Youth are political, and they live this in their everyday life. Since the turn of the 21st century, multiple crises have unfolded, both social and economic that impact youths directly and have become a window of opportunity for political and social mobilisation and participation.
Time goes by and, despite that many claims and struggles are still valid today, social movements and organisations should reconsider the current forms of collective organising and adapt them to new forms of mobilisation, new channels and means of communication and bring them closer to the changing realities and the new needs of young people.
We often tend to think that youths are disengaged from political organisations or movements and those defending social rights because youths are not politicised or do not have a genuine interest in things happening at a community level. This vision is often paternalistic and adult-centred and stops us from being self-critical and realizing that, despite having strong structures and social networks that have consolidated over time, we have not been able to ensure a generational turnover where young people can take the lead in our struggles.
And perhaps here is the problem: we believe they won’t continue when, quite simply, they just don’t use the classical means or paths because they don’t feel attracted to them. However, they do react to these inequalities, in different spaces and using different means: social, political and community based. And to this we must add a new technological layer that has marked and conditions new forms of self-organizing and has done away with the old forms of activism.
One thing is clear: youth are political, and they live this in their everyday life. Since the turn of the 21st century, multiple crises have unfolded, both social and economic that impact youths directly and have become a window of opportunity for political and social mobilisation and participation. Those taking the lead to respond to these crises have always been the young, not matter what people say.
Youth are political because they experience first-hand the difficulties in accessing housing and paying rent, they are in a vulnerable position despite having a job, because these jobs are precarious, they are faced with the environmental emergency and the impacts of climate change that are seen every day and in all seasons of the year; they deal with social and institutional racism leading to exclusion and robbing them of the most basic citizens’ rights or witness gender-based violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation that attack individual and physical freedom all linked to the raise of reactionary and fascist movements.
All these struggles affect youths directly because they are the ones experiencing them and therefore, they should take the lead to revert the situation because they are the ones who will decide the future that is to come.
The challenge, therefore, is to understand and articulate the relationship between experience and the knowledge accumulated over the years with today’s needs. Taking into consideration the expertise and knowledge of so many people, organisations and movements that have paved the way and achieved many victories, valuing and acknowledging this with respect, while also determining their own way, according to the times, where youths become the true protagonists and actors free to explore their own meeting points to share reflections and critical thinking without being mentored.
Youths are calling for ways of organising, mobilising, and fighting that allow them to feel directly connected to the cause in their lives and that respond to their greatest concerns and worries, and need to find a real sense to this and a possibility of change, and this will only be possible if they are at the forefront.