Sunday, October 21, 2012

we live in a screwed-up world

I'm awake.

That's what I've felt like for the last year: like I'm waking up to what's really going on in this world. And I'm not alone: the Arab Spring, the American Fall and the Maple Spring/Printemps Érable. We are awake.

And what I've learned in this year-and-a-bit isn't pleasant, but this is like one of those times when Mom wakes up at 5:00 AM and tosses and turns: I know I'm not going to go back to sleep. But the thing is, I don't want to go back to sleep. This new knowledge is uncomfortable, but I cannot look away.

As a human being who's solidly in the ninety-nine per cent, these movements are personal ones for me:
  • I'm from a low-income family and have seen credit card debt up close (I won't name any names). As a result, I'm now extremely wary of credit cards and the damage they can do.
  • I've seen the violence inflicted on peaceful protesters by the police force, especially the NYPD, though the RCMP has a long list of wrongdoings, and the Fredericton Police Force illegally raided and dismantled the Occupy F'ton camp this past winter. I will greet police officers, but I don't fully trust them.
  • "Between 1986 and 2006 government grants plummeted from 80 per cent to less than 57 per cent of university operating revenue. The direct result has been the doubling of the share of university budgets that are funded by tuition fees.
    "Today, tuition fees are increasing at a faster rate than any other cost faced by students. According to Statistics Canada’s Youth in Transition Survey, 70 per cent of high school graduates who do not go on to post-secondary education cite financial reasons as the main factor. One in four of those cite debt aversion as their principal deterrent. Moreover, research has consistently found that high up-front costs are a significant barrier to attending college or university for many students."
The defunding of post-secondary institutions and the subsequent tuition hikes are unacceptable: the federal and provincial governments should be investing in the next generation--not making it harder for us (especially those of us from low-income families) to get the education that we need in order to get a good job. I had to apply for a student loan this year because there isn't much left in my college account, and I admit that I resent that loan--even as it allows me to further my education and earn a degree, which I really want. Thing is, since the moment they pop into the world, the young generation is promised jobs, a college or university education and a good life by the generation before it--but my generation, Gen Y, a.k.a. the Millennial Generation, is struggling to find work and we're up to our eyebrows in debt: total student loan debt in Canada is around $20 billion as of last year and in the States it's over $1 trillion as of this year (don't get me started on the obscene cost of education in the US). The young generation is promised the world--and then we get slapped with a mountain of debt. It almost makes me want to channel Peter Pan.

And get this: in Canada, since 2000, when they were at par, tuition fees have increased over twenty per cent more than the rate of inflation (source: Canadian Federation of Students, which got their info from StatsCan).

I know that under our current system this is the way things are, but as a young, idealistic artist, I don't believe that that's the way they have to be. People say that we all have to play (pay) our part, especially us students, and that we can't afford to reduce fees. If that's true, than how the heck are we able to afford the Canadian mission in Afghanistan (cumulative cost: $13 billion, just $7 billion less than the national student loan debt amount) or a corporate tax cut (annual cost: $8.7 billion). And to top it all off, we have Harper saying that we can afford these two things, while cutting things like student employment centres and other things that are important to the future of Canada in the name of balancing the federal budget a year earlier than planned.

And then we have the 1%. The Occupy movement was actually what woke me up and got me interested in these issues. It was through the movement that I learned how those of us in the ninety-nine per cent have been screwed over for years. How the 1% (like the Irvings and McCains--and that's Irving as in Irving Oil and McCain as in McCain Foods) are rolling in dough, and how the five big banks (RBC, TD, CIBC, BMO and ScotiaBank) are also rolling dough--and don't pay their taxes.

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