YOUTH TELLS A Department for Young Canadians
Relief vs. Pensions
GEORGE M. NEUFELI) (Oak Bluff, Man.)
THERE WAS a time, not long ago, when to the ina1ienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness was
tacitly added the right to earn a living. It was axiomatic that the desire to work implied the opportunity. And, as a matter of fact, in normal times the operation of natural economic laws usually did provide it.
Now, however, with a large portion of our working population unemployed, it is no longer possible to believe that jobs are jxirt of the natural order of things. Nor is it reasonable to assume that if the one you have is lost you can readily get another. The result is that fear has become the dominant emotion of contemporary peoples fear of losing one’s job, fear of reduced wages, fear of eventual destitut ion and want.
The relief system, introduced as a temporary measure, has not allayed the fear complex and is becoming firmly rooted in society. But in spite of the noble efforts on the part of our governments to relieve from want and suffering the ever-increasing numbers of unemployed, increased debts and moral and social degradation are the results because the system isr.pplied wrongly. I.et me illustrate.
The fact that there are fewer jobs necessitates better qualification for holding dow-n those that are left. The best qualifications are acquired knowledge, experience and money. It is easy to see that young men and w'omen who have just completed their high school, business college or university training have not usually the seniority or money. Consequently such young men and women must spend the most ambitious and productive periods of their lives in idleness and, for support, must content themselves with a dole received from parents or governments. They get no chance to acquire the experience and responsibility which will be necessary to save this debt-burdened world from total collapse. The relief system, as at present conducted, operates to create a generation of inefficient, inexperienced, irresponsible men and women to inherit a w’orld on the verge of ruin. Young men and women neither desire nor deserve the relief they receive but certainly they merit the opportunity to earn their living.
ON THE other hand, men forty-five years of age and older hold the available jobs, for they have the required experience, seniority and capital.
Men at fifty years of age. if they do not have to provide for their grown-up sons and daughters, can live much more cheaply than those who are raising families, or those who have just completed a long period of education, or those who are just starting in business. They usually have some maturing life insurance policies, accumulated some savings, and acquired a home. Thus a fund equal to the amount now spent on all forms of relief would take care of more individuals over fifty years of age than at the 20 to 25 year age level. Without additional cost then, we could provide opportunity for youth. We could provide deserved recognition of service and security to the aged by giving a substantial jx-nsion to all men and women who have reached the age of fifty years and who cannot live upon their savings — on condition that all such persons retire from active remunerative service.
Immediately many vacancies would occur, especially if the retirement were made compulsory. Promotions for a while would be very rapid. Youth would have the opportunity of service, and the new spirit would stimulate trade and commerce. Young men and women would get marri«! and before long a sense of happiness would replace the fearful uncertainty now prevailing. Youth’s ambitions could be realized in activity and age could enjoy security.
All this can be accomplished without overthrowing existing institutions, without impairing vested interests, and without destroying wholesome socializing tendencies.
Follow Your Leader
CHAULES M. BUTLER (Newcastle, N.B.)
SI world IOW ME owes a young him a man living who or thinks that the the government or someone should provide him w'ith employment and I will show you a young man whose education has not been correct or complete or who is in some way deficient.
I think there has been no element more lacking in our education than the sense of responsibility. We are continually hearing: “The Government should do something’’ or “something must be done.” Now I say that people have no right to make such statements until they can tell what they have done themselves or can propose something definitely constructive.
I do not think there is any better form of government than democracy. It fails only when the majority of the people fail. Are we young men and women going to admit failure SÍ) early in life? Despite all arguments to the contrary, under a democratic system of government the people either rule or misrule. If the voter is not corruptible he cannot be bought or intimidated. If democracy has a great present weakness it is in this—that upright and influential men show a great indifference to politics. What these men who are otherwise honest and good citizens forget is that there is such a thing as a sin of omission. I f we have a right to govern our country we have a moral obligation to do so to the best of our ability.
CO OFTEN PEOPLE say: “Our leaders ^ have failed” or “what the world needs is leadership.” Recently there has been a great deal of talk about teaching leadership in the universities. I have even heard of young college men made to feel they were failures because they were not leaders of men. Teaching leadership is worthy but the majority can never be leaders. What would an army be like if the majority of its men were generals? If the majority of men were encouraged to be good followers of its leaders, that would be much better. Too much leadership tends to disorganize and to make factions that work against each other rather than for the common gcxxi I think that leadership is by no means wanting in our public institutions and that what is required most is a much better spirit of co-operation and loyalty between the leaders and the people.
We are prone to forget that elevating a man to high public office does not take away his human nature or endow him with supernatural powers. Intelligence is sadlywanting in the way we judge our public men. If we were to realize that they are just common men like ourselves and not detached from us. if we sympathetically assist«! them in all times of stress instead of abusing and slandering them, we would have a much better and more prosperous country.
If nothing else, mine is an urgent api>eal to the youth of Canada to put aside all this nonsensical wailing and abuse and to do our level best to improve our own conditions.
An Antique Show
JOHN BAUGH (Vancouver)
THERE British WAS Columbia. recently I am an nineteen, election so in it was the first one I was ever interested in. I attended quite a few meetings.
The startling thing I noticed was the predominance of old men, both on the platform and in the audience. The meetings usually looked like a gathering to protest injustices in the old age pensions act.
A few of us, fascinated by this antique show, were frequent spectators. If a speaker came out with some piece of illogic stronger than the general illogical trend of his argument, we became vocal. Suavely he assured his interrupters that he intended answering all questions at the end. Elderly gentlemen would turn around to look at us, and from the expression on their faces we knew that they were thinking to themselves, “the insolence of the pups.” So we would keep quiet until the close of the meeting. But instead of the question period promised, the National Anthem was always struck up with suspicious alacrity.
It seems that the politicians of British Columbia set a premium on hardened arteries. They prefer ideas which have swirled in aged craniums for years—which are, so to speak, thoroughly aged in the wood. Youth is taking an interest in politics, perhaps for the first time. Youth realizes that this country, like others, needs its house set in order. So youth goes to hear those people who compete for the position of paid housekeeper. And they find the middle-aged and senile in charge—the old men, the tried men, the true men, the old timers, the pioneers. All these have taken care to reserve the seats of the mighty for themselves.
After all, there is no real reason to boycott youth. Let the old men stop blocking the road. Let the old and young hang together lest the old hang separately.
Beverley Nichols and others say that the old men are preparing for another war. But let veteran politicians and portly shareholders in armament concerns remember that their “thin red line of ’eroes” is getting thinner and redder every day. Do these war-mongers believe that if they fetch their youth out of relief camps they will be fools enough to use their bayonets on the youth of other nations?
I think that if the young are ever armed on such a gigantic scale again, they will see everything they have wanted within their reach and no police force in the w-orld will be big enough to stop them from reaching out and taking it. They would be less than human if they did not stretch out their hands and take that which by right is theirs.
In fact, the more I see of the situation— thousands of young men leaving high schools and colleges every year and industry too stagnant to absorb a hundred—the surer I am that a great change is imminent—a change not only directed against the cynically immoral inequalities of capitalism but also against the ancient tyranny of age over youth.
Tyne and Peace River
JOHN NESBIT SMITH (Langford, B.C.)
I WAS England IN England where the in coal 1929, mines in that are, part iron foundries and the shipyards, where the smoke of industrial life used to hang like a pall over the slow-moving Tyne.
I had seen great grey battleships glide down that river, with sirens blowing and flags waving. The ships were gone now. many of them had gone down at Jutland and in the English Channel, on days when the guns were booming in France. They were only names now. But the men who had built them were still there. They were going down, too.
They were there in their thousands those overpopulated towns—men from the coal mines and the iron foundries and the shipyards. They were on the dole.
I had just left school and was wondering what place there could be for me in this region of decaying industry. They said overpopulation was the cause of unemployment in England and I thought that sounded logical. The country was too small for the vast numbers of its people.
The unemployed would remain on the dole, I thought, and boys like myself, just leaving school, would become submerged their ranks. It was appalling. Those men and women, who stood at the street comers with nothing to do from one day to the next and from one year to the next, were like people stranded on a barren island.
The boys among the unemployed were cynical. I have discovered that wandering about with nothing to do and with no money to do it with makes one cynical. The youth on Tyneside were thinking harder than youth had ever thought before. A generation of youth had been wasted in war. They were wondering if another generation was to be wasted in peace.
I thought there was a solution. There were other countries less densely populated —new countries which needed developing. There were vast stretches of the most fertile soil in the world lying idle because of lack of settlers. That was the picture I had of Canada. Across the Atlantic lay the solution to my problem, I thought. For weeks haunted emigration offices. Then one day, I took the train to Liverpool. I thought there must be new hope in a new world.
TT WAS in Canada that my ideas underwent a complete change. After days and nights of ceaseless travelling I arrived in the Peace River district. And it was there that I caught my first glimpse of the potential wealth of Canada. It was there that I saw the great untapped resources of the country.
was impressed as only a newcomer can be who has just come from cities where men stand in long, weary lines waiting for the dole.
But here, too, there was something wrong. The bottom had dropped out of the wheat market and those people in the Peace River were suffering as I had seen other people suffering thousands of miles away.
There was the same fear in their eyes when they talked of mortgages. Mortgages! It seemed like sacrilege to talk of mortgages in that great country up there. They said overproduction was the cause of the trouble —they had produced so much wheat that they could not sell it. I did not understand that. In Edmonton I had seen people so poor that they could not afford to buy flour. Yet wheat was so plentiful in the Peace River to the North of Edmonton that it did not pay farmers to grow it.
I got work in the Peace River. I worked for ten dollars a month and board, then five dollars and board and finally for board only. And I was lucky to get board only. I did not stay in the Peace River. I went back to Saskatchewan, then west again through Alberta and British Columbia. The people were becoming weary—all except the youth.
The youth were discontented, not so apathetic. Some of them were trying desper-
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ately to fathom the reason of things. I have seen editorials in newspapers about youth’s discontent and the main tenor of those articles was that youth had always been and always would be discontented.
I wonder if the men who write those articles are really serious. I wonder if they have ever spoken, as I have done, to youth huddled in box cars with snow on the ground and a sub-zero temperature. Are they aware of the thoughts that run through the minds of youth? Youth has always been discontented and radical, they say. They must remember that previously youth has ertded up in steady employment—and a decent wage and a decent life tend to drive out discontent and radicalism. But when youth grows up and there is still no wage and no decent life-well, discontent and radicalism will grow. too.
All the editorial articles in the world stand as nothing against the experience which youth is going through today. I have seen boys on farms working for the food to keep them alive—and nothing else. I have seen them travelling aimlessly and hopelessly on freight trains up and down the country. I have seen them hidden away in relief camps in the forests of British Columbia.
Youth is gathering its forces and cold, hard common sense is the rallying cry. Its demand is for social justice and for that there are thousands ready tp lead the way.
It is great fun and it is a true saying that you never know what you can do until you try. These suggestions are only given for what they are worth. You alone can fit them to your needs and opportunities.
YTTHATEVER YOU DO, make a plan V V 0f action and stick to it. Life will take on a new meaning and you will find that each day you can hardly wait until you are hard at work on your own particular hobby. Moreover, if you choose your hobby wisely and do not attempt too much, you will feel that you are not wasting your time.
One of the greatest hobbies open to us all and one that will not interfere with our other occupations is that of reading the newspaper. By that I mean making a careful study of the things that are worthy of our notice as intelligent citizens. We are living in an interesting era, one of doubt and uncertainty but also one of action. The young people of Canada should keep up with the times and be prepared to discuss new developments in world affairs with our elders so that they may realize that we are competent to handle our share in the government and business of our country. Let us not grumble at the men in power, but cheerfully face the inevitable with a courage and spirit that will win for us the sympathy, respect and admiration of those who are sincerely striving to help us.
A Plan of Action
MARY V. MACDONALD (Vancouver, B.C.)
ONE OF THE MOST appalling results of the economic depression is the mental depression clouding the minds of us all. Life just does not seem worth living. Our ambitions have been destroyed at their birth, while many of our still younger citizens are graduating from high school without ambition or hope of any kind and no expectation of employment. It is the “what is the use?” attitude which must be overthrown. We must shake off this lethargy, and the only way to do it is to find a new interest in life or revive the old.
We must not let everything slide. It is this feeling of going backward and wasting the years of our youth that is so disheartening. Perhaps some of us are too utterly discouraged and tired to go on with the old work. In that case we must turn to something so absolutely new that it will revive our jaded spirits and give us back our interest and enjoyment in life. Where men and women have been grinding steadily at their work for years and are now forced to be idle, this rest and change should be a benefit to them: that is, if they can keep from worrying too much—advice which, I realize, is often impossible to take. Others—it is of the young people I am thinking now—who have spent long years studying to be teachers, doctors, lawyers or civil engineers, will also find this rest a relief from the strain of lectures and examinations.
Girl graduates who are unemployed and living at home will find an opportunity to leam to cook, sew and knit and do many things they did not have time to do while studying. Others will again take up their music or painting or acquire an interest in these studies for the first time. Other young people who have access to a typewriter or can buy a shorthand textbook will find a new field of endeavor along those lines. Still others may make up a course of reading for themselveson economics, political science, psychology, English, from the public libraries. Another line of great interest and sometimes of profit is writing. Try writing stories or articles.
Patriot or Nationalist?
WILLIAM HILLS (Toronto)
THEY WAVE THEIR flags at us. They stir us with their mouthings. They exhort us from their pulpits. They sweep us onward, intoxicated with the fire of nationalism, into the jaws of war.
The last war is sixteen years a memory. The graves of the dead generation are mellow—and mildewed. We are the new generation. We must be fed the same diet, they say. The country’s honor must be vindicated. The country’s idol must be served, be it a ruddy lion or a blue eagle. And so we have the outpourings of nationalistic philosophy—one which is dangerously appealing to young people. It promises the romance of bravery, the glamor of war and the glory of sacrifice. Who among us can close his eyes to such a picture? And yet, if we value our heritage we must.
It’s no use telling us we are cowards. It’s no use airily waving the hand and murmuring “pacifists.” Those red herrings stink to high heaven. The truth is that we dare to be patriots.
We will die in the defense of our country —have no fear of that. But we will not lift a finger to help you steal some other country’s goods, lands or people. Call it “national expansion,” piously avow that our civilization, our democracy, is the best, and that as kind and long-suffering guardians we push forward “our flag.” Tell us they need our armies on their soil—for protection. Call it what you will. To us it is a criminal act, unworthy of a great country and of a patriot.
There is the problem which faces youth today—to follow in the procession of the nationalists, or to be sanely a patriot; to stock your speeches with glittering and “patriotic” platitudes and be thumped on the back as a “bully young fellow’,” or to be brave enough to speak the truth and be called a “cow’ardly upstart boy;” to wave the flag and flaunt it in the face of others or to revere its honor and the higher ideals which make it not so much an emblem of war, but one of law and good government. No wonder Beverley Nichols wrote “Cry Havoc!”