Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The taming of the Tiger Cubs.

RTE's "The frontline" with Pat Kenny on 22/2/2010 featured a panel of two "young" Politicians facing an audience of a representative section of Ireland's Tiger Cubs; young, newly graduated, newly skilled and unemployed.It was an evening of frustrations and misunderstandings and the Tiger Cubs were angry.

Thomas Byrne of Fianna Fail and Lucinda Creighton of Fine Gael both agreed with this audience's agenda for CHANGE, though differing in their view of what actual changes could happen.Byrne had the better of the exchange with a clarity of communication, three solid points and a speech without notes. Neither Politician could offer radical enough plans to satisfy this audience. A need to mobilise the unemployed, harness the educated, nurture and retain Ireland's investment in youth skills and training was, of course, widely agreed. But there was a gulf of understanding and a youthful frustration at the slow pace and extent of change which reflects the difficulties facing these young Politicians attempting to exercise power in a multilayered system of bureaucracy, vested-interest resistance and tradition.

Both TDs argued that becoming involved in existing political channels IS the most effective way to influence change. The increasing disillusionment and disengagement of younger citizens in Politics will lead to a self-fulfilling cycle which will only serve to enforce the status quo through an increasingly older electorate electing older Politicians.

Frustrations and misunderstandings were also manifest amongst the contributors. Bill Cullen was frustrated that this group, highly educated and highly skilled in the professions and trades, lacked the self-reliance, initiative, Can Do attitude and resilience of HIS generation. Architects, engineers, business graduates, carpenters,physiotherapists etc should do more for themselves argued Bill. A creed of self-responsibility which was met with sullen misunderstanding and a rejection of his perspective as that of an establishment capitalist.

But Bill is right. Most of that group have the skills to make their own living. Most have the tools, gained by education and training in the good times, to set up their own businesses, hang their own plinth, ply their own trades in their own neighbourhoods. What many of them dont have though is the street sense, people skills,ability to improvise and the practical survival instincts that Bill Cullen's agegroup have.

We have channelled the Tiger Cubs through well-oiled educational and training systems. Their fees were paid. Summer jobs were plentiful and cushy.Apprentices were well paid and valued. We instilled them with a sense of entitlement that they would never be subject to the inequalities, dead-end jobs and the emigration of our past. But the consequence of prosperity is that the well-funded, well-meaning, well-signposted scaffold of Ireland's social supports has domesticated the Tiger Cubs to see only the safe and structured channels. The expectation that the Government should provide is a clear legacy of the boom years.

The people "before profit" and the TCD student union heads and the soft-socialist young labourites like to think they are radical. But the wildest voice in the room last night was Bill Cullen's.The entire collective of Cubs failed to match Bill's passion.The most radical thought in the room was Bill's message of the mastery of one's own fate. The Cubs have been domesticated and tamed. But there is a solution.

The most innovative and visionary speaker in that room last night was a young software entrepreneur. The cross-pollination of Bill Cullen's school of hard knocks with the mosern globalised IT savvy of that young entrepreneur is needed to finish the Cubs education.My solution? Put business parks IN universities. Allocate incubation pods to IT startups IN Science faculties. Rent office space in business schools to entrepreneurs and to last years graduates. Incorporate participation in successful business projects into undergraduate work.
The Tiger is dead? Long live the Tiger!

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