Young People Should Always be heard

What do they really want: the unemployed protesters in England, the students who protest in Chile, the young protagonists of the "spring" Middle East? It is worth trying to understand what lies beneath these protests.

Young People Should Always be heard

by Luigino Bruni

published in cittànuova.it on 12/08/2011

Disordini_LondraMany of us were struck and concerned about the Middle East squares where young people took to the streets, giving their lives, demanding democracy and freedom, and on the British streets where young people smashed windows to steal mobile phones and plasma TVs, clear indications that a serious and deep pain of living is spreading.

But the history of the twentieth century taught us that when young people, especially if thousands, take to the streets, one must always be very careful, even when they do it badly, smashing and screaming, for beneath the cruelty or bad response there may be important questions; as when a teenager's screams and punches the mobile home, a smart parent knows that behind that bad language often there are very serious things hidden. This does not mean young people are always right, only that we need to understand what is happening in England, also in Chile (where young people want a university not only for the rich), and, although the distance is large, in the Middle East.

What is at stake is a big world "youth question," very evident in the opulent West, which certainly has to do with the crisis and the cuts but that is much deeper, because it refers to the unequal market society we are building, especially in recent years with the turbo-finance capitalist. The English sociologist Anthony Giddens has brought to light well in different interviews the theoretic of "the third way," when he reminds us that behind these destructions of the British youth there is also the reaction of those who feel excluded from the great luxuries and consumption, which instead sees increase blatantly in the richest 5 percent of the population.
 
The rich and the poor have always existed in the world, but until a few decades ago, the social culture and religions had built social bonds that held even with a certain inequality. The social classes were far apart and not in close communication, whereby envy and frustration were manageable, at least in ordinary moments. Today, however, the growing inequality (remember that England is among the countries with the highest inequality) is not easily manageable, because while the media build global villages and the lifestyles and aspirations are becoming more uniform, the purchasing power and the opportunities are very different.
 
Young people especially perceive, even for the huge public debts that we put on their shoulders and the large youth unemployment, that social mobility is declining, and their future may be worse than that of their parents. The risk is that this uneasiness may become global and hardly manageable, if we do not give life, immediately, to new deals between generations, to a more egalitarian and fraternal economic system, and "suitable for the young," which are not the future (such as is often said of paternalistic) but a different way of living and seeing the present.
 
If we had listened, beyond the bad responses, the complaints and questions of the young people in 2001 (until July 2001 in Genoa), they were asking for a globalization of solidarity and governance of the financial speculation (the "Tobin Tax"), perhaps today we would not know this crisis generated by a decade of distraction from those issues that young people have identified well and shouted loudly.
 
Let us listen to the young people, always listen to them, and let them feel protagonists of the choices of today, and not just those, uncertain and vague, of tomorrow.

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