Friday November 21, 2014

Historic roots for youth unrest


Dear Editor

How long do you think it will take for the Establishment to realize that the Occupy?Movement, the Vancouver riots, the Montreal students' Uproar and non-participation by youths during elections are all signs of youth activism based on their loss of trust and confidence in the system? I suggest our Youth are legitimately questioning why they should sacrifice to get us out of the economic hole we're in; the very hole the spoiled brat boomers ahead of them created.

I’m a retired school teacher/principal and former college instructor. I’m also at the front end of the boomer age range, born in 1945. As a university undergraduate starting at age 17 in Regina during the 1960s, I was truly a “flower child of the ‘60s.” 

?Many say the “flower child” movement was based on us having been raised differently than previous generations, not just by our parents but by society and our environment as a whole. We grew up in a time of relative security, economic prosperity and peace.

The Depression of the 1930s was over as were the Second World War and Korean Conflict. Things were good and expectations were high. We expected lots. We also were not afraid. We could quit university or even high school in the morning and have the choice of four or five paying jobs in our home community by sundown.

So many people were taking on jobs instead of going to university the University of Saskatchewan lowered its admission average for Grade 12 marks to 65 per cent, and to 60 per cent for at least one year. I know, because I got into university with a 60.4 per cent Grade 12 average.? Like many others, I took leadership roles in campus politics and became one of many disillusioned campus youths.

More than any previous generation and buoyed with confidence, we questioned and challenged authority; and did not just accept stuff. Our perception was that the “Establishment” wasn’t listening to us, and wanted us to do what we were told, get into line, and accept the status quo. To wait our turn. That bred underlying resentment and anger. That resentment and anger, based on unfulfilled expectations and being misled, was the root for our taking on issues as causes to express ourselves. It drove us to think critically, to verbalize and share our thoughts, to meet and conspire, to assemble en mass and to protest by assembly and or by marching.

At least that made us feel respected and less victimized by the “Establishment.” It felt good.

There were many causes we could have adopted. Some that we ended up with were the Vietnam War (which hardly involved Canada), the rise of prices in the campus cafeteria and the bookstore, alleged undercover RCMP hanging around campus trying to catch students in possession of nickel bags of marijuana, government undermining of LSD research or whatever. If it was against the “Establishment,” we were easily for it.

We found issues that we made into causes through which we could express our general frustration about how the rich and powerful were getting richer and more powerful while we were not being given what we expected, more respect for our hopes and dreams. Remember, in those days a boy or a man could join the military, go to war at age 17, and possibly get killed, but could not legally enter a bar until he was 21. Women couldn’t go into the bar at all.?

I see the conflicts and frustrations for youth as the same today. Generally speaking, young Canadians are pessimistic about their personal futures. They’re told to get an education and to be patient and they’ll go far and enjoy the “good life.” But as they progress in and finish their post-secondary training, they hear all about high unemployment and underemployment. Their hopes and dreams are dimmed.

Then they hear all about corporate greed, lobbied and dishonest politicians, cover ups, police brutality, cut backs to social programs and sweetheart deals for the who’s who. They feel duped.

Next they end up driving cabs, working seasonal or drudge jobs, and even in welfare lines. And finally, unable to afford to live on their own, they have live with or move back in with their parents — diplomas, baccalaureates, masters and doctorates in hand. They’re no better off.

Often they’re worse off having wasted years of their time while accumulating debts like huge student loans. Their dreams are dashed and they’re damn mad about it. If they’re like we were 45 years ago, they may not even realize what their underlying anger is all about.

Keep an eye on the Quebec students and supporters. Pretty soon the “tuition fee increase” issue will slide into the background. Whether or not the real root reasons for the unrest come to the fore is another story.?

Dennis Hall




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