“The danger is that a global, universally interrelated civilization may produce barbarians from its own midst by forcing millions of people into conditions which, despite all appearances, are the conditions of savages.”
- Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism
Henry Giroux: "Following Hannah Arendt, a dark cloud of political and ethical ignorance has descended on the United States. Thoughtlessness has become something that now occupies a privileged, if not celebrated, place in the political landscape and the mainstream cultural apparatuses. A new kind of infantilism now shapes daily life as adults gleefully take on the role of unthinking children and children are taught to be adults, stripped of their innocence and subject to a range of disciplinary pressures designed to cripple their ability to be imaginative."
Giroux describes a society that DISPOSES of youth, indifferent to the fate of young people, brainwashing them from an early age with a commercialized childhood, a banal celebrity culture of selfishness, spiritually impoverished, sterilized from solidarity or even simple compassion, awash in market and other fundamentalisms, gloating over the deaths of others [Cheney].
"[N]ation-states organized by neoliberal priorities have implicitly declared war on their children ..."
This is a society whose leading institutions and ideology eat their young. It is a future of downward mobility for Generation Zero. It is a war on youth. The war consists of a soft war, drawing an entire generation into "a world of consumerism in which commodities and brand loyalty become both the most important markers of identity and the primary frameworks for mediating one’s relationship to the world." Rather than being an instrument of liberation, the new technologies become
"a new form of depoliticization and thoughtlessness conveniently labeled as attention deficit disorder. The risk is that young people’s lives will eventually be filled entirely by these distractions, and they will be denied the time necessary for thoughtful analysis and the pedagogical conditions necessary for them to read critically both the word and the world."
Yes, there is some resistance.
...some youth are doing their best to resist the commercial onslaught and to stay ahead of the commodification and privatization of new media technologies. These youth are using social and digital media as creative tools to assert a range of oppositional practices and forms of protest that constitute a new realm of political activity, one that will increase in the future, and an important source of struggle and resistance.
But there is also the "hard war" against young people.
Turning now to the hard war, this is a more serious and dangerous development for young people, especially those who are marginalized by virtue of their ethnicity, race or class. The hard war refers to the harshest elements of a growing youth crime-control complex that operates through a logic of punishment, surveillance and control. The young people targeted by its punitive measures are often poor youth of color who are considered failed consumers and who can only afford to live on the margins of a commercial culture that excludes anybody without money, resources and leisure time to spare. Or they are youth considered uneducable and unemployable, and therefore troublesome.
The "school to prison pipeline", so brutally developed in the USA, especially among visible and African-American youth, only shows what the neo-liberal future has for young people in Canada and elsewhere. The incarceration rates of Aboriginal women in Canada, for example, draw the apalled attention of international bodies.
In Canada, one child in six lives in poverty, but for Aboriginal and immigrant children that figure rises to 25 percent or more, respectively. By all accounts, the rate of incarceration for Aboriginal youth - already eight times higher than for non-Aboriginal youth - will continue to skyrocket as a result of the Harper government’s so-called Safe Streets and Community Act, which emulates the failed policies of the US system by, among other things, strengthening requirements to detain and sentence more youth to custody in juvenile detention centers.
In Canada, there is a new generation of youth who have to think, act and talk like adults, and worry about their families, which may be headed by a single parent or two out of work and searching for a job. In the United States, young people are further burdened by registers of extreme poverty that pose the dire challenge of getting enough money to buy food and facing the arduous task of determining how long it will take to see a doctor in case of illness. These young people inhabit a new and more unsettling scene of suffering, a dead zone of the imagination, which constitutes a site of terminal exclusion - one that reveals not only the vast and destabilizing inequalities in neoliberal economic landscapes, but also portends a future that has no purchase on the hope that characterizes a vibrant democracy
The market fundamentalism of neo-liberalism must be exposed and the curtain pulled back from the Wizard of capitalist Oz. Public memory, civic literacy and civic courage must come to life again to resist this brutal capitalist juggernaut. Giroux notes recent resistance, and that "young people aligning with others can be a vibrant source of creativity, possibility and political struggle."
...young people and others can use new technologies, develop democratic social formations, and enact forms of critical pedagogy and civil disobedience necessary for addressing the anti-democratic forces that have been corrupting North American political culture since the 1970s. Young people have shown that austerity policies can be defeated; state violence can be held accountable; collective struggles are worthwhile; and specific and isolated protests can be transformed into broad social movements that pose a fundamental challenge to neoliberal ideologies and modes of governance.
Giroux sees education as the center of any collective struggle that matters and notes that we, on the left, must resist the cynicism in our own ranks, and fight for a “sense of politics being educative [and] changing the way people see things.”
Slavoj Žižek: “The only realist option is to do what appears impossible within this system. This is how the impossible becomes possible.”