Tom Finneran: The Fuse Is Lit

Friday, October 25, 2013


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Large parts of the world are sitting on a time-bomb of youth unemployment, believes Tom Finneran.

Beware the soothing utterances of diplomats. They are trained to dance even as doom lurks on the doorstep. Their language is learned but it amounts chiefly to happy talk. I often call their world fantasyland. Perhaps these habits of delusion and hallucination are hard necessities in a world that always seems half-mad.

But here’s a very sobering bucket of ice water to consider---large parts of the world are sitting on a time-bomb of youth unemployment. Think for a moment about these countries and these numbers:
Greece—61%, Spain—56%, Italy—40%, Portugal—36%, Ireland—28%, Poland—26%, France—25%, UK—21%. Those numbers are unemployment numbers!! Those numbers are pregnant with social risk if not outright revolution.

One hundred years ago Europe stood on the eve of World War I, a cataclysm of events and battles that slaughtered millions of young men, creating a “lost generation” for England, France, and Germany. Today, one hundred years later, Europe seems poised to lose another generation to hideous habitual unemployment.

You will have noted that I am talking about Europe---suave, sophisticated, cultured, mature, economically developed Europe. What are young Europeans to think about their future?

Let’s imagine Africa. Or the Middle East. Burgeoning populations in those regions have virtually no hope of making social or economic progress toward a better and brighter future. Nor has America escaped this grim reaper of human hopes and dreams. Our youth unemployment number of 16% only looks good in comparison to the disasters noted above. It should be called what it really is---a disaster in waiting. Finally, isolate black youth unemployment and that number skyrockets to 40-50%. This is an appalling dynamic with terrible implications for our world.

Think of the consequences which cascade from these hard facts. Millions and millions of young men and women are locked out of economic participation in their own countries, sometimes for years on end. Habits of dress, punctuality, dependability, collaboration, and courtesy will atrophy as surely as musculature atrophies. Anything beyond several weeks of unemployment carries the major risk of a downward skill spiral, making it more likely that those weeks will turn into months and years of long-term unemployment. And of course with the pace of technological change and challenge, no unemployed person can possibly keep up with the rapidly evolving needs of prospective employers.

Independent living, marriage, childbearing, and household arrangements all begin to suffer socially negative adjustments to these hard cold realities. Young adults will now live with their parents for longer and longer periods of time. Intergenerational poverty is likely to explode, for how would children ever see, learn, and exercise the healthy habits of work if their parents themselves cannot find or maintain meaningful work? Prolonged periods of unemployment will also result in underemployment as economically desperate folks, rightly concluding that any job is better than no job at all, will leap at any chance to put food on their families’ tables. Thus we find multitudes of college graduates waiting tables, pumping gas, and raking lawns as their most opportune years pass by. While I can salute their dogged determination I cannot help but see the powder keg in our midst.

Bleak existence salted by an unendingly bleak forecast foments frustration and rebellion. And it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain belief in a “system” that locks young people into despair. Watch for the Pied Pipers of revolt to appear, singing songs of delusion. Unlike the diplomats they are not interested in soothing utterances. Rather their lyrics will be dipped in the vinegar of violence.

Pay attention. Hungry people get awfully angry. And the cry for freedom always stirs the human heart. Powder keg..........fuse……….match.


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