Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Hope Is You

by Tina Phillips
June 9, 2011

Previously published in The Pioneer

As I wind up my educational pursuits at Cal State East Bay I reflect on all that I have accomplished. I am going to receive all three of my degrees from this university, two BA's and one Masters in Social Work. Some people ask why I would get three degrees from the same school. I ask: why not?

While some look down on the city of Hayward, I view Hayward with pride. I have also enjoyed my experience here. I liked most of my classes, professors, classmates, and liked being able to go to college in my own community. I also find that education is what you make of it. I have involved myself in many student organizations, was active in campus life, and engaged myself in working for various causes I believed in. Once I helped register 400 students to vote. I helped organize student-lead walk outs against budget cuts. I helped create and put on many of the QueerFests on this campus which continue today. After I graduated I co-advised student organizations too. I was on the Alumni Board. I helped create the Diversity Center on campus. This year I wrote for The Pioneer. These are all ways I helped contribute to improve the campus community and gave back.

As I graduate I wonder what is in store for me as I shift my focus to the boarder community and transition into the world of work once again. The issues I have addressed in the past year while writing for The Pioneer weigh heavily on my mind and on my heart.

Will I get a job? While some keep saying we are in a "recovery" the jobs have not come back, just the record corporate and Wallstreet profits. Some are now saying we are going into what economists are calling a "double dip" but from my perspective there was never a rebound to begin with. Others are calling this a Depression.

We are entering a scary time in American history where the redistribution of wealth upwards is fundamentally stagnating the ability of everyday people to survive. The top 10 percent of all households are now the ones buying 60% of all goods and services. Which also translates into less jobs in the service sector. This turns into a viscous equation. No jobs = no money to buy things = no jobs because no one is buying. The situation is more dire than anyone wants to admit.

While I am able to stay afloat on left over student loans for a while, eventually the financial aid runs out and then what? It is replaced with a student loan repayment notice. This is a daunting prospect. Many college students are not able to repay their loans, leaving less money for future generations to borrow. This is just one reason why colege should be 100% tax payer funded, yet instead we are seeing the systematic privatization of our university system. We need to ensure that the "people's university" remains accessible to all.

Moreover, many college graduates are moving back home. As many as 85% of college grads are moving back in with their parents. Not that that is inherently bad, but it can have its pluses and minuses. I have successfully been able to live independently of my parents for four years now and reject the idea that I should be forced to go back. It appears the idea that a college degree equals a job is no longer true. Unemployment is double for young people ages 16-24, than that of the general population.

As we graduate we are filled with messages of inspiration and hope for the future. But what do we have to be hopeful about? Our government is not being forward thinking in the policies it is pursuing to change the devastating course we are on as a society. It has looked to cost cutting instead of revue producing, which is taking away essential services that we need as we struggle to make ends meet. Instead of reversing the tide of wealth flooding into the pockets and bank account's of the richest among us, our government is yet again reaching into our pockets to keep giving tax breaks to corporations, paying for prisons and the drug war, paying for the unsuccessful military interventions around the world, and keeping taxes low for the rich. Sooner or later we are going to reach a breaking point where we will have literally nothing left to lose.

These times are incredibly frustrating, and often times downright discouraging. Most people do not think their children will have a better life than they did. As a country we are struggling with whether to move forward or go backwards. Will we socially, politically, and economically progress forward, or will be go back to reactionary and regressive policies of the past? Have we learned nothing from the past or are we doomed to repeat painful mistakes? When will we realize we need to fight back and and move forward?

It is us young people (and the young at heart) graduating from college, who are inheriting this country. We are more diverse, more open minded, more culturally exposed, more savvy, and more conscious than any generation before us. We have the power to create a better future and we can contribute in so many ways that fit our passions, abilities, assets, knowledge, interests, education and experience. We cannot let apathy get to us and be an excuse not to do what we can to defend our families, our communities, and ourselves. We cannot afford to allow ourselves to become jaded and cynical, for the stakes are too high. We have to embrace the future and find our place in it.

We have to manifest the society we want to live in by realizing we are mutually dependent on each other and coming together to develop a vibrant community. That is the kind of community we want; one in which we are able to create meaning, contribute, and do good in the world. In the short term, we are struggling. In the long run, we can overcome our challenges and face the struggles by demanding progress.

It all comes down to one question: will we do what it takes to ensure the success of the future? Will we strengthen safety nets, invest in education, invest in job creation, protect the environment, invest in renewable energy, and promote peace, civility, diplomacy, equality, liberty, and justice? Will we demand that every person has the opportunity to reach their full potential and be supported in this endeavor? Will we shift our economic and social policies to match our priorities and our true values as a country? Or will we let Wall Street, the wealthy, and corporations dictate our future?

The hope lies in the actions of courageous people who have decided enough is enough. The hope is that we demand better of ourselves and each other. Hope is not a campaign slogan, a promise of a better tomorrow, or a catch phrase in a speech. Hope is what we latch on to in the most desperate and adverse times in our lives. We must reject pessimism and nihilism. We must believe in our own ability to not only survive, but thrive. People are strong and resilient. People can and will dare the seemingly impossible and achieve it. Against overwhelming odds, do not give up hope. Hope will sustain us as we struggle through to better days. Those better days are not a promise nor a guarantee. They will only come if you will it and make it happen. Always remember the hope is you.

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