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TUE, 07 AUG 2001 00:49:10 GMT

Young Croats Want Abroad

AIM Zagreb, July 29, 2001

The Zagreb weekly Globus recently published the results of a study on the attitudes of young people regarding the future of Croatia. The findings are overwhelming: as many as 67,7 per cent of the young would be willing to emigrate from the country if they had a chance! The explanation for the phenomenon is rather simple and is to be found in the results of the study. As many as 81 per cent of the young (600 subjects aged 17 to 25 were surveyed) believe that their future in Croatia is highly uncertain or define it as chiefly uncertain which is almost the exact same. For over 500 days of its rule, the new government has failed to do away with the prevailingly defeatist disposition of the public and that may turn out to be its greatest failure. The fact that young people are apathetic to such a degree reflects a widespread conviction shared by both the young and the old in this country - that things won’t get better in Croatia for a long, long time. The 366,000 of the unemployed prove the pessimists to be in the right. So do many other indicators of social-economic growth.

The survey included high-school graduates, college students and workers. A deeply pessimistic frame of mind prevails among all. They do not believe that they have a chance of realizing their professional ambitions, doubt material success is open to them and, most importantly, do not believe these goals can be achieved by honest means. Defeatism is accompanied by amorality. Twenty-three per cent of subjects polled regard prostitution as an acceptable form of behavior, 33,2 per cent would be prepared to kill another person if their life was threatened. In short, 44 per cent of the interviewees answered in the negative when asked if it pays to be honest these days, 26,2 per cent were undecided, while merely 29,2 answered positively.

"Young people today are pessimistic on the social level and optimistic on the personal level, an attitude which is only seemingly contradictory," is the comment of dr. Drazen Lalic, a sociologist. " In other words, they have little confidence concerning the future of the country as whole, but believe they themselves might make it - by going abroad, practicing deviant individualism, ignoring politics and social activism or by some other form of escapism." As can be imagined, the said set of values was generated by politics. In the past ten years, the political elite in Croatia promoted precisely the sort of values adopted by the young today: acquisition of riches without work, offences without sanctions, the lack of elementary morality, speculation instead of professionalism, negative selection, party-nepotism - forms of "Tudjmanism" that will dominate the Croat society for a long while yet.

Interestingly enough - with the exception of athletes living abroad - the public in Croatia had few chances to learn of rich people who have acquired their wealth in an honest manner! Instances of people enjoying the fruits of honest labor were practically non-existent in the public. What is more, Croat émigrés who have become rich elsewhere and at some point come back to the old country, in many cases had trouble adjusting. After a short period of time, many packed their bags and returned where they had come from. The result of all this is the odium surrounding politics. Many - quite correctly - view it as a source of all evils. Asked about the interest they personally have in politics, 33,5 per cent of the young said they were not interested at all. Thirty-seven per cent admitted to but a slight interest, while only 20,2 stated they were interested "to a certain extent". In short, political engagement is not viewed as a desirable and normal form of social behavior but, rather, to use Marxist terminology, as a sphere dominated by alienated powers, corrupt through and through and reserved for a minority deprived of any decency to start with.

As many as 45,2 per cent of the young do not consider Croatia a democratic country. Thirty per cent believe it to be generally democratic, 15 per cent deem it to be entirely undemocratic! " To their minds, democracy is the equivalent of prosperity and a high standard of living. Croatia has to face the fact that the era of social homogenization under the banner of the hypertrophied patriotism of the nineties has irretrievably gone by. The young of today want quick and concrete solutions to their problems. There are unlikely to accept the suggestion to be patient, if for no other reason, than because they can see what their parents’ lives have turned into: an incessant anticipation... of a job, conclusion of a legal proceeding, long-overdue salary, confiscation order...At the same time, they are witnesses of political privileges in action, bogus merits in the creation of the free motherland and all sorts of violations of the law. Unfortunately, the high standard of living of the very rich has little or nothing to do with honoring social decorum. On the contrary, education, expertise, hard work and devotion have little to do with it," says dr. Lalic.

Such convictions - obviously not entirely novel - have resulted in the massive exodus of young Croats from their country of birth. According to the most recent data (the precise results will be known when the results of the latest census are made public) between 90 and 140 thousand young people have left the country in the past decade. A study conducted by dr. Alice Wertheimer-Baletic has come up with an even more disturbing figure of 120,000 young people who have left the country during the period. Naturally, the first to leave were the most agile, best educated and most entrepreneurial. For only those who are sure of themselves have the courage to pack their bags and embark on such a journey.

The study carried in Globus also indicates deep religious feelings among the young in Croatia. Sixty-eight per cent declared themselves religious, while 78 per cent of the interviewed stated they attended church services on an occasional or regular basis.

Unfortunately, the number of young people leaving Croatia is on the rise. According to Globus, an accelerated, summer course of Norwegian for 900 Croat young doctors who have been offered posts by the Norwegian government is presently under way in Zagreb . Germany seems to be forever on the lookout for young computer experts, nurses and other professional cadre unlikely to find employment in present day Croatia. Even if they are lucky enough to get a job, miserable salaries, poor working conditions and little chance for professional advancement are all they can hope for in their own country. According to the survey, security is the prime motive for over 91 per cent of young Croats when accepting a job, 83 per cent are guided by the amount of the salary, but over a half are, nevertheless, prepared to accept a position not corresponding to their qualifications if the pay is high enough. Who could blame them for that? For, in Croatia, most professionals are not paid accordingly.

That is why a mere 6,5 per cent of the subjects interviewed answered that they had faith in the future " prosperity and progress " of Croatia. The values reflected in the study mirror a deep-seated distrust in government. When asked what they would do if the country came to be involved into a war once again, 37,5 of the interviewees said they were not sure they were willing to give their lives for their homeland. In Norway, the percentage would have turned out to be much higher. " A nation with such a youth ", Tito used to say, " has no reason to fear for its future." The young generation he was referring is justified in fearing the future. If what history has taught us to up to know is correct.

BORIS RASETA

(AIM)