I just read a compelling article on the front page of the New York Times web site, describing how the youth of Spain, sick of the bureaucratic, corrupt system of governance that doesn’t care about their plight, namely lack of employment and opportunity, are standing up for their rights. Much of what is portrayed about Spanish youth in this article directly applies to young Armenians in similar circumstances.
Below are excerpts:
Until recently, young people in Spain were dismissed as an apathetic generation, uninterested in party politics. But the outpouring of young people who have taken to the streets since May 15 — at one point about 28,000 protesters spent the night in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol square — has changed all that, forcing the country to take heed and reconsider.
The recession that has ravaged Spain, along with much of southern Europe, has had an especially hard impact on the young, with unemployment rates soaring to more than 40 percent for 20- to 24-year-olds, about twice the national average and the highest in the European Union. Many of them see limited hope of improvement unless they reshuffle the political deck and demand a new approach to creating jobs.
“Suddenly people are talking about politics everywhere,” said María Luz Morán, a sociologist at the Complutense University of Madrid. “You go to have coffee or you are standing in the subway and you hear conversations about politics. It’s been years since I heard anyone talking about politics.”
Even young people who have jobs here are often caught in a system of poorly paid, temporary contracts. The contracts were once designed to help them break into the labor force, but they have served instead to put adulthood out of reach for many. Ms. Moran said that one survey showed that about 50 percent of 30-year-olds in Spain were still living with their parents.
“We call 32- and 35-year-olds young people in Spain, because they are forced to live like children,” she said. “Thirty-year-olds should have their own homes.”
Few experts are willing to say what the protesters might achieve. But already issues that were discussed only at the margins are being taken more seriously. One major conservative daily newspaper, ABC, polled constitutional experts this week about what it would take to change the election laws, one of the principal demands of the demonstrators, who say the current system heavily favors the country’s two leading political parties.
“They have already had an impact,” said Rafael Díaz-Salazar, another sociologist at Complutense, who believes that the protesters may represent about two million voters. “They are forcing people to take a look at this impoverished generation. There will have to talk about precarious work contracts and housing in the next election. They cannot avoid it anymore.”
The moral of this story — as I’ve repeated for years — is that if people who are desperate enough really want change in their society, they can make it happen. The youth of Armenia can follow Spain’s precedent and take charge of their future, they can make a difference and have a positive impact not only on their own lives but that of future generations. Emigrating to foreign countries murmuring “the country’s not a country” shouldn’t be the answer.