Monday, 11 July 2011

The best thing we never had

We grew up in a shiny little world. There were no bad guys to steal our candies and as long as we behaved we would get our daily portion of chocolate. We saw our parents take holidays around the world and we got a lot of presents for our birthdays. Most importantly, we were promised a good life. We grew up knowing that if we worked hard enough we would be able to afford chocolate (or whatever the adult equivalent, for me it's still chocolate), we would have the time and money to see the world and and we would continue to receive- and give- a lot of presents for birthdays. But for many of us that is not the case. Youth unemployment is growing, reaching record levels around the world. In the EU, youth unemployment is over 20%, with the European Commission not being able to find any positive comments on the situation except that 'rises in the youth unemployment rate have weakened recently'. The US as well counts a 1 in 5 rate of unemployment for the 16-24 age group with many analysts saying that this could cost Obama his second term as he no longer has a huge support in the youth groups (only 53% compared to 74% in 2009).

The effects of this situation have already had a huge impact around the world. Youth unemployment has already been one of the important factors that sparked revolutions in the Arab world. The Spanish indignados have inspired similar movements around Europe, which can mobilize easily through the internet to upset elections and not only. It is not surprising then that politicians have started to react. Trying to calm down the younger generations, they have blamed everybody for the problem. It's the immigrants that have taken the youth's jobs, it's the other parties that took wrong decisions (it is funny, I guess, how it's always the other party), it's their own fault for not creating new businesses (no words about how hard it is to set up a new enterprise though). It is normal for politicians to blame someone else. What is scary is how many people believe them.

And that is because it is not just the politicians' fault. It is our parents' and their parents' fault as well. For decades we have been living a life beyond our means, making of consumerism a new religion. As I said, we were given tons of presents, we got used to changing the family car every few years, to buy a new TV whenever we get bored with the furniture and decide to refurbish (of course we bought new furniture as well), go on trips that we would pay for with the credit card and so on. We consumed without creating that much. We spent money that we didn't have and expected others to pay for us. Well those others that pay for things consumed long time ago (and I include the money borrowed by the government and invested in projects that had no other purpose except keeping the voters happy) are going to be the younger generations. That's us. And our children. And probably our children's children (if they decide to have any).

So let's now look at solutions. What can we do to fix this? Well, first, we can forget our consumerist way of life. Stop making loans for things that you don't need and spend the money that you do have in smarter ways. Invest in things that can give up profit/pleasure on the long term. Keep an eye on the politicians because they spend YOUR money. They don't spend their own money but the money that they take from you through taxation. Next time when they want to invest in a project think about whether you really benefit from the investment. Does your city really need a £900.000 statue on the corner of Main Street? And we, the young, can do our part too. First of all, don't stop from putting pressure on the politicians. Remind them of your problems, continue with the protests (in a sensible way, we don't want to give them any more excuses). And keep informed. It is very important to keep informed. You can't complain if you don't understand the bigger picture.

We can't expect to live the life promised by our parents. We will have to work harder for the same pay and longer for the same pension. We won't have as much time to go around the world. But it can be a lot worse. We can pretend that nothing is wrong and demand for the promises made to be kept. After all, we did our part. We didn't misbehave (that much), we did our homework and ate our cereal. But would that be fair to our children?

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