Monday, June 27, 2011

Spanish Youth and Cucumbers

My dear friend Gary Stewart published his new blog post today, titled Indignant Fellows, Spanish Mothers and Tupperware. In his article he blames overprotective Spanish mothers for lack of ambition and passiveness of the Gen Y (or generación Ni-Ni, as he refers to them), which in the long run affects the economy, political and social setup of the country. While Gary's standpoint might be accused of extreme generalization (and is slightly aggressive), I cannot but agree that his article has resonated with my personal experiences here in Spain.

Yes, the younger generation in Spain has been taken for a ride and even now most companies and governmental agencies are trying to take advantage of the vulnerable position of the (especially younger) workforce, as I have already mentioned in my Offensive Job Offers post. I would not be too hasty to jump at conclusions that the Gen Y is a victim and everyone else is just a money-grabbing bastard not giving a damn about anything but personal profit. Over the course of the past year, I've met enough young Spaniards to notice certain trends in their economic behavior and I don't think that I will be too far off if I broadly categorize them into three groups:
  1. The disillusioned. They have a pretty good understanding of what is going on but no motivation to change anything, either because they tried and failed or merely because they know exactly what it will take from their personal lives, peace of mind and vocal cords to make a tiny difference. So they are looking at moving to greener pastures where meritocracy has a louder toll. London and Germany are normally the most popular European destinations.
  2. The revolutionary. Dolores Ib√°rruri would be proud of this group of her compatriots. They pray by May 15 and enjoy living in tents on Plaza del Sol. They believe that if they shout loudly enough, the jobs, money and public admiration will descend from above not unlike the manna people once received from heaven. History proves over and over again that forced redistribution of wealth has never led to anything but suffering and greater disbalance.
  3. The complacent. Life sucks and we are cool with it. An acquaintance of mine (26) wants to work as a waiter (he's in his last year at university working towards a degree in Geology). Not a research assistant, event coordinator, twitter feed manager or something else having a bigger value add, but a waiter. I respect the waiting profession. I want to try it out on Saturday nights as well. Being a waiter at 18 is cute. At 26 it's sort of embarassing.
Whatever group those youngsters (and I am talking about 18-30 years old here) belong, their low level of motivation is truly shocking. They would rather be demonstrating for a month than join a vocation school to learn Excel or English. Surely, I have not been talking about quite a large proportion of the Spanish youth who do have ambition and challenging targets in their lives, but I am trying to paint a general picture here and unfortunately it does look that bleak.

You would ask me what cucumbers have to do with this discussion. As usual, it's a metaphor. Perception is reality and your mental models define who you are and determine how you behave. In the midst of the Spanish cucumber scandal a few weeks ago, all Spanirds were adamant about the quality and taste of their cucumbers. In the end, the bacillum was located in Germany and Spain was cleared of all accusations but... their cucumbers are not that great, really.

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