Earlier this morning, I saw a video of an innocent girl being maced and neglected by the NYPD during the Occupy Wall Street protests. I had heard about them prior to seeing this video, but I honestly hadn't educated myself on the situation very well. As I read informational articles and editorials theorizing why so many young adults my age and slightly older were protesting, I came to two conclusions: this is my story and Green Day, with songs like "21st Century Breakdown" and "See the Light", helping to narrate it.
Like many of the fans who started listening to Green Day during the American Idiot era, I am now a college student, laboring away reading arguably pointless texts and writing endless theses about things that in no way correlate with my life or future intended career path, just as the generations that preceded me did. The thing that differentiates me from said generations is that all of this work may inevitably lead to absolutely nothing. As The Guardian's
David Graeber put it, we are
"...kids who did exactly what [we] were told [we] should: studied, got into college, and are now not just being punished for it, but humiliated - faced with a life of being treated as deadbeats, moral reprobates."
Occupy Wall Street represents a recapturing of our futures from the bureaucratic minority in order to ensure that we will be able to access the basic privileges that our parents and grandparents were afforded.
Where does Green Day fit into this picture? As I read articles, editorials, and first-hand accounts of what is happening and why, I couldn't help but hear Billie Joe declaring that "we are the class of ['13], born in the era of humility," and that "we are the desperate in the decline." Suddenly, the second verse of "21st Century Breakdown" resonated with me like it never had before. Billie is singing directly to us - he is reflecting the anguish and frustration of the generation of young adults that his own son belongs to, the generation of young adults that will soon be entering into the workforce with no strings to grasp at. He is saying what our entire generation is screaming at Wall Street - that we want to "[make] it as working class hero[es]", that we will not settle for "the scars on [our] hands [as] a means to an end", and that we will question and provoke the "heroes and cons" who have lead our lives down this path. Billie Joe attempted to give us an outlet for our collective frustration, encouraging us to "scream, America, scream"; something which the so-called Facebook Generation is finally ready to do.
21st Century Breakdown
offers another song which also correlates with our generation's struggles and attempts to motivate us away from our laptops and into action. "See the Light," the last song on the album, is future-oriented and optimistic, as opposed to American Idiot's past-focused bitter resignation in "Whatsername." I believe that the difference is intentional - American Idiot
was written and released at the height of the Bush administration, whereas 21st Century Breakdown
was released right after Obama was elected. These two points in American history reflect almost polar-opposite views of pessimism versus optimism; the Jesus of Suburbia lamented over losing his opportunity years ago, but the narrator of "See the Light" wants to "pound the pavement to take the liars down," - in other words, they're willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that they "see the light" and "don't... lose [their] sight." The songs ends with a very reflective piano melody that suggests encouragement to not only find
what is wrong with the world, but to fix
what is wrong with the world.
Although it is clearly not the motivator of the recent protests (or even on anyone's radar except mine), Green Day's messages, especially on the 21st Century Breakdown
album, resonate with me and motivate me to continue to inform myself about the Occupy Wall Street protests and to potentially take a more active role myself. Their words continue to reflect my anxieties about my future; a future that is entwined with "the class of '13" and compounded by "the Bastards of 1969"; a future which will hopefully result in the reclaiming and achievement of opportunities currently thought to be long gone.