Europe: from the Erasmus generations to the outcast generations

If you have ever met one of the many young people who took part in an Erasmus academic exchange program you know that these people are a new breed of European citizens. They have friends in many countries, they speak languages, they have partied with their peers on remote campuses studying and having fun, they view the world differently they are the Erasmus generation of Europe, they are the upshot of the EU experiment.

I was talking to a Greek teacher the other day. One of the many good ones with passion for life, the communication of science and the teaching of young people. Greek high school teachers, I was told, have lost more than 1/3 of their salary in the last 3 years. To make ends meet they do extra teaching in the afternoons, they tutor privately, they do house visits.

Their students, I was told, are demotivated compared to previous years, they sympathize with the extreme right political forces that became reality in Greece and a significant number of them is undernourished and rely on regular donations by other students, teachers etc. The situation is grim. A generation on the verge of being radicalized, of becoming xenophobic, marginalized and abandoned. This is the outcast generation.

Their parents are still for the EU and the Euro but this is so because their lives are heavily invested in the EU and the Euro. If this generation feels abandoned enough they will be Europe’s worst nightmare.  Such is the situation across the continental periphery and it is becoming increasingly explosive. From the Erasmus generations to the outcast generation is a long way down for a continent with Europe’s past. If we can’t stop the damage we should rethink the experiment…