The Challenge

LESLIE BROOK November 15 1933

The Challenge

LESLIE BROOK November 15 1933

The Challenge



At no time in a century have the problems of Youth been so difficult as they are today. They need more of an airing than they have been getting. So Maclean's offers this page and invites the younger generation to fill it with their opinions on matters of general interest.

Leslie Brook and C. Trueman Nichols, whose articles start the ball rolling, are each twenty.

Contributions, to be selected, must be brief. Those accepted will be paid for. Address manuscripts to The Editor, Maclean's Magaiine, 481 University Avenue, Toronto. Mark the envelope "Youth Tells—

I THINK no other group of people was more interested in, or learned with such bitter disappointment of. the failure of the London Economic Conference than that multifarious band of us, frequently referred to as the youth of today. Yes, we “hey hey” boys and “hotcha” girls, we of “Flaming Youth” fame were vitally interested, for not only was the Conference expected to solve our present difficulties, but also to lay a solid foundation for that which is more important—our future.

Now' I think I can hear grunts of disapproval from our wise old sages and grown-ups, and I think I can hear such remarks as, “Youth takes itself far too seriously. For young people to imagine that they were vitally concerned in the results of the Conference is a grand exhibition of conceit.”

Yes, we take ourselves seriously, and it is a lucky thing for us that we do. for very few of those who direct our government, our business world or our social life seem to be doing very much about us. They are content to believe that they are doing us a huge favor by offering us work clearing bush for a national park or an airdrome or digging drainage ditches. There is no doubt that some of us are suited to clearing bush and digging ditches, but to most of us the offer of such work is a disgusting insult. Man has invented machines and dynamite to do such work, and the youth of Canada is capable and desirous of doing something far greater and more important.

The similarity between war and depression is close. They have one great curse in common—waste, extravagant waste of lives. And it applies particularly to youth. In war we are either killed outright or crippled, and in depression we are slow-ly destroyed by disuse. It is hard to say which is w'orse. What future has Canada, or any other country, with its man power and woman power rusted and broken down so that they cannot even fulfill the duties of citizenship? A peek into our future is a challenge.

Perhaps it would be wise at this point to define the scope of the word “youth” as I am using it in this article. I am pleading particularly for the young men and women who, previous to the depression, were employed in one field of work or another and are now unemployed; and for those of the same age who have never worked, for their problem is more acute. Their ages? Well, some of them will try to snuff out twenty-five candles on their next birthday cake, others a few more and still others a few less than twenty-five. The youngest group that youth, as used here, will include, are the boys and girls in our high schools who will matricu-

. late next year.—........—_ ___ .——Although most of us young unemployed people are\ fortunate enough to have a home where we are provided with ’; food and shelter, there are many other demands which our 1 parents with their depleted, depression incomes cannot cope with. Many of us have not been to the dentist for the past three years. We can’t afford it. When our teeth begin to ache until it is no longer possible to bear the pain, we shall have to go, and pray that we may find the money on the way to the dentist. By that time it will likely mean extraction—a loss we can never replace. Our clothes are threadbare and fast approaching that state when we will hardly be presentable to apply for a job. We have had to forego many of the pleasures w'e have been accustomed to—not an easy thing for youth to do and not a desirable one. These are only a few of the everyday problems that start with the morning and continue to nag well into the night, but despite their exigency we are more concerned with another problem, a problem more far reaching in importance and bearing greater influence on our morale—our future. That is the ¡ question that is causing solemn, gloomy, bewildered looks ' on faces that were, and should still be, bright and smiling. \ -—""Let us examine for a moment what has happened to the

young man and young woman, whose thoughts for. say. five years centred mainly around their work. He was happy in his work, proud of what he accomplished, and, inspired by what appeared to be a successful future, studied to prepare himself for greater tasks. He was encouraged by his employers and he recalls, what now almost seems to have been a dream, those stirring occasions when the manager called him into his office, congratulated him on his work, placed him in a position with more responsibility and increased his salary. He load climbed another rung on the ladder.

WITH EACH upward step there came visions of the future. Within the next few years he might be foreman of the shop, branch manager or head salesman. He hoped to get married in two or three years. He started a bank account and increased his insurance. Day dreams? Yes, but given the chance, he was willing and anxious to work until his dreams were fulfilled.

But his glorious dream was abruptly turned into a horrible nightmare. He found himself without a job, his savings disappeared and he was forced to drop his insurance. His castle of dreams with its hopes and plans came tumbling down on him, and when he recovered from the shock he found it was no dream but all ghastly real. The toolhis job, with which he was going to make his future was snatched away from him, and he was left stranded and bewildered. Are his five to ten years exixirience. with their lessons of policy and the practice of applying them, of no value? Well, yes. they are valued, but the firm’s earnings, if it is earning anything, are away down and economies must be made. The management feels that the single man must be sacrificed in order that the married man with the responsibility of a family may be kept employed. Let me say here that the single unemployed young man does not harbor any bitter feelings toward his married brothers because of this treatment. In fact, I am sure that had the decision been left to him he would have resigned in favor of the married man. But the fact remains, he is out of work and has been for the past two or three years, and this long period of inactivity with its abundance of leisure is having its damaging effect on both his morale and his morals.

Just how much his morals have been affected is a question about which many people will argue. I know a lot of people who will jump right up and say that his good home (raining and environment will prove its strength as a guide should he ever start wandering down any side tracks. But these are not normal times, and the pressure of temptation is very heavy for him. Recent statistics show that crime has materially increased.

Irord Faversham, who recently discussed the problem with regard to juveniles in Great Britain, showed that crime among young people under the age of twenty-one had increased exactly in proportion to unemployment and that 40,(XX) young offenders were found guilty of offenses in 1930. He said: “The relationship between crime and unemployment suggests that we must prepare ourselves for an even worse situation in 1937 when the labor market will be asked to absorb no fewer than 450,000 juveniles in excess of the already abnormal supply.”

MORE SERIOUS than any increase in crime is the

effect of this depression on the morale of our young

people. Many are already past the “what’s the use” stage,

and not a few have been hammered down so low by continual

discouragement and uncertainty that it is doubtful if they

can ever be revived. And the fact that now, after four and

five bewildering years, there is not even a glimmering hope

of regaining their former standing, has swept away their

ambition and with it the desire to work and the desire to

create. This is a problem that cannot be measured by

statistics, but that its damaging work is progressing like

some parasite or wasting disease is altogether too evident.

Too many people think

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Youth Tells—The Challenge

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we are a little downhearted because we have not been able to keep up our former pace; that because we have had to drop out of our set and forego the shows, dinner dances, clothes and a host of other pleasures that we had become accustomed to, we are sorry for ourselves and a little peeved at the w orld for denying us these privileges. Great stars, we got over that in 1930. The present iias its problems, but those of our future are our greatest concern.

i With any plans and preparations he may j have made for his future now' wrecked almost ! beyond repair, is it any wonder that the j morale of the young man is being gradually undermined. He has lost his job, and with ; it his grip on the power behind his plans. His savings have long since disappeared and his security and independence have flown with the dollars. He is walking the streets without the protection of insurance, an additional burden on his family, his friends and the community. These are the questions that are bothering him, and the only help he is getting with his problems are some idiotic sympathetic words to the effect that all this will be restored to him when he gets his job back.

In the mad scramble for jobs, it is doubtful if he will ever get his old job back. He is forced by necessity to accept the first opening offered him and he stands in great danger of being misplaced for the rest of his life. Even if he does drop back behind his former desk or bench, he has lost three or four years which he can never recall. What those years might have meant to him no one will ever know.

However, important as that may be in our present-day society with all its demands, it is relatively unimportant to another turn of events that are taking place or, I should say. are not taking place. He is not growing j at the same rate he was when he was workI ing. and I do not mean that in a physical j sense. I mean that he is not thinking at his j best, and he is not learning as much as he might if he were working and keeping his mind actively engaged. He is not as keen. He is losing his snap.

WHAT IS AHEAD of the ’teen-age boy and girl just leaving high school? There is the university, if they can afford it, but why should they or their parents sacrifice and slave to make a university education possible when there is nothing for them after graduation? What incentive is there to seek for higher education? Is it to be considered as an essential part of the equip-

ment for digging ditches and clearing bush?

Lord Baden-Powell, speaking recently to Boy Scouts of the world at their Jamboree in Budapest, said: “Old men have failed. Now youth must show them the way,” thereby provoking comment from Canadian newspapers that sounded like a distinct disapproval of Lord Baden-Powell’s theory and of others like him who would turn the reins that control the world over to youth. They both have a good argument. The youth-promoters say that old men have failed, it is now youth’s tum; and those who disagree with this policy claim that youth has contributed nothing to prove that it has the ability to govern the world. They can go on arguing. But this much is certain, that unless youth is given the chance to see what he can do and learn from experience, he never will be capable of directing the affairs of his country, his business, or even his home.

Yes, even his home—if he ever owns one. But how shall he ever acquire a home if the present state of affairs continues? How can he even afford to get married, and what will be the consequences of postponed marriages on a large scale? Are many marriages being postponed? Well, if we will accept the vital statistics of one large city as being fairly representative of what is happening, we can answer that they are. From January 1 to June 30 of this year there were 980 marriages in the city of Winnipeg—the lowest number in any six months period in the past twentythree years.

Youth has been in the front-line trenches of this war for three or four years now and the casualty list is growing. It is high time for an armistice. In war-time the government can conscript any normal young man of eligible age for army service. Whether he likes it or not, he must go and, if necessary, sacrifice his life for the protection of society and country. If the mass can demand the life of an individual for its protection in time of war, surely in times of peace he has the right to demand of the mass the right to live -in the fullest scope of that word.

Youth flings out its challenge to our governments, to the captains of commerce and industry and to all who direct or control, to toss party politics overboard, to throw petty nationalism to the winds, to abandon policies of selfishness, greed and huge profits—to straighten this mess out. It is our future they are mortgaging and they should see that there is a firm foundation for us to walk on. The challenge is out. Youth demands a new deal !