Saturday, December 13, 2008

Greek riots energise angry youth

One week of rampant rioting by angry youths across Greece has led to real fears that the violence could spread throughout Europe.

Clashes and protests have already been reported in Spain, Denmark, France, Italy and Russia.

So how is it that the police shooting of a young Greek boy could turn into a continent-wide dilemma?

School pupils, teenagers, university students, unemployed youth, and left-wing anarchists have united in massive numbers to express their frustration with the system, albeit for different reasons or differing aspects of the system.

Commentators, the media and analysts have pinpointed the causes to rising unemployment among frustrated youth. The motives may in fact be rising unemployment, or the opposition to globalisation, police violence, or the EU itself. It could simply be raging teenage hormones, or a combination of all.

Some might be resenting democracy, corruption, capitalism, the state of the world, regardless of the various motives, the sign is clear ... many are unhappy. Unhappy to the point they'd prefer to see the streets of their cities burn than swallow their depression indoors. The death of a Greek youth was an inevitable trigger to unleash boiling emotions and anger that has been festering for sometime.

Despite years of economic growth and ridiculous profits for global corporations, the benefits of economic prosperity appear to have alluded the youth.

The system created an economic pathway, and the youth followed the process, only to find that the system doesn't work. The young were told to finish high school, get good scores, go to university, get a good degree, and then they would be promised a piece of the pie. The system lied, the youth have been deceived.

The truth remains that after two decades of solid growth in the OECD, little has trickled down for many young people. Corporate executives receive extravagant bonuses, whilst downsizing their companies and shutting the door on a very long queue of talented, qualified graduates waiting to break in. And now the youth have been told the world's heading into recession, so even the tiny hope of excelling to great prosperity has been shattered for many.

For the anarchists and far leftists who never believed in the routine capitalist life, even after the demise of Communism, their response has been crude and blunt: 'I told you so'.

And as Europeans do when they're angry, they take to the streets with molotov cocktails, and if you're French, you might go all the way to the guillotine as President Nicolas Sarkozy illustrated:

"The French love it when I'm in a carriage with Carla, but at the same time they've guillotined a king."

I can empathise with the young rioters. I am 23 years old, received a degree with great scores, trying to find a direction in my life only to run into walls at every turn. Employment in a job of my qualification seems a distant dream. The bank account shrinks, the bills pile up, and you wonder ... where to from here? And there are many around me, the same age, struggling with the same frustration.

During my time in France, I also encountered a frustrated youth, many with excellent qualifications, and nowhere to go.

If the economy was expanding for two decades, why aren't there enough jobs for today's youth? Where have all the industries gone?

Diplomats, leaders, businessmen fly from capital to capital attempting to resolve the economic crisis, whilst protecting their immediate interests. And that's part of the problem. The decision, the fate of the unemployed youth of OECD countries is in the hands of a select few incredibly wealthy individuals who don't seem to have the interests of the disadvantaged at heart.

The public are then told to vote for a change of government in a democratic process to express their discontent with current policies. One votes, a new government is brought into power, the policies shift only slightly enough to catch the headlines, but the circumstances remain the same. In the case of Greece, a typically corrupt Mediterranean entity (I'm beginning to think corruption is inherent in Mediterranean culture), their supposed democracy has only offered the option of two corrupt family dynasties, the Papandreou and Karamanlis (current Prime Minister).

Where is the solution? The political leaders don't know. The wealthy chief executives who manipulate the world's economy don't know, and probably don't care. The rioters don't know. But one thing is for sure, something has to change.

There is no unified goal from these protests, because the youth simply have no idea where they're heading. They're lost for direction, they're lost for answers. They feel ripped off and need to release their depression and frustration at a system that just isn't working for them.

One can only take so much pressure before the bubble bursts, and it appears for many young Greeks, the bubble for them has burst.

As the economic downturn begins to negatively impact more sectors of society throughout the industrialised world, then Western leaders should brace themselves for more strikes and more riots.

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