Vincent-Immanuel Herr, a recent graduate of Principia College and former editor of The Pilot, shares his insight on the current situation surrounding intergenerational injustice and youth unemployment in Europe.
The media would have us believe that there is little to no hope for Europe’s youth in terms of financial stability. It seems that they are a lost cause with a bleak future. The statistics are definitely alarming. About 50% of young adults in southern Europe are currently unemployed. This includes young people with college degrees.
According to a recent article in The Christian Science Monitor, there are many reports saying,“Southern Europe especially is perceived as raising one giant lost generation with few prospects, extremists, and crime.” Yes, these reports and statistics are disturbing, but just how true are these assessments? Are we hearing the whole story? Perhaps not, according to Herr, who works with and understands this misunderstood and misrepresented generation of untapped potential.
Herr works as a reporter and activist for the rights of young people across the continent. He and his good friend Mark Speer are founders of a Berlin-based project which provides a platform for the voices of young people to be heard.
Last year, the two made it their mission to assess the dire situation by talking with youth from 14 different countries. They talked with two hundred young men and women about their dreams, their perspectives on Europe, and their everyday lives. What they found was that, even in these dismal circumstances, there was still hope and a willingness to overcome this crisis. Herr described the experience as “life transforming and humbling.”
“We were able to get an actual perspective on the questions at hand,” he said. “Our writing wasn’t just theory anymore, but had been influenced and touched by real life.”
After their travels across Europe, Herr and Speer were able to share their experiences with a large and diverse audience. In addition to interviewing for several German television stations and newspapers, the two were also given the opportunity to write and publish an article in the Monitor.
It was apparent how passionate Herr was about the project when he said, “I think this experience showed me how important it is to find your own way to advocate for a bigger cause, to stand up for something, and try to help others.” He went on to say, “Having gone to college in the United States and now getting my [Master’s degree] in Berlin is providing me with many opportunities that other people don’t necessarily have. This also means that I have a responsibility to use this privilege for something bigger than my own career or life.”
The success and advancement of Europe’s future depends entirely on the attitudes of young people and their willingness to also stand up for something bigger than themselves. Several reports claim that European youth lack civil engagement.
According to these reports, the big problem with the high unemployment rate is a lack of young people passionate enough to speak up and fight against this issue. In response to this claim, Herr said, “What we found when talking to young people is that our generation is incredibly private and tends to retreat to personal questions.”
He continued, “Accordingly, bigger social and political questions are left untouched by many people. In contrast to what one might expect, this retreat, however, is not due to a feeling of entitlement or hubris, but a general lack of self-confidence. Many young people see a globalized world with all its inner workings, rules, and assumptions and feel completely unable to make any changes or to contribute to anything. To them it seems that society is a gigantic concrete frame that won’t move no matter the individual action. In a very real sense, young people don’t believe in their ability to enact change, and that is dangerous. We now have a generation that is highly educated, very well interconnected, flexible and dynamic, but has no self-esteem and no motivation.”
It is for this very reason that Herr and Speer decided to take on a project that would counteract this serious problem. They aimed to bring young Europeans together from different cultures and backgrounds to find ways to motivate and inspire one another.
Herr was proud to see that the young people in countries like Turkey and Ukraine were especially passionate and hopeful about enacting change with the Gezi Park Protests. “Both countries showed us that our generation still has the fire to commit to a larger cause and risk everything for something to believe in,” he said.
In their recently published article in the Monitor, “Europe’s Lost Generation? Not Yet,” Herr and Speer remark on some of their most inspiring and empowering experiences. They also talk about the importance of sharing ideas and getting involved; they were quoted in the Monitor as saying: “Engaged young Europeans are out there connecting and working along these lines every day. We were fortunate to meet some of them. From student leaders and young journalists, activists, and actresses, to young entrepreneurs and avant-garde thinkers, we talked to women and men who will doubtlessly move not just themselves, but also their societies and our continent forward.”
You can learn more about Vincent-Immanuel Herr and Mark Speer’s project by visiting their website, www.herrundspeer.de, or by liking their Facebook page.