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Occupy Europe: How a generation went from indifferent to indignant

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"We need a Franklin Roosevelt and what we've got are a bunch of Herbert Hoovers," says Karim Emile Bitar, at the Institute for International and Strategic Relations in Paris.

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Anciently in Madrid, Puerta del Sol is where all roads led out to Europe. The square is framed by a pinkish town hall and the kind of 19th-century three-star hotels that guidebooks describe as having "character." Tourists and sun are plentiful. But until May 15, it was not a place of political symbolism, not a Tiananmen Square of Spain. That changed as Puerta del Sol, or "Sun's Gate," became a Tahrir Square for Spanish youth, who flew the Egyptian flag in solidarity with the Arab Spring.

Today their numbers and energy are still strong, though their focus is more diffuse. On Sept. 18, some 5,000 marched, wave after wave – families, pregnant women, students, couples with baby strollers, and seniors. They shook their hands above their heads before entering the square, shouting, "It's not democracy," or "You don't represent us."

"You don't stage a revolution with the argument that things are complicated, and we need time to discuss it," says José Ignacio Torreblanca of the Madrid office of the European Council on Foreign Relations. "But they see the political class as closed, opaque, corrupt, insensitive. All polls show a wide feeling among youth that the political class and elites are a problem."

Spanish youth, like those in other parts of the Continent, are divided over "Europe." Many don't see Brussels as a shining ideal but as an accounting house. Yet what's mostly complicated are their personal lives: In an age of austerity, college grads face short-term contracts and unpaid internships – busy work that often doesn't train them.

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