This article was originally published by Alternet and is re-posted here with the permission of the author.
I’m going to come out to you. I am overburdened by student loan debt. Since graduating at the height of the financial downturn with a degree that isn’t easily applicable to an ever-competitive job market, I’ve been stuffing my loan statements in a box under my bed. The only reason I feel empowered to say this to an audience is because I’ve found out that I’m not alone. In fact, there are 206,000 of us who graduated in 2008 with at least $40,000 in student loan debt. Student loan debt exceeded credit card debt for the first time in 2010, and according to the debt clock that keeps ticking away, we’re only $60 million shy of the oft-cited $1 trillion mark.
The dismal anecdotes of youth in this country have been reported on this site. Even Mayor Bloomberg acknowledged that something should be done for these hopeless young people before we take to the street to riot.
Remember Mohammed Bouazizi? So much has happened since this 26-year-old Tunisian food vendor set himself on fire in front of a local municipal office. The rest is a tumultuous recent history of riots, protests, tent cities and overall acting out in the Middle East, collectively referred to as the Arab Spring. Though Bouazizi wasn’t a college student, as reported in much of the narrative, his desperation in the face of police brutality and unemployment in a society that was blind to his community’s struggle mirrors ours. Bouazizi set himself ablaze in order to be seen.
I hearken back to this story, not because I’m advocating a repeat of this scene, or because with police violence and retaliation against the #OccupyWallStreet protesters, it seems like we’re heading for the same violent crescendo as our Middle Eastern counterparts. But in a profile of the boy behind the legend, Bouazizi’s mother spoke to the humiliation that her son felt—his lack of control over the course of his own life. In order to regain control, he took his life. With mounting bills, disappearing jobs, and a deaf, dumb and blind government, the time is ripe for a similar spark and resulting uprising here in the US.
But it probably won’t happen—or at least not in the same way. Clinical psychologist Bruce Levine wrote on this site that “Young Americans…appear to have acquiesced to the idea that the corporatocracy can completely screw them and that they are helpless to do anything about it.” He succinctly articulated the weights that hold young Americans back; what keeps us from rallying to the streets in sustained, significant protest.