This article is co-authored by Colombe Cahen-Salvador and Andrea Venzon, and was originally published in the Fair Observer, on November 1, 2019. Click here to read the original piece.
Yes, various movements existed in the past and literally changed the world for the better — women’s and civil rights, and the anti-Vietnam War movements being some of the most memorable ones. Those movements created change for billions of people, gave hope and a purpose to humanity and created a sense of community. That is because, as Gloria Steinem said, “When unique voices are united in a common cause, they make history.”
And yes, political parties still do have an important role in society. There is no functioning democracy without functioning parties — they are the pieces on the chessboard. At least a part of the population in any given country relies on the work of these entities to express its voice on current matters, to seek guidance, to have a meaningful role in the political process that produces legislation.
We, the Youth
The big difference is that today’s youth doesn’t join parties anymore, and party membership is declining. The Joschka Fischers (a well-respected German politician who started his career in left-wing movements) of today are not lobbying their way into the Social Democrats or the Greens, but are more likely to work to take up the next battle with the movement they have started or supported. Like it or not, the fact that an overwhelming majority of young people do not want to sign up for party membership is reality, not a question up for debate.
No effort from those who deny the power of social movements will change their mind — no elaborate op-ed from well known writers, no call for mobilization from middle-aged politicians or the rebranding of old recipes à la Matteo Renzi’s Italia Viva will change that.
For every revolution and for every step toward social progress that takes place, older generations say that the youth is doing it all wrong. The conservative seniors try to impose their ideas or methodologies that are often inadequate. However, let’s all remember that the modus operandi has brought the world today to where it is today, where we — the youth — might not get to die of natural causes, because climate change went unchecked for so long. We — the youth — live in a world threatened by nuclear proliferation. We, — the youth — have high unemployment and low wages when corporations don’t pay taxes. We — the youth — have to deal with a world shattered by previous generations.
Older generations had a responsibility toward us that they haven’t upheld, leaving us to pick up the pieces. People belonging to our generation might be tempted to dismiss this with a casual “OK, boomer.” While this may be tempting, we call for unity. Just like no single country can solve global challenges, no one generation can bring the world forward. We value the work of our elders who fought tirelessly for our rights and for a more peaceful society like they did in the 1960s. We are thankful that we are in a position to continue their legacy and focus on what truly matters — creating new ways to affect change.
And what truly matters today are the global issues that are shaking the world to its core. While we could spend decades debating the pros and cons of party politics, the fact of the matter remains: Parties can’t solve global issues. Indeed, even in perfect health, political parties would still be incapable of coping with a complex world where issues are interconnected and global, with little respect for borders or electoral timetables. There is no global democracy enabling parties to put forward a clear agenda to solve those issues. To make matters worse, 44% of the world population live in non-democratic systems.
The truth is that global challenges and existential threats are not being adequately dealt with. No political party is solving the pressing issues, no government is getting close to where it should be heading in order to do so. So far, the world is not doing better today following the few successes of some progressive liberal politicians and parties, nor will it. Even the so-called “success cases” like Emmanuel Macron shift their narrative to try to appeal to the hard right, using far-right language such as “taking back control on migration” and putting back border controls while talking of open societies.
We Are Not Complaining
And guess what: We are not just complaining. Millennials are actively looking for a better way forward, and we are proposing a solution. We do not say it’s the only available one, nor that it should be, but what other feasible alternative is currently present on the market? Criticizing innovative endeavors won’t do, nor will asking young people to join archaic structures that do not have a role on the global stage and cannot affect change.
Let’s be bold enough to create the world we dream of, not just think inside the box. Continuing down the same path is like taking an aspirin to cure cancer — almost laughable, and no one would ever believe that it could work. Let’s stop being scared of disturbing the status quo and actually work to better our shared future.
The new El Dorado is within the grasp of those adventurers who will manage to convert the energy of the millions who hit the streets every Friday to demand action on the climate emergency into meaningful political capital to advance much-needed legislation like a global carbon pricing scheme or a harmonized digital service tax to deal with tech giants. The work of groups like NOW! toward solving the issues that affect us all is rooted in precisely this vision.
A truly global movement can leverage volunteers’ involvement and advanced campaign methods to strategically and conclusively push common solutions in the form of legislations across the globe. Harnessing the great democratic awakening we are witnessing from Hong Kong to Santiago, people can work to gather all those ones who don’t want to sleepwalk into an illiberal era — or intend to leave one behind — under one roof. The only allegiance this type of movement requires is the dream of having humankind collaborate for our future.
This is the way we can tilt the balance in favor of a society we hope for. Don’t try to put the million marchers into a political party: You won’t succeed. But if you ensure that clear demands are pushed via all democratic tools available, and you might get real results. We know that our approach is a bet, but we don’t see an alternative than trying to fight for the world to act as one, together, through mobilization.
*[For more information, visit www.now.world.]
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.