Compare and Contrast - Part 2

I read several articles at the NY Times site Monday which resonated together in my mind for a couple of reasons. I here continue the exploration of those reasons which I began in Part 1.

For those USians enjoying an extended youth, this Times article links their extended financial support by their parents to their extended schooling. It says, "Adults between 18 and 34 received an average of $38,000 in cash and two years' worth of full-time labor from their parents, or about 10 percent of their income". The article notes that about one-quarter of 25-year-old white men lived with their parents in 2007, before the current recession began.

Oh, yes — the recession. The wise heads who confer among themselves as to what national course of action would be most wise agree of late that the U.S. government must cut spending, despite the recession. The chief concern, they insist, is not government services being cut while millions are out of work and/or losing their homes, and state governments are bleeding red ink; the real peril is the threat that the stock market will at some unspecified future point become alarmed by the imaginary prospect of inflation.

To avoid the painful — to them — need to contemplate this non-existent threat, these wise heads insist that the government must inflict real pain on the real economy which the rest of us inhabit, as Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman has been discussing in his recent column and blog posts.

There is obviously more than a world of difference between the lives of the child soldiers the U.S. is funding in Somalia and U.S. residents looking to begin their adult careers in their late twenties or even early thirties. But there is a relatively small class of people in the U.S. who are making both the decisions which will keep those privileged USians dependent on their parents indefinitely while the jobs all that education was to prepare them for remain elusive, and the decisions which make available to the Somali government funding which allows them to hire and train the children of that country as soldiers.

That funding is available because it comes out of the U.S. military budget — the only area of the non-fixed federal budget which the Obama administration did not propose freezing for the next several years.

This small class of Very Serious Persons think the U.S. economy needs pain — for other people — to create the appearance most pleasing to their Market deity. Another branch of that Academy of Very Serious Persons wants to wage war abroad on many fronts — not in their own dignified persons, of course, but through the persons of USians whose only refuge from that painful economy may be in the armed forces, through the persons of the hundreds of thousands of private military contractors (.pdf) employed by the U.S. government, and through the millions of persons who are at war, or who must try to live their lives in the midst of war, because the U.S. government has chosen to hold a war, or support a war, in their country.

Our small U.S. class of Very Serious Persons is at present fighting a war in Somalia through the persons of about-12-year-old Alwil and the 10-year-old and 13-year-old fellow soldiers Alwil shares a bed with.

These two articles in the Times collided in my mind because of the bitter irony that the very long road to full independence and responsibility for some middle-class U.S. young people results from their having access to the education the Somali child soldiers lack, and then some, and then some more. But these wildly divergent circumstances are connected, too.

Within the oasis of privilege that is U.S. society relative to much of the world, there is a growing disparity between the very wealthy and everyone else. African-Americans are at the bottom of that cavernous gap.

So, as always, there is a hierarchy of sacrifice here — but it's sacrifices all the way down from that circle of Very Serious Persons at the top. They will sacrifice their fellow USians' economic well-being because they wish to appear tough to the god of the Market. They will sacrifice the brown-skinned children of many countries because they wish to appear tough to terrorists, as well as to anyone who comes between the corporate priesthood of the Market god and the wealth it feeds on.

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