OPINION

The path of creative protest

Few things are more worrying right now than recent statistics on youth unemployment. The figures are devastating and it is certain that unless a solution is found quickly — through the creation of new jobs, that is — a large number of young people will be tempted to walk down the path of sterile rejectionism and violence — or, possibly, even more radical alternatives.

Of course, creating economic growth and job opportunities is one thing; changing people?s mentality is quite another. The generation that came out into the world following Greece?s military dictatorship in the mid-70s injected its children with a sense of entitlement and with the idea that they could rely almost entirely on the state.

Many children were raised with the dream of getting a job (and a steady salary) in the public sector or of becoming farmers so that they would receive a guaranteed level of subsidies. The concept of risk, of hunting for opportunities, of making it on your own was simply not on the cards. The idea of some cozy arrangement, better known here as ?volema,? left no room for such challenges or ambitions.

We should also bear in mind that young Greeks experience the failings of the system from early on. They do their military service and witness fellow conscripts calling their parents to make sure that they are trying to arrange a favorable transfer. Their experience of university is not much better, as they see constant resistance to performance evaluations and to collaborations with the private sector, which placates the leftist sensibilities that prevail in the country?s campuses.

Children are growing up with contradictory values. Most thought it was normal to be given a car and to meet their friends at the local cafe on a daily basis. At the same time, they ruled out a job in agriculture or tourism because they had a degree. They grew up expecting all the benefits of a capitalist system, but from a state accustomed to working along quasi-Soviet lines.

Young people have every reason to feel angry at politicians, journalists and senior university professors. Not because they cannot get a job with the state sector, but because these people raised them with false expectations, because they constructed a society on false foundations.

The political system post-1974 was all about granting all sorts of favors to political cronies, ultimately at the expense of healthy entrepreneurship and private initiative. Now the system is bankrupt and it can no longer offer protection to its acolytes.

Young people can chose between two paths: one is the path of violence, of denial and nihilism. The other path is to turn indignation into a movement whose objective is to get rid of the inept politicians and the hypocritical academics who purport to be fighting for the well-being of public institutions.

Such a movement of indignation would aspire to transcend blanket negativity and violence. But such a movement requires a certain element of risk and positive action, not just loud protest.

If we want jobs for our young people, if we want to keep the brightest and most talented of them in the country, then we ought to encourage them to express those characteristics that have made Greeks distinguish themselves in the past: the ability to sniff out an opportunity, extroversion, business acumen, the ability to think outside the box — all those traits, in other words, that have enabled Greeks to excel away from home, in environments that are free from graft, corruption and the false protection of a bankrupt state and political system.