Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Brace yourself, a social storm is coming!

V's quote 'the people shouldn't be afraid of the government, the government should be afraid of the people' (well, the quote is actually a modernization of Thomas Jefferson's 'When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty') should be the motto of the day. After years in which the people feared their governments and accepted rules that inhibited their basic freedoms, a slowly growing storm is taking over their hearts and minds. A popular fury has been gaining ground all over the world with violence becoming common in any type of protests. And it's about to get worse.

While people around the world protest for reasons varying from religion to who governs small rocks in the ocean, the Europeans are focusing on one thing: the economy. Lacking jobs and prospects and knowing that there are even worse times to come, the Europeans are furious. The degree of antipathy towards their leaders is growing and there seems to be no way to calm their nerves. The root of all the problems in Europe right now seems to be the highest level of unemployment ever recorded. The figures are especially grim for young people, the most likely group to mobilize in protests. Over half of the young people in Spain (54%) and Greece (56%) are unemployed. More than a quarter of the entire Spanish work force does not have a job. Former solutions as migrating to other EU countries are no longer an option as unemployment has started to grow even in super-Germany. So what other option do they have? Realistically, none. After years of study or work, job seekers are either overqualified or underqualified. Graduates can't find jobs because they don't have experience and those that do have experience can only find entry level jobs (I recently saw an advertisement for an entry level job which asked for 5 years of experience... ).

And it is not just the lack of jobs infuriating people. Growing inequality is pouring fuel on a fire that is already growing. News titles like the one of the leading article in Bloomberg today, Top 1% Got 93% of Income Growth as Rich-Poor Gap Widened , are stoking the fire in the minds of those already mad at how political leaders have been dealing with the economic crisis. Although not all countries have allowed inequality to grow at the same rate, Germany being -again- a positive example, there is a general view that the rich have not been paying their due share for the economic recovery.Which is true. Most of the economic solutions implemented so far have been at the advantage of the upper class, stock market players. For those who don't have enough money to become investors, there have been mainly cuts and higher taxes.

But all of the things that I mentioned so far are already in the past. The real problems will be in the future. As there are very few chances for the job market to recover any time soon, the unemployed, especially the young unemployed, will feel as if they are sacrificed in order to pay for the benefits of the older and the recovery of the richer. To assume that they will take it quietly would be a mistake. The recent protests in Spain and Greece are only the beginning of a very turbulent period in European history. Spain, and soon France, will face protests to a scale that they have not seen in generations. Their response to these protests will shape the political framework for decades to come.

The implications for the lack of jobs and growth are too great to ignore. A lost generation is not something to be taken lightly. But the politicians are doing just that, ignoring the problems and trying to solve the solutions of their own electorate. Europe currently lacks a leader of all the people. All European leaders are more preoccupied with maintaining their voters base than they are with the idea of solving the problems of all their people. Maintaining power is also an important aspect of the political play but pushing the centre towards the extreme is not a smart move. The social protests could always transform into a political explosion. We went through a summer that saw remarkable gains for extremist parties all over Europe. If the mainstream parties don't realise the dangers of ignoring big chunks of the electorate, the social problems will transform into even bigger political problems.

This is a time when 'the people' will force the hands of government. Where the government will not allow this, 'the people' will break the government and impose its own desires. A compromise must be found. 

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