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Alejandro Navas, Professor of Sociology, University of Navarra, Spain

Youth take to the streets

Fri, 20 May 2011 16:09:33 +0000 Published in Navarra Newspaper

"Finally", we could say. The dimensions and depth of the crisis made some subject street revolt inevitable, if the official unemployment figures are true. "The recklessness of the elites," was the title of a recent article by Paul Krugman, award Nobel laureate of Economics. Of course we all - the political class , the banks, the companies, the ordinary people - are responsible for the current status , but the elites are more to blame.

A blind and incompetent government. A selfish and speculative financial system. Political representatives who are not up to the task. A justice system subjugated to those who rule. Trade unions financed by the treasury. A good part of the media sold to power and money. A mediocre system educational ... Not everything seems disastrous, in some areas we are even leaders in the world: sports, gastronomy, plastic arts, some leading companies in their sectors.

The political and economic deterioration has led our society to an impasse with no apparent way out, and people have had enough. It is easy to diagnose our ills, and the people camped in Puerta del Sol have said nothing new about it. The problems will arise when it comes to articulating positive actions to build that new, fairer order that the street is demanding.

The authorities and Minister Rubalcaba -I suppose- will allow the demonstrators to continue occupying the squares of our cities until the end of the workshop electoral campaign. The Government is not interested in images of clashes between police and citizens, much less of injured people or of urban furniture set on fire. But on Monday 23rd, with the electoral hangover, it will have to go back to work and those public squares will have to be cleared. Leaving the urban centers in the hands of the campers would give a third-world impression that the Executive will not be able to afford either (I speak of image because it is the main criterion that inspires the action of the Government).

We shall see what slant the popular movement acquires. Opposing groups, anti-system and representatives of the political establishment, try to capitalize on the success and take advantage of it. In times of confusion, possibilities open up for bold and prepared people. "A revolution is not made, it is organized," said Lenin. Pure spontaneity leads to inoperability, so managers must take the lead if the movement aspires to last.

The protest sample has an undoubtedly transversal character, but young people are taking the lead. I understand how they feel, and I understand their indignation with a social regime that flatters them and, at the same time, closes almost all doors to them. Many are excellently prepared and eager to work - I consider it a privilege to have them on classroom- and it is outrageous that we offer them only precarious contracts and starvation wages. This is not the way to raise a family or have access to housing. It is logical that they despise the political class . But meeting incoherent that, then, they raise a series of demands, in the form of rights, addressed precisely to the State.

On the one hand, they seem to ignore that the State is embodied precisely in that class political so reviled. It is not an abstract entity that flutters in the sky, above the earthly society, ready to give us its gifts. On the other hand, the vindictive approach that demands everything from degree scroll as a right -Education, health, work, housing, culture, environment, etc. - is striking. Who is going to provide all this? With what resources? Where are the duties correlative to the rights? We should not wait for "someone" to come -from where?- to solve our problems. If the accredited specialization to civil society is serious, it is time to get down to real work. The Tunisian and Egyptian youth have shown that freedom is not a concession granted in a discretionary manner by the ruler, but something that normal people can and should take by force, directly. A little of that kind of spirit would come in handy in our country: for too long we have expected too much from a state to which we have surrendered so much power over our lives.