kids of oblivion by Tyler Duckworth is the story of Jude Campbell, a 22-year-old recent college graduate who has decided that, while the world certainly isn't fair, there's no natural reason for it not to be. Instead, Jude attributes this lack of justice - and simple common decency - to the failures of previous generations. Upon realizing this and failing in his attempt to repair the damage, Jude finds himself lacking confidence in his own peers also. And with this knowledge firmly in place, Jude sets forth to conquer his own demons, lest they should bury him before he can be of any help to anyone.

For anyone who has ever attempted to learn about him- or herself, kids of oblivion is a must-read, tackling the issue behind the issues of Social Security reform, low turnout amongst young voters, and a hundred other hot-button topics you've heard discussed again and again from the very people - at least as Jude Campbell sees it - who caused the problems in the first place. Take a fictional journey to the heart of music, movies, love, life, politics, literature, and what the future holds, through the eyes of a young man who has to wonder whether the future holds anything at all.


Get married, get divorced, dye your hair every single day, pick a new diet, pick a newer diet, get married again, write a tell-all, write a sequel tell-all about how hard it is to be famous after the success of your last tell-all, get married one more time, suddenly remember you’re already married to that last person you forgot to divorce, sell the rights to the story of your life for a biography that will be fictionally adapted into a movie starring you in a cameo role, which you’ll reminisce cleverly about in your next tell-all. Go on Oprah.

This is the reason for the malaise. The Baby-Boomers’ parents believed in everything and cared about nothing. Thus, their children became hippies, who tortured their parents by believing in nothing and caring about everything. Generation X, born of the Baby-Boomers/hippies, saw their parents had made meaningless everything but still cared about it, leading the children to get even by caring as much as the missing meaning allowed.


*   *   *

We live in a terrible world, that’s all. Maybe Reggie was right, and all we can dream of being is what we already are. Nothing changes. No one gets any better. The future is the same as the past is the same as the present is the same as the future. It’s the same every day, and no amount of teaching, preaching, or outright sermonizing was going to change anything.

I want to look at this feeling of helplessness for a second. This is really where I got the ball rolling on what ended up being a downhill slope.

When you’re helpless, no amount of planning or acting is going to do you any good. When you feel helpless, you’re not actually helpless. That waitress who gets dumped on by the world of people that needs someone they can view as beneath them to dump on? She feels helpless because if she responds, she’ll lose her job. The same is true for every counter-jockey in the world. Every clerk, every teller, every ticket-taker, basically everyone in the service industry today, feels the same way. I don’t mean to say they all feel helpless, but in a sense, they all are helpless in the exact same way. They’re all helpless to respond to being treated like a sub-human receptacle for the world’s bad days if they want to keep their jobs.

But I’m saying revolt! They’re not actually helpless; they just feel that way. Why are these people biting their tongues until they bleed just to keep working at a job that forces them to further bite their tongues until they bleed? Get the hell out! Do something useful! Oh, it’s hard? So is what you’re doing right now! I told you before, all the psychobabble buzzwords would return to bite us in the ass, and here goes.

What these service-industry slaves are feeling is not an actual sense of helplessness but rather one of learned helplessness. They were taught the same way I was to want to work. It’s that same principle that feeds us ambivalence every time we’re offered overtime or the chance to go home early for the day. We want the hours because we need the money because we want to buy stuff because we’re all materialists at heart because we learned to be that way. We want to go home because we hate our jobs, and we think an hour or two more in front of the TV will make us happier inherently throughout the course of our natural lives. What do we do? We weigh the consequences of our actions and make a choice based on what we feel is best for us, mentally and financially, at that time. In the end, though, whatever you choose is bound to make you feel worse. If you go home, you think of all the reasons you could’ve used a little extra cash; if you stay, you feel as miserable as you always feel at work, only a little worse because you know you didn’t have to be there.

Maybe that’s why so many of us allow our decisions to be made by other people. We all want the power of being in charge without any of the responsibility of having to, I don’t know, lead. Instead, we just keep our big stupid mouths shut to anybody who can make a difference and complain all the time about work to our friends or whoever without ever making any steps toward changing things. You think the customer is always right? You’re wrong. All the customer ever is is about one more asinine remark away from getting his eye gouged out by the nearest fork or candy bar or ink pen or even a finger if that’s all that’s close at hand. If the customer knew this, my theory is that they’d start treating people in the service industry with at least an ounce of human respect and maybe even let them keep a little of their dignity. I don’t think that would be so wrong.

But the employees have all learned to be helpless. Their nitwit managers all told them how expendable they were on the first day of the job, and they’ve reminded them just enough since to make sure it’s always, always, always in their brains at all times. You think bosses are really as big of nitwits as I said? You would again be wrong. Really, they’re the slyest bunch of fakes and back-stabbers you’ll ever meet. Oh, they’re morons, that’s true enough. But they have that one gift, and their gift is to know exactly how many times they can remind employees of their expendability without ever pushing them to the brink where they’ll quit.

Can you imagine what that would be like? Every day, you wake up and say to yourself, “I’m expendable.” Overstock is expendable. Surplus is expendable. People are not expendable. They’re not human resources, but as long as they believe they are, they feel unwanted, and then they feel grateful for the chance to work any miserable, life-draining job you toss their way. What I want to see happen is all these people wake up one day and realize instead how necessary they are to the entire economy of America. I’d like to see the country shut down for just one day when every quote-unquote expendable person alive realizes just how much better than their jobs they are and quits right there on the spot. Of course, it would never fully work because all the brown-nosers and people who are timid by nature rather than nurture wouldn’t walk out. But right about the time every restaurant, theater, car wash, bank, convenience, retail, and grocery store in America shut down, that would be a great moment in human history. That would be the moment when the silent masses were finally and clearly heard. That would be the day minimum wage lives up to its title of minimum, and these people could stop working that second job just to make ends meet. That would be the time when every person in this country could finally stand the hell up and be counted.

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