Up in arms

Up in arms

Today’s youth are “up in arms.” You might say, and I think I remember it myself quite well, that young people have always been “up in arms.” At every time and at every situation. The catchy cliches that could be applied to this issue are countless and obviously lead to the conclusion that if someone does not question everything when they are 20 then maybe they are missing out on a life experience.

Today’s youth have every reason to be enraged, however. The pandemic was the “cherry on the top.” It deprived them of friends, school or university experiences, professional opportunities, and much more. The coronavirus arrived in Greece at an inopportune time. Young people had started finding jobs and feeling like they could finally get their head above water and take a breath. Not that it was easy. They felt they had to work hard for a pittance. Things were a lot harder for them in comparison to their parents, who grew up in an era where every year was certain to be better than the last. Earning a four-digit salary seems an ambitious goal and raising a family a huge challenge.

All of this in an environment that seems to prioritize pensioners and older people. I don’t know how a young person feels when they keep on hearing about “retroactive pension payments,” knowing full well that they have no guarantee of a “future” income. The virus created an unusual generational divide, with young people feeling oppressed to benefit their elders.

All of this, plus the fact that in many cases social media constitutes the only source of information for these age groups, has created an explosive situation. The incident in the Nea Smyrni square was the spark: It deepened divides and helped spread anger. This obviously was not helped by the uncalled-for behavior of some untrained police officers toward young people in the recent past.

The common denominator today is anti-systemic. The system includes everyone, even the leftist opposition SYRIZA party. Anger and doubt can lead politically to anywhere. To the far right or the far left. Historical memory does not exist in any case and is not a factor.   

Is there a solution? Obviously not another “ministry for the young generation,” as we saw in decades past. Young people talk – quite literally – a different “language.” It is a question – and we say this again – of shutting down the “factory of rage,” helping them find jobs where workers are treated with dignity and which offer better prospects to those who try hard.

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