We need to consider the tendency toward anger and extremism if we want to have any hope of a peaceful stepping down of the carbon-intensive economy towards one that is more sustainable, and indeed more fair.
By Jason Allen
Published December 06, 2010
My wife was in the post office the other day, and was talking to her friend behind the counter who mentioned that her three children, who had all either just finished high school or university, had been unable to find work.
"What do you think the unemployment rate is for young people?" my wife asked when she got home.
On Friday, StatsCan came up with the answer - and frankly, it's not pretty.
It seems that 13.6 percent of people aged 15-24 are currently 'reporting' being unemployed. That rate dropped by 1.4 points from the previous month because of how many young people gave up looking for work.
This is made worse by the fact that this is only the reported rate. The 'reported' unemployment rate in the U.S. is 9 percent or so - depending on the month, but the actual rate, including discouraged workers is widely agreed to be closer to 17 percent.
So if the reported rate of youth unemployment in Canada is 13 percent give or take - what's the actual rate? 23 perent? 25 percent? It's a situation some observers are calling a 'powderkeg.'
Powderkeg may sound extreme, but there are three things young people have traditionally done when they found themselves without any short or medium-term hope for employment: they get angry, they get active, and they look for quick solutions.
Unfortunately, extremism offers (or claims to) all three.
Those of us who are aware of the impending downward-stepping of the industrial economy due to either the lack of affordable fossil fuels, damaging temperature increases, or some kind of sovereign debt default causing havoc on the bond market should be very, very nervous about this.
In the 1980s, rampant economic decline and some of Margaret Thatcher's most misguided policies gave rise to a violent and angry skinhead culture in the UK.
Most recently described in the brilliant movie (and soon to be TV show) This Is England, it is a tale of young people cut out from the labour force, cut out from having anything useful and productive to do with their lives, and turning to the simplistic solutions of skinhead fascism.
This is a tale we ignore at our peril.
Evidence of the shift towards extremism is already underway in economies that have been hit particularly hard by the great recession. From the Oath Keepers in the USA to the Issuikai in Japan, people are turning to over-simplified answers that fuel their latent rage - answers usually involving racism and exclusion.
The recent riots in France, and the near shutdown of the country due to the proposed raising of the retirement rate by two years were also inflamed mainly by youth and University students.
Why should they care? You may ask. They're 40 years away from retiring. The problem is not how far they are from retiring, but rather the fact that the longer their elder peers take to retire, the longer it takes to free up those jobs.
Apart from the usual satire about the situation, what is to be done?
Once again, I have more questions than answers on this, and none of the easy solutions (such as massive government spending programs) make much sense.
It certainly bears thinking about if we want to have any hope of a peaceful stepping down of the carbon-intensive economy towards one that is more sustainable, and indeed more fair.
This article was first published on Jason's website.