The ni-ni's

Time magazine’s Ioan Grillo has a very good piece about the drug war’s ‘lost generation’ (link in title of the post). This is a timely and important piece, because it helps explain that the drug war is about much more than just drugs.

Grillo writes: “At the heart of the problem is youth unemployment, which leads many young people to turn to organized crime for career opportunities. Mexican media talk about a new category known as los ni nis or “neither nors” — young people who neither work nor study. There is a heated debate here about how many ni nis there are. Mexico’s National University claims there are several million, although the government retorts that there are only a few hundred thousand.”

Indeed, ever since I started looking at the drug war I’ve been increasingly curious about the societal war going on. Forget about the Chapos, the hitmen and the bloodshed, and look at what’s going on in society. On one front, you have a generational battle: the older Mexican generation was one which ushered in democracy 10 years ago, which founded the PRD in 1988, which is pushing for education reform, which is part of a struggling-but-growing middle class. They’re fighting to better their future, to get their kids in line, to get their kids to believe in their own future and to get those kids to study and stay out of trouble. Generation Y may be a handful in the workplace in the United States, but in Mexico, the concern is that they’re turning into the next narco-generation.

Constantly lost in the mix in coverage of the drug war is just how dire the education system in Mexico is. With their teachers constantly on strike (not to mention woefully underqualified, by many counts), these kids are barely getting any education. Add to that the tragic fact that many kids believe they know where an education will get them (it’s all about connections, not degrees, after all) and you have the potential for a completely lost, apathetic generation of Mexican kids. A lost generation that unsurprisingly is turning to the drug bosses.

Calderon promised massive job creation, that hasn’t really happened in part because of the economic crisis (I understand the government is doing a decent job of creating them this year); his administration really needs to make education a priority for the rest of his term. No more of these teacher’s strikes, please. If the teachers won’t go to school, how can anyone expect the kids to?

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