Address youth issues now
As I watched an overwhelming number of young people in Baghdad stoning the convoy of the Prime Minister following a recent deadly bombing, my mind drifted to our country Barbados which has been an oasis of peace and tranquility for our population, as well as for the strangers to our shores for generations. This caused me to wonder if something like this could ever happen in Barbados.
In recent years there has been the official admission that youth unemployment has risen to approximately 20 per cent. Given the nature of things, one is led to believe that unless there is some rapid turnaround in the economic fortunes of this country, this 20 per cent could easily reach 25 or 30 per cent within the not too distant future.
It is to be regretted that our young people and their concerns have been the subject of not only prolific lip service, but in my professional judgment has been at times trivialized and grossly misunderstood.
Among the questions we may ask ourselves must be:
• How much more frustration and deprivation can we expect our young people to bear?
• Can we say, with any degree of certainty, the point at which this frustration becomes anger and this anger left unattended, mushrooms into an uncontrollable mass of youthful protest as they seek to have their current disadvantaged situation resolved?
• Is there a tipping point, and, if so, what will it be, or are we already seeing early signs of their inability to cope with the perpetual window dressing which often passes for youth development policy?
• Are we able to break through our denial as a country long enough to catch a glimpse of today’s reality?
• Do we understand that the availability of fire arms to a growing subsector of our population and the fact that such persons have not been hesitant to use them is a sure sign that we are dangerously close to an unflattering tipping point of unprecedented violence and social confusion?
There was a time when those subsectors of our population, which behaved as if societal norms, rules or regulations did not apply to them, were readily identifiable, but over the last decade or so, this sector has found it quite easy to become integrated into a pliable wider society. This is evidence by the ease with which once supposedly law-abiding citizens are now ignoring traditional laws, rules and regulations with impunity. A few basic examples are as follows:
• The worrying use of illegal substances and the sale and distribution of such substances at public functions.
• The growing disregard for road traffic regulations and the seeming inability of authorities to mount a meaningful response.
• The increasing tolerance by sections of some communities for bribery and outright stealing and robbery as an acceptable response to the inability to meet one’s basic human needs.
• Finally, the now common place perception that the franchise for which our forefathers have fought can now be bought and sold as part and parcel of our modern day political process and that the only actions to be expected are finger pointing and empty rhetoric.
We have indeed reached a very sorry period in our history and unless we demonstrate the social and political will to do what is necessary now, the celebrations of 50 years of independence will become no more than the last missed opportunity to pull our beloved country back from the brink. Were we to miss this last opportunity, we could very well be inadvertently ushering in that tipping point when our beloved country descends into an unspeakable period of social, economic and community chaos.
To miss this opportunity to bring about meaningful change would be to abandon all the social, economic and political gains we and our foreparents would have attained for many generations.
George S. Griffith