Editorial: Hope is Coming(?)

Editorial: Hope is Coming(?)

Picture credit: Flickr/Lorenzo Gaudenzi. Some rights reserved. Author note: Harry Blain is the editor-in-chief of the 99% Campaign. On 6 December, 2008, unarmed fifteen-year-old protester Alexandros Grigoropoulos was shot dead by police in Athens. His death provoked two weeks of the most violent rioting in recent Greek history, as young people – from the unemployed, underemployed and angry, to middle-class graduates abhorred by the corruption of their political rulers – clashed with police, in street battles punctuated by thousands of tear gas canisters and riot gear on one side, and Molotov cocktails on the other. On the day of his murder, Grigoropoulous was with his friend, Nikos Romanos – another fifteen-year-old schoolboy celebrating his name-day (the day after whom his patron saint is named). In the five years following his friend’s death, Romanos has witnessed the austerity policies imposed by the “Troika” of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), European Central Bank (ECB) and EU ravage Greece’s public services, shrink its economy by 25%, drive up unemployment and poverty, and devastate the life prospects of an entire generation. In December last year, Romanos was on hunger strike: imprisoned for his part in a bank robbery and beaten by police, he was “demanding his statutory right” to attend university courses at the School of Business Administration in Athens. Romanos finally won his right to attend his classes, but his story is a powerful symbol of Greece’s social and economic crisis. The oft-discussed “biggest bailout in history” has not gone to the people of Greece, but instead to the banks and private investors who recklessly lent to the Greek government; “vulture funds”...
Make Our Rights Reality!

Make Our Rights Reality!

Author Notes: Joe Lee-Dowd is the Volunteer Campaign Assistant at Youth Access, a membership organisation for young people’s services based in South London. If you are a young person, chances are you will have experienced the inevitable: you will have felt marginalised. A blend of the establishment’s neglect of young people’s voices, the negative stereotypes so often unfairly applied to young people, and the lack of essential support for often vulnerable groups can leave us feeling ostracised and hard done by. My own experience has been one of the more common for young people moving into adulthood: countless job applications, very few responses, even fewer interviews and zero offers. But this issue is relatively insignificant compared with those faced by over a million young people every year. They might not have a supporting family to live with and keep food on the table; they might be in debilitating debt; they might have crippling mental health issues; they might be facing complicated legal proceedings; they might not have a bed to sleep in let alone a job to go to. We have basic rights to housing, education, a reasonable standard of living, good health care and protection from abuse and exploitation. Perhaps even more importantly we have the right to the knowledge and means to enforce these rights, through information, advice and support – we have the right to be heard! And Youth Access’ research shows that millions of young people are not being heard. This is unacceptable and it’s time for the rights of young people to be taken seriously. This is why I have recently volunteered for Youth...
News highlights: Optimism for young Greeks?

News highlights: Optimism for young Greeks?

Pick of the week: The government’s cynical use of the Charlie Hebdo attacks to demand more surveillance powers continues to cause concern and outrage. British Muslims, this week, were almost explicitly asked to prove their loyalty to the nation (and, by implication, the state) – eliciting strong community response that are well worth reading. However, for a note of optimism, this week’s piece on why young people are voting for SYRIZA in Greece, is particularly engaging. Don’t resort to apathy, it argues: reject the status quo when it fails, and use whatever tools are necessary to build a new one. Youth policy updates Failing Free Schools The debate surrounding “free schools” has been reignited this week, with the closure of Durham Free School after an Ofsted report criticised almost every aspect of the school’s management. Former Education Secretary Michael Gove trumped the potential for the school to improve standards, while Kevin Courtney of the National Union of Teachers seized the opportunity to condemn “free schools” in general. “But this is best seen as a failure of the free schools policy”, he stated. “Westminster has no effective ways in which to support free schools so instead ends up with these sorts of massively destabilising announcements. The children at this secondary school will now need to settle in alternative schools, which is an unwelcome disruption to their education. In addition, even more taxpayers’ money will now have to be spent on closing down costs such as redundancy pay and rent overhangs. This sad state of affairs shows the folly of handing over taxpayers’ money to unaccountable groups to run schools.” This...
News Highlights & Editor’s Choice

News Highlights & Editor’s Choice

The various opinion pieces in the Telegraph, the Guardian and elsewhere are easily accessible and well-documented – they are worth reading. However, I have compiled, here, a short list of slightly different sources that – often stepping back and writing days after the horrific attacks – speak to wider issues that the mainstream press is less likely to investigate. Editor’s pick and responses to the Charlie Hebdo attacks The editor’s pick for this week is definitely Democracy Now’s coverage, linked below. It includes several interviews with protesters in Paris, as well as the views of the notable Muslim scholar, Tariq Ramadan, legendary cartoonist Art Spiegelman and investigative journalists Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald. How do we make sense of these attacks and how do we respond? Was this really “an attack on all of us”, or an attempt to provoke and sow division between European Muslims and non-Muslims? The critical question for us is how we – as young people – can build a narrative of co-existence and compassion, avoiding knee-jerk reactions that stigmatise entire communities. Worryingly, the far right will likely profit from the attacks across Europe – indeed the unprecedented rise of the Pegida Movement in Germany continues to spread fear throughout the continent. Such movements must be countered – and young people must lead the way. Charlie Hebdo and the media – Al-Jazeera English (12/1). In this edition of “The Listening Post,” Al-Jazeera’s Richard Gizbert outlines and critiques some of the media coverage of the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris. This provides some contexts and the opinions of many other media figures, for...
Let’s Write a Constitution for Britain’s Youth

Let’s Write a Constitution for Britain’s Youth

As we approach the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, it is time to build a constitution from the ground up. Author note: Harry Blain is the Editor-in-chief of the 99% Campaign It is no secret that the people who write, interpret and largely enforce the laws of Britain are, predominantly, middle-aged, middle-class, white men. It is no surprise, then, that young people often feel excluded from the political process, while those in power are able to talk about politics as if it occurs in a distant universe, reserved for “experts.” Britain’s youth have often borne the brunt of austerity – from benefits sanctions, to the rising cost of education, to the decline of meaningful employment. Many young people are now underemployed and overqualified – a trend that exists, to varying degrees, across Europe. Cuts to youth justice programs place additional pressure on crucial local services across the country, while councils face a wide range of financial strains and difficulties, impeding their ability to provide support for young people in need of housing. Increasingly, our generation is having to lower its expectations below our parents’: we are now told that affordable housing, free education, and stable employment are privileges rather than rights. So how, politically, can we resolve these problems? One positive approach is to eschew the main political parties and opt for more radical alternatives. Impressively, the Green Party is getting a new member “every ten seconds” as its numbers surge above Ukip’s and continue to grow. Its promises of, for instance, a “Green New Deal”, the abolition of nuclear weapons and free higher education represent a meaningful opportunity...