By LeiLani Dowell
What are some reactions of youth to the global economic crisis?
Michael Steinman, a teacher at Village Academy High School in Pomona, Calif., recently asked his students how they were being affected by the economic crisis. Their responses—filled with grief and worry—led to the creation of a video interview, produced by Steinman and the students and featured at youtube.com.
Student Yvonne Bojorquez said: “We’ve all been affected by this economic crisis. I mean, we’re all college-bound students, right? But the way things are going, we’re not gonna be able to make it.”
Evelyn Aguilar described her situation: “We lived in a home for three years, and we lost it about, almost a year ago. It was the first ‘American Dream’ my parents could have accomplished, but they did not know interest would rise. … So we moved with our aunt. There are currently 12 of us in a one-room house.”
In tears, Jennifer said: “It makes me really mad because the people we trusted the most with all our money and with everything ended up making things worse for us. So I can’t imagine what’s gonna happen for our generation.”
BBC News received similar responses of despair when it interviewed students from three different countries on the eve of the London summit of the G20—The Group of Twenty finance ministers and central bank governors.
In Mbabane, Swaziland, students said: “Maybe we will have to tone down our dreams. A lot of people are losing their jobs.” Others in Glasgow, Scotland, said: “We have seen our parents struggle to keep up with their household bills and pay for fuel. Those of us whose families are among the two million unemployed are finding it especially difficult to cope.”
In Islamabad, Pakistan, students told the BBC: “Since the financial crisis plagued the world, prices shot up suddenly and now even fulfilling the daily necessities is difficult. … A period of high unemployment may see a waste of the brilliant potential of our youth.” (March 28)
As the economic and financial crisis circles the globe, youth and students are increasingly caught in its net. What is outrageous is that these terrible hardships and the bleak outlook that youth face are inherent to the system we all live under.
Capitalism cannot exist without exploiting working people. In order to gain the most profit, capitalist corporations and businesses must pay workers the least amount possible. Capitalist governments, which have as their first priority the preservation of the capitalist system, only provide services to workers in response to the workers’ fight for their rights—and in fear that the workers will decide to get rid of capitalism itself. They promote racism, sexism and homophobia to try to get us to fight amongst ourselves instead of fighting them.
When the going gets tough, as in current times, the government seeks to bail out the capitalists—not you and me, who are suffering the most.
It’s time we got rid of this system.
Another system exists in Cuba, where a socialist revolution occurred 50 years ago. There youth are guaranteed free health care and quality education, all the way through college, that won’t saddle them with a lifetime of debt. Cuba even provides scholarships for youth around the world to attend its medical school, as long as they promise to return home to serve the underserved. All this is done as Cuba faces a blockade from the U.S., making it harder for the country to get medical supplies, food, technology and more.
Under socialism, the priority is people and not profits. So the need to discriminate and oppress people on the basis of sexuality, race or gender disappears. Cuba has implemented a number of social programs to combat the legacy of sexism, racism and homophobia that originated with the island country’s colonization by capitalist forces.
Cuba had its own rough time, known as “the Special Period,” which occurred after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba’s main trading partner. Everyone suffered as a result—and it was everyone, not just the workers and the poor—but even during the Special Period, not one hospital or school closed.
Cuba values its youth. Youth in the Union of Young Communists have been given responsibility, over the years, to implement literacy campaigns, to defend the revolution and to help rebuild the country’s infrastructure after the Special Period. Rather than demonize youth culture, the Cuban government has embraced hip-hop culture, even creating a Cuban Rap Agency with its own record label and magazine.
Youth in the U.S., and around the world, need socialism—a system where the needs, growth and development of the person and the community come first and foremost. As capitalism gets battered by its own natural tendencies, let’s help tear it apart.
Dowell was a participant in a 2007 delegation to Cuba led by the youth group FIST—Fight Imperialism, Stand Together. Visit http://www.fistyouth.org.