The emphasis for adults must be on encouraging young people to gain the skills, knowledge and opportunity to contribute to their communities so they gain a sense of belonging. The ideal would be for the whole community to take responsibility for raising children, to the extent that every young person who drops out of school, or ends up in goal, or becomes a drug addict, self-harms or commits suicide is seen as a sign of the community’s social systems failing to meet the needs of its children.
Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, authors of The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, present a strong argument connecting inequality with all types of social illnesses. They wrote (p11); “(This is) the first generation to have to find new answers to the question of how we can make further improvements to the real quality of human life”.
The argument is that basing progress on growth may have been justified in the past, but young people in the 21st century must find a new base to guide development. The two main problems to be faced – climate change and over-population – are directly linked to basing progress on growth. We are fast approaching the point of experiencing the logical outcome of that way of thinking.
The cooperation of all the nations of the world is needed for global problems to be solved, and that level of cooperation will only be attained through the people in each country feeling the security and confidence that comes with the sense of living in societies based on equality. This can be achieved by young people making the transition to thinking in terms of seeking power with other people.
The good news is that each country can retain a different level of income because the social problems caused by inequality result from unfairness within a society, not between societies. And unfairness is about much more than income. Having a sense of belonging and a sense of contributing to the community brings a sense of being valued. Meaningful employment is essential for encouraging young people to gain their sense of self-worth from contributing rather than from competing, and this is the attitude needed for solving global problems.
Bob Myers, author of Travelling the Road of Peace and Happiness.