Part of what I'm "selling" in Surfing the Middle East is that these economic hard times have historically proven to be the golden era for artists and entrepreneurs alike . . . and on the production level, that has been Surfing the Middle East. (Don't know what I'm talking about? I've just started Casbah Publishing to own my work, and click here.)
I should also say that I've hired a graph designer to make a 16-page color insert in the Surfing the Middle East hardcover book that will incorporate pictures, maps and graphics from the entire trip . . . a sort of high-quality colleague of sorts . . . that is significantly more in depth than nearly any publishing house I've talked to--or know about--would do.
Both Arianna Huffington & The New York Times have produced articles this week on what I'm calling The Generation of Broken Dreams: the kids who went to college, put in the hours, and find themselves better off working the same two-bit service gig they had in high school.
This actually isn't all that surprising, given the skyrocketing cost of tuition, which has been going up at an annual rate of 5 percent. According to a briefing paper by the Economic Policy Institute, in 2008-2009, the total cost of attending college on-campus was over $18,000 for those going to a public school, and over $38,000 for those at a private school. When you consider that over the same period the median household income in the U.S. was $49,777, it's not hard to see why even a public college is out of reach for so many American families, at least without going deeply into debt.
And the job market won't be doing the Class of 2011 any favors in helping to repay that debt. According to EPI, the unemployment rate for those aged 16 to 24 in 2010 was 18.4 percent, the highest it's been since the number has been tracked, going back 60 years. From April of last year until March of this year, the unemployment rate for recent college graduates hovered around 9.7 percent. In 2007, it was just over 5 percent. And while the fact that we're still clawing our way out of a recession affects those figures, at roughly the same point in the last two recessions -- 1992 and 2003 -- the unemployment rate for new grads was 6.9 percent and 6.4 percent, respectively.
And from the New York Times:
Now evidence is emerging that the damage wrought by the sour economy is more widespread than just a few careers led astray or postponed. Even for college graduates — the people who were most protected from the slings and arrows of recession — the outlook is rather bleak.
Employment rates for new college graduates have fallen sharply in the last two years, as have starting salaries for those who can find work. What’s more, only half of the jobs landed by these new graduates even require a college degree, reviving debates about whether higher education is “worth it” after all.
“I have friends with the same degree as me, from a worse school, but because of who they knew or when they happened to graduate, they’re in much better jobs,” said Kyle Bishop, 23, a 2009 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh who has spent the last two years waiting tables, delivering beer, working at a bookstore and entering data. “It’s more about luck than anything else.”
So it is out of This Picture that surfing from Israel to Lebanon--and trying to tell the story of the Middle East through surfing--seemed like a good idea. And sweet hell, why not?