.

This is particularly a problem with graduate degrees in fields that pay less (here’s looking at you, MPH and MSW, among others).  How is it justifiable to charge rates far beyond what an individual may ever make on a salary basis in their lifetime?

How has education become a rite of passage for the entitled?  How can individuals who have a heart for the underprivileged, the disenfranchised, the downtrodden help them if they can’t help themselves?  Schools have now become an assembly line for the creation of a new underclass, a grouping of educated, impoverished individuals.  Further, loans have created a new generation of indentured servants, some working at jobs only because they offer loan payment plans, even if it is toxic in nature.

I am still very happy I went to school and every experience I have had has been beneficial from a personal and professional standpoint.  That being said, we can’t make education perpetuate poverty and inequity.  Education is meant to be the great equalizer.  I don’t know if it is right now.

I have met the 20,000 pound gorilla on every youth’s back and it is student debt.  The New Debt.

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“They Live” and the Occupy Movement: What is Social Justice?

The golden rule: He who has the gold makes the rules. – Keith David, They Live

If I were picking a favorite film director, it would most likely be John Carpenter.  In terms of film, my tastes run from the very peaks of cinema to the absolute depths, with a love for art and trash.  I completely, utterly appreciate attempts to make the most cohesive piece of art possible, but I also highly appreciate those that are able to entertain.  John Carpenter is one of the rare directors able to do that, balancing an artist’s hand with the panache of a modern-day P.T. Barnum.

Starring then-professional wrestler Roddy Piper, They Live is a scathing comment on the neglect of the working class in the United States, managing to wrap this message within the context of an alien invasion with aliens masquerading as politicians and those in positions of power. With They Live, Carpenter is able to sneak in jabs at Reagan’s conspicuous consumption obsessed culture while also making a piece of pulp science fiction entertaining to those who don’t even agree with the politics on display.

I recently watched They Live on Netflix and came to the realization the sheer amount of anger brimming under the surface.  Anger towards the incompetent, the greedy, and–perhaps most of all–the complacent.  They Live is, first and foremost, a comment on those individuals who let the world become one focused more on people being defined by product, rather than the moral integrity that inherently makes a person a person and separates us from the animals.

Roddy Piper and Keith David, They Live

A pair of black sunglasses changes everything...

That They Live got through the major studio system is a pretty major miracle (even if Carpenter had box office clout at one point, it was long gone here).  Even more so than that, the film represents an early warning shot to a current sentiment — fatigue from corporate greed and the resulting Occupy Movement.

For me, one of the more fascinating recent narratives has been the Occupy Movement.  What began at Wall Street amongst a small, but devoted group of  protesters has expanded nationwide.  Along the way, the Occupy Movement has fought for the idea of social justice, attempting to remove the barriers of injustice and greed and make many of these hidden barriers more apparent with sit-ins, protests, and commentaries, among other things.

This isn’t how many–including many of those in the media–have framed this pursuit, however.  To many, the Occupy Movement hasn’t been clear enough and represents some of the dregs of society — those who simply don’t want to work.  Others use codewords which imply entitlement or laziness resulting from substance abuse or other factors.

While this isn’t entirely untrue, it’s also simplifying what is being done on the ground.  The formation of any movement has growing pains; birth is always painful.  Occupy has largely been interesting in solidifying and clarifying their vision in moving forward to action.  Some of that action has already occurred in places such as Georgia, where many Occupy protesters have started organizing sit-ins at properties foreclosed on due to subprime and other unethical practices.

In defining the vision for social justice, much responsibility needs to be placed at the feet of the people themselves–those loans they decide to take out, where they choose to live, what they choose to eat, etc.

But we must also remain cognizant of the fact that not all Americans (or people elsewhere) are born with an equal shot, despite what we are told at a young age.  Redlining, gentrification, food deserts, cheap addictive and calorie-rich unhealthy foods, and predatory lending practices are all very real things.

Simply put, the Occupy Movement is more than youthful naivete.  Just like those black sunglasses in They Live, Occupy is bringing light to problematic policies and waking up the populace.  Well, at least those who are able to cut through the static.


I Sure Do Miss The Good Old Days…

In case you didn’t notice, there is a tinge of facetiousness in the title of this post.  People always seem to speak about how much better the old days are.  We as people tend to view memories through rose-tinted glasses, exercising revisionist history on a repeated basis.

A couple months ago, I saw the film Super 8.  I was not a huge fan of the film (I would probably give it 2 1/2 stars for the record), definitely not as much as many other critics attested.  That being said, the crowd I saw the film with ate it up.  I also noticed much of the audience was older, averaging my parent’s age.  It is no coincidence that the film is set in the 70s, painstakingly taking turns expressing the period of the film.  This includes musical cues (“My Sharona”), fashion, and references to films at the time (Dawn of the Dead, for one).  It also owes a large debt to Spielberg’s fetishization of the suburbs.

The film is a crowd-pleaser, but is it because of the quality or the ability to tap into the powerful phenomenon nostalgia?

When you think about it, nostalgia has a huge influence on American culture. Movies such as Super 8 use the feel of the era to create familiarity and financial security for studios.  The endless reboots, remakes, and sequels coming out of Hollywood these days also attests to this (as do the record box office grosses).

Recently, Nickelodeon came to the realization that 90s programming could be lucrative, cashing in on the nostalgia of generation x (and y).  Based on the suggestion of a few interns at the company, Nickelodeon’s TeenNick channel has begun to re-air many of these shows in a block of programming called Nick ’90s Are All That.  As a result, the channel has experienced record ratings.

Further, politics are guided by nostalgia, looking back at the strong family of the Leave It To Beaver era as a reference point (never mind part of the reason families were so “strong” was an ignorance of racial and gender-based issues).   Ronald Reagan did a brilliant job eschewing a back to basics approach, using the nostalgic tone of his “Morning in America” ads to a landslide victories in 1980 and 1984.

The interesting thing about nostalgia is its sheer strength.  Watching a film or listening to a song without the proper context can completely alter one’s opinion.

I’ll admit I never saw The Goonies as a kid.  Watching it in my twenties made me realize it’s a sheer chore to get through.  It’s somewhat akin to being locked in a room with a bunch of yelling, screaming kids.  For 1 1/2 hours.  Torture.

Nostalgia is such a strong tool.  Just look at some youtube comments for an older song.

Quality often doesn’t change.  People do…well, unless they’re handcuffed by nostalgia.

 

John is hoping that you don’t think he’s a grouch for thinking nostalgia is lame.  He also hopes you don’t think him saying lame is lame.  John can be reached via Twitter or watch him wax nostalgic on last.fm.


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