Starters presents an extreme view of the consolidation of power among the old and wealthy--or so I thought until I happened across this article last week. The article is titled The War Against Youth, which at first seemed like hyperbole aimed at selling magazines, but is really only barely an exaggeration. Here are the first three paragraphs:
Twenty-five years ago young Americans had a chance.Stephen Marche goes on to catalog an extraordinary decline in the prospects of youth over the last 25 years. Average net worth of those under 35 has fallen from $11,521 to $3,662. The U.S. government now spends $2.40 on the elderly for every dollar spent on children. Older Americans have seen their wealth increase 42% while younger Americans have lost -68% of their net worth.
In 1984, American breadwinners who were sixty-five and over made ten times as much as those under thirty-five. The year Obama took office, older Americans made almost forty-seven times as much as the younger generation.
This bleeding up of the national wealth is no accounting glitch, no anomalous negative bounce from the recent unemployment and mortgage crises, but rather the predictable outcome of thirty years of economic and social policy that has been rigged to serve the comfort and largesse of the old at the expense of the young.
Is there any wonder why dystopian novels are so popular among teenagers? They depict the world we are bequeathing to our youth. All these novels are real. The gerontocracy of Starters, the brutal income inequality and reality TV distractions of The Hunger Games, the war on women of XVI and Truth, the environmental calamities of Shipbreaker--even the warped disaster response of my novel, ASHFALL: they all exist in our society today in some form.
We should celebrate the fact that so many adults are reading YA, Joel Stein notwithstanding. Perhaps they'll take something other than a few hours of enjoyment from our work. I suspect, however, that adults and politicians will fail to solve, or in some cases even to recognize, our society's problems. If the last 25 years are any guide, the best we can hope for is that they'll quit making it worse. If we must give our children a dystopia, perhaps the literature that accompanies it may inspire them to bequeath something better to our grandchildren.