(No pics or links either.)
A few years ago, my wife and I went to the White House to participate in an environmental protest. This post isn't about that. It's about being middle class and middle aged.
The night before our protest, we went to an organizational meeting. The organizers had us stand up by our age groups. There were a few hundred people in the room from all over the US and Canada. There were scads of teens and twenties. A respectable number of thirties and fifties. The sixties through eighties were out in force! When the forties stood up, it was really underwhelming. We would have all fit in a Chevy Volt without violating each other's personal space.
It lead me to wonder - where were my peers? Did they just not give a damn?
(Regional digression: The organizers also had us stand up by state. My wife and I stood up for Texas, as did another fellow who did not live in Texas, but he was born there. I only remember that he was a longhorn fan and very enthusiastic about the Lone Star State.
I did not wonder where my regional peers were. I knew that the vast majority of my fellow Texans would have been happy if the ground below the church/meeting place were to open up and drop us all straight to the tree-hugging-hippie level of Hell that Dante may or may not have written about. I still need to read that book. God-forsaken treehuggers!)
Discussion arose amongst the crowd about my age group's lack of attendance. The general consensus was this: my peers are overwhelmed trying to take care of the generations above and below, consumed by the debt in which they have imprisoned themselves, and struggling with the idea that their bodies have grown soft and are no longer capable of youthful exploits and ambitions. In essence, they are so focused on dealing with their own little picture that they have no time or energy to focus on the big picture. We are too busy to be able to give a damn.
I am sad to say, but that was my last protest. We came back and went to work. We followed the news about our protest - which continues to this day. My wife did go back to protest a second time, but I stayed home to earn money and feed the dogs.
A few months later, the Occupy movement boiled to the top. I sat glued to my internet watching the occupiers with envy, nervousness, and a lot of cringing.
These days I protest (very quietly) by recycling, riding a bicycle to work, hanging some of my laundry out to dry, and by picking up trash when I walk to coffee. It is indeed hard to give a damn about the big picture when you are working for the generations before and after you, when you are struggling to pay the bills with which you have imprisoned yourself, and when you can exhaust yourself merely by taking the dogs for a walk.
I will be forty-six in a few weeks. My forties are more than half over. Please keep a torch burning. Maybe in four years I will pick it up again and get back in the fight. In the meantime, I had better go recycle that plastic water bottle lying in the street in front of my house.
May you fight mightily for a better place for all.