Youth culture in Canada is a vastly under-explored and as of late there has been a lot happening in this area. Some of the developments, such as the Occupy Canada movement and resurgence in youth involvement in politics, have been quite positive, while other incidents such as the Vancouver riots have been quite negative. This post is going to explore some of the underlying issues and contextualize them in wider trends occurring in society.
Underscoring all the recent developments is a deteriorating economic situation in advanced economies; this situation is being driven by the policies arising out of and predicated on a neoliberal orthodoxy which has been the dominant political ideology in advanced economies over the last four decades, this includes: the rise of financial capitalism, globalization, liberalization of trade policy, technological change, deregulation of workplace law and retrenchment of the social welfare state.
These policies have had a tremendous impact on the structure of Canadian society driving and creating problematic trends such as income inequality, structural unemployment, the hollowing out of the middle class, deindustrialization, precarious employment, a decline in class solidarity and anti-worker sentiment driving public policy. There's been a deep impact on youth as well with issues like underemployment, precarious jobs, high debt loads from student loans and a difficult transition from school into workforce characterizing the experience of young people entering the labour market.
|Police in Montreal attacked McGill students on Thursday.|
As of late the response from young people in Canada is one of outrage with recent memory seeing protests across the country on issues as varied as tuition fees to income inequality to attempts at voter nullification. The overwhelming response from the government has been one of repression through the deployment of police and utilizing the legal system to abrogate and silence dissent. From riot police attacking students at McGill this past week to the secret suspension of Charter rights at the G20 summit in Toronto to the illegal forced removal of Occupy encampments; behind the violent draconian response there's a worrying lack of dialogue from politicians about the underlying grievances raised by young people.
The questions that young people pose raise concerns about the deep contradictions that underpin our economic and social order in Canada; furthermore, the answers to these questions, predicated on a system rooted in social and economic justice, provide an incisive and compelling alternative to the accounts that pass for journalism in the mainstream. These questions highlight the ongoing failure of Canada's political class to address issues of social and economic justice in any meaningful way. The primacy of financial capitalism and corporate dominance of politics has simply gone unexamined, nor has progressive public policy that could address the underlying inequities.
It's unreasonable that initiatives that could stem income inequality, political corruption, structural unemployment and poverty aren't in the discourse of the political class; what's desperately needed in Canada is changes to tax policy, workplace law reforms and reinvigoration of social welfare programs - these sorts ameliorative initiatives could possibly stem the damage that's occurred in neoliberal era and offer hope for the young generation that's inheriting a political and economic system that's utterly devoid of substance other than a gravy of train of hate filled invective that targets the weakest groups in society for austerity measures, criminalization and marginalization.
Personally, I don't want to live in a country which has a political culture predicated simply on the division between haves and have-nots; I've seen places like that and the damage which lasts generations isn't easy to recover from.