Who’ll put the Genie coefficient back in the bottle?

2011-10-01 08:57

At the beginning of the year, the world witnessed an unusual phenomenon: the toppling of entrenched dictatorships in the Arab world.

What started in Egypt set off a domino effect that spread from North Africa to the Middle East.

Like a hurricane meeting land, the pace of revolution slowed when it reached Libya and Syria, where things got messy.But in the end – in Libya, at least – the will of the people prevailed. Watching the young rebels take Libya was somewhat surreal. This was no military coup.

The rebels were armed, but they were a motley crew.

I call them the slip-slop revolutionaries because that was literally what they wore. They commandeered a few armoured vehicles, but the general mode of transport was ordinary cars and bakkies.

It was as if friends of friends had been called upon to fight the good fight, and everyone hitched a ride with whomever had wheels.

In May, thousands of young people camped out overnight in the main square of Madrid to protest against high unemployment, the Spanish government’s austerity measures and inept politicians.

The protest was declared illegal, but that did not stop more than 25?000 protesters continuing their sit-in for a week.

Youth unemployment in Spain is at 45% and the country has a jobless rate of 21.3%, the highest in the eurozone. This youth movement was fittingly named “las indignacious” – the indignant.

In August, riots broke out in London. The mayhem began after a peaceful protest march – linked to the fatal shooting of , by the police – turned nasty.

The original theory that the riots were fuelled by racial politics was quickly replaced with accusations of delinquency and a lack of moral social fibre when CCTV cameras revealed the glee with which looters emptied the stores of electronic goods and branded fashion items.

In September, the Joburg CBD was treated to the same mayhem by ANC Youth League members supporting Julius Malema.

While not on the same scale as the London riots, the rabble- rousers nevertheless brought the inner city to a standstill, costing the economy an estimated R30?million.While their motivation was political, it was also an excuse to trash the city and give authorities the finger.

It illustrated, in no uncertain terms, the underlying anger – borne out of hopelessness – that our youth possess.

Our unemployment rate stands (conservatively) at 30% and of that, 86% of our unemployed youth did not finish Grade 12.

What chance, then, would they ever have of employment? It is horrifying, but not surprising, that one-third of our prison population is under 25.

What links Tripoli, London, Madrid and Joburg is not so much politics but an angry youth who have inherited a flawed world from their elders.

It is the profit-at-all-cost business mantra that has created an uneven bed in which future generations will have to lie.
We benchmark achievement using wealth and material goods as indicators, which in turn have become the empty calories that feed the Gini coefficient.

The growing sense of injustice feels more real when you are young and faced with the challenge of bridging an ever-widening wealth gap.

In China, young people joke that in order for them to own property one day, they would have had to have started saving during the erstwhile Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD).

It is a bittersweet joke but it is a sentiment that is spreading globally.

In many countries, the prospect of ever owning property is becoming a far-fetched fantasy for many young people. And when your future looks bleak, venting your frustrations comes easily.

In the folk tale, once you let the genie out the bottle you can’t put him back, but he does grant you three wishes. If this Gini has broken free of its confines, I doubt it will be as gracious.

» Chang is the founder of Flux Trends. Fluxtrends.com 

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