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Occupy Europe: How a generation went from indifferent to indignant

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Yet some Rubicon was crossed on May 15. A Twitter call brought hundreds of youth to the square. The next day more than 1,000 came. By the end of the week 30,000 people, most of them young, had organized a system of tent camps, started seminars and teach-ins, and begun building a social networking site. "Yes, we camp," they coyly said. Their moniker became indignados, or the outraged.

Today, their idea has spread across southern Europe to Rome and Athens and the far corners of Spanish cyberspace, where the group has 70,000 participants. They are part of an increasingly global movement of young people that, while not directly connected, share some of the same frustrations over the inability of economies to create jobs, and the indifference of politicians or their impotence to do anything about it.

The youth of Puerta del Sol have taken some of their inspiration from the youth of the Arab Spring. Both groups have directly inspired young members of the "Occupy Wall Street" protests in America. Indeed, from Latin America to the Middle East to China, the issue of jobless youth has become a worrisome global trend – what one British minister calls a "ticking time bomb."

Yet each of these revolts is also rooted in its own grievances, with consequences that will be similarly singular. Few are more important than the growing restiveness of Europe's young masses, both because of the size and breadth of the protests and because they come at a time when Europe's finances – and collective identity – is increasingly fragile.

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