THE BLOG

Forgotten Youth

While clever arguments are being made as to whether young people should be paid much less, from France and elsewhere, to pursue dead-end jobs, it is not surprising that some of them have no faith in help from the State. And seek their destiny elsewhere. Some find it in foreign universities; others in odd jobs in every restaurant around the world; still others, on the road, around the globe; still others, by enlistment in the armed forces of a foreign country; and finally others, by slipping into terrorism. Even some, in an extreme situation, decide to end their lives and blow themselves up in a terrorist attack.

There are, in fact, not a lot of differences between all these young people: they come, often, from the same backgrounds, from the same middle class living under the threat of proletarianization. For some of them, a demanding family's love, a decisive meeting with a teacher, the helping hand of a coach or a community education worker, drive their pursuit of knowledge and desire for self-fulfillment. For the others, loneliness, humiliation, or the misfortune of another kind of helping hand, lead them to hatred and self-destruction. Exiles of hope. Exiles of hatred.

Tackling exiles of hatred cannot be dealt with using a merely repressive approach: France in particular, is fortunately not a gulag; anyone of any age who wants to leave the country can do so easily. Anyone who finds the jihadi adventure to be the answer to his loneliness can do so; and conversely, no one can be barred, from outside, from enlisting in the Foreign Legion.

In ancient villages, it was critical to help those in need; there was always someone to take care of them. In our urban societies, such a compassion no longer exists; at best, those that are vulnerable or at risk are cared for by a succession of specialized institutions, from kindergarden to landing a job in a company and to the nursing home, being abandoned each time by every single one of them, before another institution, sometimes, takes over. And the family which should provide the common link, gather all the experiences, is increasingly powerless against these centrifugal forces.

In order to divert young people away from these sources of desperation, society needs to do more than just provide successive facilities of indifference; it is the same with the provision of allowances via anonymous points of single contact. Society must create loving, supportive environments for young people and all forces in society should work together towards that aim: family, school, social services, sports clubs and associations; allowing them to rely on the support of social workers, facilitators and advisers who must show them respect, listen to them properly and always keep a watchful eye on them. Therefore parents, teachers, animators in sport clubs and police officers, who are these reference points, should talk to each other, gleaning information off each other.

It is not an easy task, and it will take time. The aim of this is to re-stitch the social texture, to bring myriad of institutions to work together, public and private, that have learned to mistrust each other. For example, it means bringing young people decently into the labor market, with decent pay, an interesting work, and with prospects for the future. Thus, instead of debating whether companies should be allowed to pay young people less than the statutory minimum wage, companies and training organizations should be involved more effectively, the former for the remuneration for work done by young people (for less than the amount of the guaranteed minimum wage, if necessary) and the latter for other adapted training programs. These various institutions have also to learn to work together to develop an accompanying program which is adapted for each young person.

This implies a revolution, a disruption of society, specifically of the State which must no longer be reduced to the juxtaposition of compartmentalized points of single contact, that anybody can go to, at different times in their lives. Fighting loneliness. That is the point. It is not that hard. It would still be necessary to dare to speak to each other.