Young movements and old manners

young people go down to the streets and demonstrateClimate change, the rise of violent extremism and widespread sexism, the crisis of modern capitalism, are some of today’s society issues, which pushed especially young people to go down to the streets and demonstrate. We’ve seen in the past few years thousands of new movements blossom around the globe, putting pressure on the dominant political agenda.

2nd June 2015, in Buenos Aires and other 120 cities across the country, a large number of people took the streets against women working and social condition in South America, starting from the episode of Susana Chavez – a Mexican poet victim of feminicide – and the strict policies adopted by Argentinian President Macri towards women. The protest spread rapidly throughout Latin America, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Uruguay and the world itself. The phenomenon of Ni una Menos is cross-sectional but involves especially young people willing to make them hear their voices, everywhere. Many similar movements grew up, as in Italy, a country that saw its young population very active in the last few years.

The Italian situation is interesting in two directions: both a renewed need to demonstrate to influence the political agenda and the nervous answers to these movements by politicians who have contrary opinions. One main example is Matteo Salvini’s behaviour towards his young opponents. On March, Italian Interior Minister published on his social accounts the picture of Viola Pacilli, a 22 years old girl who attended a demonstration with a protest sign against fascism and Salvini’s controversial propaganda. Indeed, publishing her face without any kind of sensible reason (and at the boundaries of legality) meant exposing her to a direct shaming rack from Salvini’s supporters.

The case just mentioned unfortunately is not isolated, on the contrary, it is a frequent practice. In Hungary, for instance, Blanka Nagy, a high school student, was overwhelmed by tough insults from governmental sources, especially the press loyal to president Orbán. We could mention hundreds of more examples, and it is clearly a symptom of the problem.

This is part of a common strategy to far-right representatives which consists in finding an “enemy” against whom their supporters can pour out anger and frustration. It is a classic political concept, the friend/enemy dichotomy – which considers political actions and motives lead by the distinction in friends and enemies – theorised by Carl Schmitt (no coincidence an important academic even during the Nazi period). Anyway, with social networks and internet these techniques are becoming more invasive and “public”, with a new destructive potential: take the Dreyfus Affair, a political scandal occurred in late 19th century France, which symbolises a prelude to the decisive antisemitism and racism which eventually lead to World War II tragedy. Then, try to imagine it nowadays: do you find any similarities? Migrants seen as a terrifying threat, terrorist attacks turned into Islamophobia, Climate change simply reduced to a “hoax”, poor people merely considered humans, except when there is the need for votes. History is life’s teacher.

However, what is often depicted as a generation without values, politically indifferent and less valid than the previous ones, represents instead the real voice that calls for a radical change in the current socio-economic and political system. Greta Thunberg is just the last example of how much the “weak” can do, because the people who pursue political strategies as described before are the same who would call a girl like Greta a “weak”, unable to make any substantial change. Instead, she – as many others – embodies a strong answer to the rising politics of hate.

(written by Claudio Antonio De Angelis)

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