MINCE no words; a scenario where more than 40 percent of a nation’s young people are unemployed is indeed a national crisis. A lost generation is taking shape in Saint Lucia, and this is threatening our long-term social and cultural survival. However you look at it, our country seems to be losing itself in a hellish labyrinth of social depravity, youth recalcitrance economic inequality.
Everywhere from family life to national institutions, complete double standards prevail. Our contemporary culture sexualizes women, and public morality is at an all-time low. The political arena is as dusty as the old Roman Coliseums. Civic instincts and our sense of proportion have long since dissipated resulting in a shrinking process that has begun at the very heart of society. Alas, some of these wounds are self-inflicted; in important ways a reflection of a deep-rooted cavalier attitude and parochial mentality. A process of social estrangement has set in, and no one knows where it will lead.
It was several centuries ago that the Greek Philosopher Socrates wrote about the excesses and proclivities of the youth: “The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.”
Several studies recently have indeed suggested today’s youth may be worse than preceding generations. Whereas previous generations misbehaved as a rebellion against authorities, part of today’s youth are so caught up in their own self-centredness and consumerism that no authorities exist in their minds. The modalities of anger management, non-violent communication and good manners appear to be foreign to most. Not only are they uninterested in good conversation, they also don’t listen and refuse to take an interest in anyone else. They crave for more and more in life and do not care about the damage caused to themselves and society at large or the loss of opportunity they might have to sustain.
The present scourge of gang crime is a pressing issue that must be tackled forthwith. Not only does it speak to the matter of bad parentage, but it also exposes the leadership vacuum and warped priorities on the part of the political and religious establishments. Presently, society seems to be sending so many mixed signals that young people get confused as to which model of morality to imitate. When young people cannot find an inspirational force to rally around, they will obviously turn to other dazzling things in the society that appeal to them. In the search for social belonging, gang membership – often a manifestation of their grief – becomes an attractive option.
The national outrage over crime is papered over with hysterical debates about matters of little consequence. A national security thrust espousing zero-tolerance for crime must be at the vanguard of the mission to stem the rising tide of crime. With immediate effect, the issue of gun violence must return to the top of our social and political agenda.
It is sad that our beautiful Saint Lucia has now been transformed into a new battlefield where ruthless criminals have embarked on a diabolic quest to paralyse the country. I am appalled at the chaotic nature of the approach to what is glibly referred to as gang violence. We need to better understand what is really happening on our streets, otherwise we as a society stand in danger of losing yet another generation as they plunge through violence and criminality to hopelessness and despair. Action on strengthening families, tackling educational failure, reforming welfare, ending drug and alcohol addiction is foundational to mending our broken society. Moreover, structural reforms in both the police force as well as the justice system are critically necessary in order to restore the rule of law and expedite justice.
Any action to address the rising tide of gang violence must be guided by the fact that gangs are the product of social breakdown, and are found in the most deprived and marginalised communities burdened by high family breakdown, addiction and unemployment.
The strengthening of social organizations has never been more critical especially since it can help foster social belonging and structure social life. Gone are the days when vibrant clubs and effective institutions conducted meaningful social projects and engaged the youth and the wider society. The corollary is that countries with greater organizational and institutional strength remain stable in times of social change, and do better over time. Today, the civil foundations of Saint Lucia are eroding especially in terms of the family unit and community organizations. A new strain of civic influenza is taking hold where towns and villages are viewed as a collection of rugged individualists; navel-gazers who would rather invest their time in projects that promise direct benefits for them and their families rather than the common good. As regards social re-engineering, we hear questions everywhere and answers nowhere, at least none with even the hint of offering something new.
The pervasive exposure to digital technology is rapidly transforming society as a whole. The new generation is developing unhealthy habits through the constant digital bombardment and the widespread use of smart-phones and tablets. Not only does gadget addiction destroy relationships, but they also turn us into digital slaves and robots. Social media seems to be destroying effective personal communication and good social manners, and may have already usurped the authority of parents.
Alarmingly, a strange foreboding is creeping up on us; a dawning that the familiar cultural and social routines of small-island life have been transmogrified into emblematic ugliness.
At any rate, our nation’s redemption and energy lie in the talent, ideas and creativity of our young people. When people have enough room to develop themselves and are given responsibility, they are able to reach their full potential. This releases all kinds of mental energy and motivation, which ensures that people are at their best. The future of this country depends on how well we take care of our kids and youth today.
For comments, write to Clementwulf@hotmail.com – Clement Wulf-Soulage is a Business Economist, Author and Lecturer.