June 18, 2013
Condemnations of violence tend to sound breathtakingly obvious but sometimes the obvious also needs to be said. This metropolis cannot throw any stones concerning crime or violence (thus the recent rash of subway ticket office robberies among other incidents suggests that its policing needs picking up under the new management) but some other cities are registering an alarming escalation — thus the Mar del Plata police chief recently had to resign due to a rising murder rate and accusations of police corruption while on Sunday chaotic soccer violence prevented Rosario’s two traditional teams from playing a local derby. Rosario, one of the hotspots of the pre-Christmas supermarket looting, has also drawn various headlines about drug-trafficking gang warfare there in recent weeks (oddly enough, these stories seem to date from Victory Front Deputy Andrés Larroque’s politically motivated “narco-socialist” taunt against the Santa Fe provincial government in late October, even though these stories are far from limited to the pro-government press) but again this metropolis cannot throw any stones. If the estimated 900,000 from the 15-24 age-group who neither work nor study are almost 15 percent of Argentine youth as a whole, this category seems to be the majority in various parts of Greater Buenos Aires and the devil surely has work for so many idle hands.
Apart from the inherent difficulties of analysing the irrational, this violence is complex to explain. Much is made of the increasingly aggressive tone of a polarized politics but this factor can also be exaggerated — politicians generally ceased to be role models a long time ago. This editorial would prefer to stress the impact of educational decline — and not just the dropout problem either. Now that poverty is increasingly become structural rather than cyclical, indifference to studies is being passed on between generations but even when the children of low-income neighbourhoods attend school (as most still do), they are not given the right message. Subjected to outdated curricula from the past century which does not help them enter the bottom end of skilled job training in an age of fast-changing technology, they also fail to see any correlation between educational effort and a rewards system, least of all when comparing the earnings of their underpaid teachers to soccer stars (or drug-pushers for that matter).
Not that this explains violence any more than drugs or dysfunctional families or any other single cause — brutally direct although violence is, its complexity defies any simplistic approach.