Study says more jobs is remedy for alienated West German youth
Bonn — West Germany's young Hanses and Hannelores are alienated but reachable, says the latest parliamentary report on the subject, neatly straddling opposing theories.
It does not endorse the conventional leftist perception of a fundamental ''post-materialist'' youth alienation from the entire political system. But neither does it endorse the rightist axiom that the previous Social Democratic government coddled disaffection and therefore encouraged more of it.
To be sure, the tripartisan parliamentary report unveiled in early February - the latest in a series of studies triggered by the antinuclear, ecology, squatter, and other protests of 1981 - stresses pessimism about the future and a feeling of helplessness among youth. Unlike some of its privately sponsored predecessors, however, it sees the remedy for youth's pessimism and sense of anonymity primarily in economic rather than political terms.
Combating high youth unemployment would go a long way toward reintegrating young people into present-day society, suggested the study's chairman, Mathias Wissmann, who is also a prominent young conservative leader.
Only the Social Democratic minority on the study commission argued that more far-reaching political reforms are necessary.
According to the minority findings, these include scrapping cross-examination on matters of conscience and politics for conscientious objectors and applicants for civil service positions, as well as renouncing the deployment of (American and NATO) nuclear weapons on the soil of nonnuclear states (like West Germany).
The latter recommendations are in line with the Social Democratic youth wing's analysis of its generation's plight. In this view the present West German society and polity will win back protesters only if they demonstrate far greater tolerance of dissidents, less profit-grubbing (and striving for economic growth) , and more egalitarian social compassion. In the young Socialists' opinion, society's failure to do so accounts for the large number of young people who have rejected all the establishment parties and turned to the environmentalist, pacifist Greens or dropped out of politics altogether.
Conservatives dismiss such views as the specialized pleading of a spoiled upper-middle-class generation that has had everything handed to it on a silver platter. The conservatives are themselves not sure how to define goals that will attract youth; their failure to do so is a perennial self-criticism at Christian Democratic Party conventions.
They are sure, however, that the romantic Social Democratic answer is the wrong one. And they see a certain justification of their position in the mistrust with which working-class youths still regard the left counterculture dropouts.
In this impasse the common denominator of the parliamentary report was combating youth unemployment - and, more unexpectedly, combating impersonal bureaucracies. Here everyone - conservative, Social Democrat, and Liberal alike - agreed that youth is getting a raw deal. They agreed further that young women and the children of foreign ''guest workers'' are getting an especially raw deal.
In 50 concrete proposals, the 49-page report called for more apprentice positions for youths. It sought integration of foreign children as early as possible, preferably in kindergarten.
It also urged cleaning up of the environment, the cultivation of ''more human'' relations in housing and city planning, and the development of ''decentralized technologies'' and nonchemical ''biodynamic'' aids for agriculture.