What to Do?
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What to Do? • Posted: May 30, 2013 22:36:23Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

The U.S. recently completed Memorial Day weekend, a three day holiday meant to commemorate those who have fallen in defense of our country. There were parades led by military honor guards flying colors, bands playing military marches, floats sponsored by veterans organizations, fighter jet fly-bys, and solemn ceremonies with Taps played over flag and flower decorated grave sites. A moving experience that inevitably prompts one to consider one's own mortality: What exactly am I doing with my life? Is what I'm doing worth the price that all these people have paid? If not, why? Couldn't I, shouldn't I, be doing better?

Though one might expect so, such weighty questions are not lost on youth. Some more in denial than others, they do know that in just a few short years, months, weeks, or even days they will, of necessity, emerge from the protective shell of school, home, family, and friends to take their first independent steps out into the world in an attempt to forge a life for themselves. For some, internal energies will overwhelm responsible forethought, while for others, thoughts, fears, emotions will overwhelm energies. The former will run amok. The latter will helplessly spin their wheels making no progress at all. Those in the middle, perhaps with wise guidance or stern discipline imposed upon them, will more probably find viable paths for themselves. The science of achieving responsible yet fulfilling maturity is very inexact.

In this day and age, we tend to think of such problems as personal. But, they are more than that. They are societal, too. The choices before young people today are immense, compared with the choices youths had before them a century ago. Yet broadly, they are much the same: war, religion, farming, business. Today, we add research, education, and public service. Yet, within each of these broad categories the paths an individual might take are innumerable. Is sending out resumés really the best we can do as a society to help our young people, or even our unemployed older people, find viable paths for themselves within our otherwise thriving communities?

Consider the unemployment rate for young people in Europe and the Middle East at over 25%, with similar numbers for young blacks in the U.S. Such numbers indicate we are on the verge of conditions favorable for a deadly war between "the haves" and "have nots" reminiscent of something like the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. Not an inviting prospect for any of us.

Whose job is it to find and implement a solution to this problem? What actually can be done?

One might expect an enlightened society interested in its own health and wellbeing to take the problem of youth unemployment seriously enough to both create and fund institutions helpful in eliminating the problem. But in times of internal austerity and increased global competition, accountants within our midst have instead taken command of the conversation and convinced many of us balancing the books is more important than creating a viable future for our youth. And so, institutions like career counseling, mental health services, and occupational training have been cut to the point of being either ineffective or nonexistent.

If the mechanisms of government are currently incapable of solving the immense problems looming before us, let's hope at least some inspired entrepreneur or two or three perceives opportunity here and creates a really useful app or online marketplace or place of counseling or media presentation that measurably succeeds in helping our youth understand their own need for development, our society's need for sustainment, then seriously succeeds in creating opportunities for connection with actual viable fulfilling life paths within our developing global network of societies.

Monday, May 30th, 2011
St. Joseph