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Occupy Europe: How a generation went from indifferent to indignant

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It's pretty utopian. And whether the indignados can survive (they still fill the square on Sunday evenings) is unclear. But their pluck brought public sympathy in Spain and Greece, and they are seen as a bellwether among analysts: Europe and its nations have a debt crisis that is testing its unity and economics. But the youth protests point to an equally important crisis – of meaning, and of what kind of spirit the age will usher in.

"People came together around feelings and diagnoses that were very abstract but also very powerful," says Arturo Debonis, who recently attended an indignados seminar by US Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz on globalization and capitalism.

"When I saw the images from Puerta del Sol, the skin on my arms jumped off," adds Gaelle Simon, 29, an earnest, young Frenchwoman who moved home after losing her factory job and apartment in Switzerland. "I had been depressed. But after Tunisia and Egypt, I could see what the Spanish kids were doing. Something's not working in our system, but we don't need to accept it."

It wasn't supposed to be like this. Young Europeans for decades have identified with a historic joining of the Continent. They identified strongly with postwar visions: a high-minded model of civil society, ideals of justice, a robust monetary union, and a confident zone of business dealings and corporations that set global management standards.

Author Jeremy Rifkin in 2004 saw Europe as the path to the future. Young Europeans in college seminars spoke about being European, not Dutch, or French, or Spanish. A single Europe, as was said after the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall, "just makes sense."

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