Friday, April 01, 2011

Paul Goodman on Youth Revolt in the Middle East

In light of the youth revolt spreading through out the Middle East, I thought this quote from the American anarchist Paul Goodman was appropriate, it comes from the sixties youth revolt in the U.S. which he participated in.

And there is an authentic demand for Young People's Power,
their right to take part in initiating and deciding the functions of society
that concern them—as well, of course as governing
their own lives, which are nobody else's business.
Bear in mind that we are speaking of ages seventeen
to twenty-five, when at all other times the young
would already have been launched in the real world.
The young have the right to power because they are
numerous and are directly affected by what goes on,
but especially because their new point of view is
indispensable to cope with changing conditions, they
themselves being part of the changing conditions.
This is why Jefferson urged us to adopt a new
constitution every generation.

And while American youth in the sixties were protesting the Viet-Nam war and demanding Free Speech on campuses they were experiencing a capitalist economy that was booming, despite that boom their alienation from the old Left and old Right and the rule of old men was not unlike their counterparts today in the Middle East.

A coalition of six youth groups that emerged from Egypt’s revolution last month has refused to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who arrived in Cairo earlier today, in protest of the United States’ strong support for former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak who was ousted by the uprising.

This juncture may be unprecedented in modern Arab history. Suddenly, despotic regimes that have been entrenched for fourty years and more seem vulnerable. Two of them – in Tunis and then in Cairo – crumbled before our eyes in a few weeks. Others in Tripoli and Sanaa are fighting to survive. The old men who dominate the rest suddenly look their age, and the distance between them and most of their populations, born decades after them, has never been greater. An apparently frozen political situation has melted overnight in the heat of the popular upsurge that began in Tunisia and Egypt, and now is spreading. We are all privileged to be experiencing a world-historical moment, when fixed verities vanish and new potentials and forces emerge. Perhaps one day some of us can say, as Wordsworth said of the French Revolution, “Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven.”

At its core, the uprising from Tunis to Sana is a youth revolt and it can be sparked elsewhere in the world, whether the local government is run by monarchs, generals or kleptocratic elected officials.

Observers have identified decades of oppressive rule and growing economic disparity as the main factors behind the Arab upheaval. One aspect that has not received adequate attention is the anger of the region's youth populations, educated and unemployed, most of whom have known only one ruler in their lifetimes. Products of high fertility rates and low investment in education and job creation, these young adults fear ending their lives as poor, unmarried and marginalised in their own societies. They demand democracy in order to take charge of their lives and to build a future, but what they crave most is the dignity of employment and a normal family life.

Population growth in the Arab region followed by rise in life expectancy has created a youth bulge, not unlike in India. The total number of youth (those between the ages of 15 and 24) has grown nearly two and half times in 30 years, with 60% of Arabs aged between 15 and 59 years. (In India, the same demographic accounts for 56.9%.)

This young workforce and low dependency rate would have been welcomed as a "demographic dividend", as it is in India. In theory, young workers could have supplied the world's labour force and - with only 6% of the population over 60 - increased the savings rate. But the region's failure to generate employment and offer education and skill-sets matching jobs has instead created a demographic disaster. The region's single largest unemployed group comprises educated youth below 25, whom a recent ILO report on unemployment called a "lost generation".

Mother Tells UN’s Ban How Son’s Suicide Sparked Tunisian Revolt

“I am proud of my son, my son who contributed to the liberation of Tunisia,” Manoubieh Bouazizi said following her 10-minute meeting with Ban at the Regency Hotel in Tunis. Her comments in Arabic were translated into French by one of her daughters. “I am sure where my son is, he is happy.”

To support his extended family, including a sister at university, Bouazizi sold fruit and vegetables on a street in rural Sidi Bouzid, a four-hour drive from the capital. He was harassed and heckled by local police for not having a permit and his cart, the source of his livelihood, was confiscated. That final humiliation was the last straw.

“The real violation was the affront to Mohamed Bouazizi’s sense of human dignity,” Ban said. “The daily indignities, the crushing of a people’s potential.”

Students study unrest in the Middle East

Faris said the recent Arab revolutions are all important waves of democracy. He said the incident in Tunisia where a fruit-seller set himself on fire to protest the government was the catalyst in Egypt. There are many other factors to the recent revolts and one very notable cause is the passion of the youth. The youth make up the most of the population of the protesters.

Fashandi said the role young people are playing in the uprisings throughout the Middle East is vital. "It is amazing to see the factors which separate the Egyptian people such as religion and social class, and instead focuses on the common goal of basic human rights and democracy," said Fashandi.

Faris said it is important to note that the youth are at the forefront of the revolutions in the Middle East. "What happened in Tunisia and Egypt is a reminder to all of us that young people really do have the power to bring about important changes, both in the Middle East and here."


For the Revolutionary Youth in the Middle East


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