“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty,” Winston Churchill. There can be no doubts that this country’s transition has been a painful and at times seriously frustrating process. Monumental mistakes have been made. Senseless decisions have been brought. Logic was too often thrown out of the window. And personal gains have all too often been hiding behind a smokescreen of public good.
Many people watching from the side-lines become increasing annoyed at the lack of positive change. I am constantly being contacted by Croatian diaspora seeking answers to questions I have no answers for. I am in a privileged position, and somewhat unique position, that I have pretty much been here since the very beginning of this transition. This gives me the long-term view, the historical, however short, perspective.
And I can honestly say that the transition I have seen over the past two decades has been at a severely rapid speed. The same types of changes I have witnessed here would happen over two centuries in the UK.
Many observers don’t have a starting point for Croatia, they simply don’t know what the exact situation was like twenty years ago, and so they use experience from other countries as a starting point. That is a common mistake. For all this positivity there is however a rather worrying trend. The younger generations, on which we depend on for so much, are becoming discouraged.
Croatia is facing a demographic crisis. It is a situation could have been predicted. Easy to predict but difficult to solve. And the younger generations are running out of patience. I was chatting a few weeks ago to two young ladies who are both studying. One is studying to be a doctor. “I’m not saying that I wouldn’t like to work in Croatia after I finish my studies but I just need more hope that I will have a brighter future,” I could see the dilemma written across her face. And what was more fascinating was that throughout our lengthy conversation she didn’t mention financial security once, she did however mention hope on more than one occasion. And quite frankly it is more concerning that she used hope rather than money.
“It is a big world, but it has become increasingly smaller,” she added. Without doubt when she is a fully trained young doctor who is fluent in a handful of languages finishes her studies she will be in high demand from hospitals and institutions all over the world. The world will be her oyster, as the English say. On the flip side she, and her peers, are exactly the future that Croatia needs, no, desperately needs. If we take away the light at the end of the tunnel, then the tunnel gets awfully dark, and awfully long very quickly.
As I mentioned the demographic crisis is a tough problem to solve, naïve onlookers will just shout “pay higher salaries” or “decrease your bureaucracy.” These are by-products of a failure of the system. And the only way to improve the system is with the bright young generations. Which leaves us in somewhat of a catch 22 situation. The problems can’t be solved by any outside forces; change has to come from within. But without the real and correct means of change, i:e the youth of today, then change will come either badly or never at all.
Croatia isn’t the only country facing these problems, far from it. But when you start your transition from a negative position then it just takes much longer to catch up with every else. And time, or rather the lack of time, isn’t our friend. How much longer will young, highly trained and skilled professionals have the patience to wait, or more importantly the wiliness to fight for a future filled with hope. Time is not on our side. We need future generations to remember us more with gratitude and not with sorrow, once said Lyndon B. Johnson.