FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
How I Stopped Pitying Europeans and Learned Some Empathy
For most of my adult life I have pitied the people who lived in Western Europe. I pitied them with all of the contempt and dislike that the emotion implicitly carries. I figured that with the US bankrolling their socialistic schemes and protecting them from harm, they were the perfect living image of H.G. Wells’ Eloi from the Science Fiction classic The Time Machine.
I saw them as weaklings and the result of reverse eugenics. Thus it didn’t shock me to learn that they no longer even bothered to breed. I figured Spengler pretty much nailed Europe to the wall when he wrote the following.
They have no ambition but to die quietly, no concerns except for those amusements which might reduce boredom and anxiety en route to the grave. They have no passions except hatred born of envy. They hate America, a new kind of universality that succeeded where the old Christian empire failed. They hate Israel, which makes the Jewish people appear all the more eternal in stark contrast to Europe’s morbid temporality. They will pass out of history unmourned even by themselves.
If the only Europeans this would effect were the electorates responsible for Papandreou, Chirac and Gazprom Schroeder, I would remain unmoved by their current plight. Stupid is as stupid votes; and the Europeans have used their Post-WWII holiday from responsibility to elect leaders steeped in feckless enstupidation. But that would fail to take cognizance of what we’ve just elected in the Good Old US of A. It also fails to recognize the maundering plight of the current generation of young Europeans. They, like American Conservatives, are hostages – strangers in an increasingly strange land.
Millions of highly-educated, profoundly self-entitled individuals are now entering a job market that has no place for them and a society that looks upon them and their lack of success as both a reproach and an embarrassment. Their tragically misguided societies view them as a social and political problem. They are viewed as a burden, not a hope for the future.
“What began as a great financial crisis and became a great economic crisis is now becoming a great crisis of unemployment, and if we don’t take measures there is a risk of a great human and social crisis, with major political implications.” And it’s clearly the political implications that concern World Bank President Robert Zoellick. It’s been barely eight months since Athens exploded and nothing has been done to mitigate the conditions that would touch it off again.
The youth in Europe get the short end of the socialist stick. Their parents get the cradle to grave nanny care; they get told that the funding has expired. They work dead-end temporary jobs with no benefits. The older people are literally and figuratively “grandfathered” in. The young line up for job interviews with almost the same fatalistic attitude as the muddy, exhausted infantrymen who lined up to attack at The River Marne.
In France, the group social scientists call “Génération Précaire” earned less, in real terms, than their parents did in the years after World War II. In Britain, the term is the “IPOD” generation: insecure, pressured, overtaxed, and debt-ridden. By 2007, approximately 6 million young people worked temporary jobs. These workers have been the first to go in the recession; the contracts expire, and the work is gone.
As these failing social welfare states stagger in search of a suitable place to die, the modern generation of European leaders is forced to shovel up the fallout. A British economist describes the future impact of a failed social model placing weights on Harrison Bergeron’s ankles.
“A spell of unemployment when you’re young has continuing and harmful effects,” explains leading labor economist and former British central banker David Blanchflower. “So for an economy, that’s bad. It does what we call hysteresis.” (The term implies that the system “remembers” the unemployment.) The effects aren’t simply financial. One prominent British think-tanker recently warned, “If this situation persists, the risk may be of a new generation lacking the experience, qualifications, and self-belief to provide for themselves and their families.”
In France, the disaffected young have become a cancerous plague. They have grown sick of being told how beneficent paternalistic socialism is and they feel like kfucing smashing some things.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy recently signed a draconian law requiring three years in jail or a 45,000 euro fine for members of “gangs” — broadly defined as groups of young people. “The worsening of youth unemployment … creates further feelings of frustration and exclusion,” he explained. “We have noticed in recent months the emergence of new forms of violence, which are profoundly traumatizing.”
So the British realize the problem, the French react to the threat. The EU, meanwhile, attempts to ladle out further government largesse in hopes that “Hair o’ the dog that bit ye” can cure the economic hangover from socialism’s moral hazard.
It was only a month ago, for example, that the European Commission recommended that the 27 EU member states create 5 million apprenticeships to help young workers “ride out the storm” and to train malleable young people for growing job sectors, such as green energy.
Then in June, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that, as part of a billion-pound unemployment plan, under-25s who have been out of work for a year will be guaranteed a job, work training, or an internship by the government.
I feel for the young Europeans. I was young, unqualified and walked all over Richmond, VA to hand out copies of my unaccomplished resume for several demoralizing, hot August afternoons. I know just a quantum of their deep and undying frustrations.
I also worry deeply for a future generation of Americans. Our elected leadership in Washington now strives athwart reason to enact the very same failed panaceas that turned the once-great Democracies of Europe into quasi-failed states on American economic and military life support. Like the citizenry of New Orleans that reelected Ray “Chocolate City” Nagin, soon after the waters of Hurricane Katrina resided, America’s new Politboro rushes to enact all the same policies.
If America truly turns green, red and stupid, I see no future for many of the young in an economically and morally bankrupt America. That causes me to pause and have empathy for what has happened to the youth of Western Europe. It also causes me to stop and feel fear as I think of what may lie in ambush for my own three-year old son.