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Archive for January, 2014

youth-led uprisings in 21st century

21st Century Youth-Led Uprisings

 

Serbia: 2000 President Milosevic was ousted in 2000 by Otpor (Resistance)

 

Georgia: 2003, Kmara (Enough) led protests against rigged elections leading to the resignation of President Edward Shevardnadze, called the Rose Revolution. Youth built on earlier organizing against the corrupt education system in 2000.

 

Ukraine: 2004, Pora (It’s Time) led thousands of young protesters against rigged elections.

2013, protests in the western part of Ukraine against the president’s move away from the European Union to alliance with Russia.

 

Venezuela: 2007, the catalyst for student organizing was the government shut down of their favorite TV station, a voice of opposition. Their demonstrations shut down the city but the station wasn’t reopened. Next, students mobilized a no vote to Hugo Chavez’ 44-page 69 constitutional amendments to permit him to be president for life and enlarge his powers.

 

Iran: 2009, the Green Movement protested rigged presidential elections but didn’t succeed in removing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

 

Tunisia: 2011, President Ben Ali resigned and fled to Saudi Arabia after a fruit vender set himself on fire the previous December to protest corruption. The first democratic elections were held in October with the most votes going to the moderate Islamist Ennahda party that resigned in 2013 so new elections were held.

 

Egypt: 2011, January 25 began the revolution. President Hosni Mubarak resigned in February, 18 days later.

2013, after a year in office President Mohammed Morsi was ousted in a military coup backed by large demonstrations due to his attempts to abrogate power and Islamize the government.

 

Yemen: 2011, In January demonstrations against President Ali Abdullah Saleh. He resigned in November. Elections were held in February 2014.

 

Libya: 2011, uprisings began February 15 after security forces opened fire on a protest in Benghazi. Mummar Qaddafi was killed in August. July elections voted in a secular party over the party aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood. Demonstrators chanted, “No God but Allah, Moammar is the enemy of Allah” and “Down, down to corruption and to the corrupt.”

 

Bahrain: 2011, protests began in February 17. King Hamad brought in Saudi troops. Angry Shia youth turned to violence.

 

Morocco: In February, demonstrators took to the streets to limit some of the powers of the monarchy. The king offered reform including giving up his divine rights and nominating a prime minister from the largest party in parliament. The youth-led February 20 Movement wanted a constitutional monarchy, but the constitutional amendments they ejected were approved in July.  Moderate Islamists won the November elections.

 

Syria: 2011, protest began in March. The civil war killed 100,000 people and displaced over two million Syrians from their homes. A peace conference was held in Geneva in 2014.

 

Oman: 2011, in the summer youth groups demanded the resignation of the prime minister, a nephew of the Emir. He was replaced in November.

 

 

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How students took on Chavez and won

When students campaigned in 2007 against Hugo Chávez’ proposed constitutional amendments giving him the ability to be president for life and 43 other changes, they wanted to educate the voters to vote against the referendum. According to reporter William Dobson who interviewed student activists, the tactics they used included theater, humor and visual branding.[i] To show that one of the amendments would give government the right to seize property, they marked off school cafeterias with yellow tapes and signs that the area now belonged to the government. They placed fake tombstones around the universities marked with a political right in jeopardy and created comic books explaining the changes. They blockaded roads and would let people go through only if they could name one of the amendments. To make the struggle cool, they created T-shirts and bracelets. They focused on positive goals and values rather than attacking Chávez with his popular base. Their youth and lack of political alliances generated popular support, although Chávez attacked them for being rich kids, fascists, or “sons of the [US] empire.” When they were accused of being CIA agents, they demonstrated outside a government bank shouting that the government won’t let them pick up their CIA checks, making the government look silly. To avoid large confrontations with police where students were beaten up by thugs while the police watched, the students sent teams of 10 people to subway stations to pass out information such as a newspaper from the future with headlines about the results if the amendments passed. Despite their peaceful tactics, student leaders received death threats. They won although the vote results were never released.


[i] William Dobson. The Dictator’s Learning Curve. Doubleday, 2012, pp. 153-164

21st century youth-led uprisings

21st Century Youth-Led Uprisings

 

Serbia: 2000 President Milosevic was ousted in 2000 by Otpor (Resistance)

 

Georgia: 2003, Kmara (Enough) led protests against rigged elections leading to the resignation of President Edward Shevardnadze, called the Rose Revolution. Youth built on earlier organizing against the corrupt education system in 2000.

 

Ukraine: 2004, Pora (It’s Time) led thousands of young protesters against rigged elections.

2013, protests in the western part of Ukraine against the president’s move away from the European Union to alliance with Russia.

 

Venezuela: 2007, the catalyst for student organizing was the government shut down of their favorite TV station, a voice of opposition. Their demonstrations shut down the city but the station wasn’t reopened. Next, students mobilized a no vote to Hugo Chavez’ 44-page 69 constitutional amendments to permit him to be president for life and enlarge his powers.

 

Iran: 2009, the Green Movement protested rigged presidential elections but didn’t succeed in removing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

 

Tunisia: 2011, President Ben Ali resigned and fled to Saudi Arabia after a fruit vender set himself on fire the previous December to protest corruption. The first democratic elections were held in October with the most votes going to the moderate Islamist Ennahda party that resigned in 2013 so new elections were held.

 

Egypt: 2011, January 25 began the revolution. President Hosni Mubarak resigned in February, 18 days later.

2013, after a year in office President Mohammed Morsi was ousted in a military coup backed by large demonstrations due to his attempts to abrogate power and Islamize the government.

 

Yemen: 2011, In January demonstrations against President Ali Abdullah Saleh. He resigned in November. Elections were held in February 2014.

 

Libya: 2011, uprisings began February 15 after security forces opened fire on a protest in Benghazi. Mummar Qaddafi was killed in August. July elections voted in a secular party over the party aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood. Demonstrators chanted, “No God but Allah, Moammar is the enemy of Allah” and “Down, down to corruption and to the corrupt.”

 

Bahrain: 2011, protests began in February 17. King Hamad brought in Saudi troops. Angry Shia youth turned to violence.

 

Morocco: In February, demonstrators took to the streets to limit some of the powers of the monarchy. The king offered reform including giving up his divine rights and nominating a prime minister from the largest party in parliament. The youth-led February 20 Movement wanted a constitutional monarchy, but the constitutional amendments they ejected were approved in July.  Moderate Islamists won the November elections.

 

Syria: 2011, protest began in March. The civil war killed 100,000 people and displaced over two million Syrians from their homes. A peace conference was held in Geneva in 2014.

 

Oman: 2011, in the summer youth groups demanded the resignation of the prime minister, a nephew of the Emir. He was replaced in November.

 

 

No Women in Syrian Peace Talks

The UN helped get the combatants together in Switzerland in January 2014, except that women were left out—with no women on Syrian or UN teams. An NGO leader Hibaaq Osman said, “When we talk about women at the table, the men see them as tablecloth,” despite the deaths of thousands of women and child, the use of rape to punish enemies by raping their family members in front of them, being used as human shields and hostages, and loss of freedom in areas controlled by fundamentalist rebels.[i] In some areas women can’t leave home to go to work or school without a male guardian. Over 80% of refugees are women and children. As these families face hunger, some marry their girls off for dowries and some women are forced into prostitution. Female activists met under the umbrella of UN Women to call for representation of women in all negotiations including the formation of a transition government. International women’s groups gathered at the Swiss talks to support the demands of Syrian women, including CODEPINK, Women’s International league for Peace and Freedom, MADRE, Karama and the Nobel Women’s Initiative. They organized a Women’s Summit from former battle zones to learn about how to transition form war to peace.


[i] Madea Benjamin, “No Seat for Syrian Women at the Peace Talks,” Pink Tank, January 22, 2014. http://codepink.org/blog/

The Cause of Global Inequality–Neoliberalism

The main opponent in the recent youth-led uprisings is neoliberal capitalism, in opposition to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s widely quoted statement that that “There is no alternative!” Liberalism refers to the 18th and 19th centuries’ belief in free trade, competition, and freedom from government regulation–as advocated by Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations (1776). After the depression of the 1930s, liberalism was challenged by economist john Maynard Keynes who said that governments must invest in full employment in order for capitalism to expand. “Neo” refers to the revival of liberalism by Milton Freedman and the “Chicago Boys,” Chilean students who pursued postgraduate studies under Friedman at the University of Chicago. They implemented neoliberal policies after the US backed coup in 1973. It ousted democratically elected socialist president Salvador Allende replacing him with dictator Augusto Pinochet. Privatization of education that ensued led to the student uprisings in Chile. Other Latin American countries followed as with Mexico’s approval of NAFTA grade agreement that resulted in wage reduction and increased cost of living.

Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher operated under neoliberal principles of deregulation in the 1980s, formulated in the “Washington Consensus” of 1989. It advocated deregulation, liberalization and privatization.  President Ragan’s “trickle-down” economics was the neoliberal belief that unfettered ability to get rich will generate jobs for ordinary citizens. This policty is coupled with the consistent Republican effort to cut social programs that benefit the poor. The focus is on individual responsibility rather than community good. Deregulation of finance in the US led to the recession of 2007 that led to global recession and the resulting austerity programs that cut social programs. So neoliberalism is the root of the global uprisings.

Neoliberalism is imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the Inter-American Development bank, etc. They make loans to failing economies and since the 1980s imposed Structural Development Programs to reduce government debt and pay back the loans on the backs of the people. The irony is there is no free market as multi-national corporations dominate, such as Walmart driving down the price of wages and Monsanto selling GMO seeds that don’t reproduce themselves, requiring poor farmers to buy seeds each planting. Nor do these corporations create good jobs at home as they outsource jobs to sweat shops in developing countries, leading to increase in poverty and decline of the middle class in countries like the US and UK. They use up nonrenewable resources like fossil fuels and forests in their intent to make profits, hiring pseudo-scientists to be climate change deniers. Fighting to control these scarce resources has lead to non-stop wars in the Middle East. Wars also earn profits for suppliers; Vice-President Dick Cheney’s Halliburton (he was CEO and Chairman until 2000) made over $39 billion on the Iraq War.[i]


[i] Angelo Young, “Cheney’s Halliburton Made $39.5 Billion on Iraq War,” International Business Times, March 13, 2013.

http://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/308-12/16561-focus-cheneys-halliburton-made-395-billion-on-iraq-war

A Vietnamese Teenage Girl Compares Generations and Cultures, studying in the US

I think the rebellious nature is not always due to the lack of listening, but also the ego that gets hurt easily. In the past, when I was about to do something that I was aware of its benefit on my life, say spending less time on social network, and if an adult criticized me or just reminded me to do it, I would choose not to, or even hate the idea and do the opposite. I just felt like they didn’t really think that I was mature enough to be aware of what was good for my life. I realize it also happened the same way with my friends. I wonder if this is what our teenage brains are born to go through before it becomes fully mature. I don’t think that the adults meant to be bossy because I notice that it is natural to speak with some degree of authority/experience towards someone younger. I even sometimes unconsciously speak to my younger cousin in a somewhat didactic way until I become conscious of it and stop.

Also, I haven’t seen anyone mention about adult’s habit of comparing their children and students to another. This really kills one’s confidence and dream as mentioned in the chapter, and I have seen it happens to many of my friends from Vietnam and China. Besides, I don’t think it is right to tell the youth cliché such as “When you’re young, you always think that you’re right” or “When you’re young, you feel like you will never die”. Although these might be for good intention, they hurt our ego and deepen the gaps between generations. Just let time and mistakes eventually open our eyes.

On the other hand, I imagine how it would feel like to be my parents. Teenagers complained about generation gap, but I realize that we should also look at ourselves. We have moved too fast and left the adults out in our rapid transformation and monthly update of technologies. Even young people like us have troubles when updating our computers to Microsoft 2010, then is it too much to expect our parents who lived through the time when computers were as big as rooms to catch up with things like Facebook?  I remember sitting in the car with my parents and brother as we went to the countryside for vacation. My brother and I both plugged our ears with earphones of our devices, leaving our parents sitting silently in the front seats. And I was surprised by my own questions: Then what’s the point of this vacation? Wasn’t vacation a time for family member to connect with each other more?  I wonder how can we expect to be understood if we do not spend enough time with each other.

Regarding materialism among youths, not only does media, but the way adults influence their children also adds to it. In some families where parents are constantly absence due to work leave an impression on their children that making money is the first priority. In some cases, parents’ expectation in their children’s career implies the desire for material gain. For example, many parents in my country instead of asking “Why do you like journalism?” will ask “What can you do with that degree? How much will you earn afterwards?” They suggest careers based on the amount of salaries earn (like what Lily, the other Vietnamese girl, said about choosing a finance career in the Generation Gap chapter). I think this is due to the difference in the environment that we grew up in. For our parents, their lack of material in the past makes having a stable financial life a priority. Yet, for us, thanks to the gradual improvement in the economy of my country (which sometimes we take for granted), we tend to think about what fills our hearts, not just what fills our stomachs.

Besides materialism, I think media also leads to the need for attention. In my country, some girls show off their fashion styles, attractive bodies and relationships just to be called “hotgirl”, leading to many other girls trying the same way to earn the deceptive feeling of being admired. Recently, I have decided to deactivate my Facebook because it has led me into other’s life, but only on the surface. I got to know a person from their gorgeous, stylish photos and the status that reveals the happy sides of their life or relationships. I would confess that it did lead me to compare myself to others and felt being left behind. It created an unnecessary need to upload my photos and keep my page updated as if I were very famous. Yet, I realized it was a time-consuming illusion. Also, it creates a time-consuming habit of checking the latest image of others’ latest pictures or status – something that I don’t think necessarily better a relationship. I’m not saying that social network is bad, but it does lead some to abandon the quality of real life for the quality of an unreal one on the Internet.

I’m not sure if you have mentioned this in other chapters, but besides Americanization, there is another wave of Korean pop culture that strongly penetrates lives in many countries, especially in Asia. Many girls in my country and in China, as I have seen from my Chinese friends in US high schools, chase after Korean singer’s fashion style, latest dance, songs, movies and even speak Korean in their conversations. To be honest, after having lived in the US, I realize that it is actually girls from the middle-class families in Asian countries that are more fanatic about appearance and fashion. If here in the US, for most people that I have seen clothes are meant to be comfortable or fit the situation. In some parts of Asia, especially those with recent economic boom, clothes and make-up are meant to be trendy and make you look either elegant or “cute” due to the typical images and standards from Korean pop culture. In my countries, even girls in the countryside pursue the image of a fashion icon on social network because unlike in the US, fashionable fake brand names are so cheap to buy there.

Regarding modern and traditional values, I see a lot more freedom of expression among teenagers in my country. They are less afraid to show their interests, achievements, relationships or ideas. However, these expressions are sometimes called “Westernized” with a negative connotation and not accepted by previous generations. Premarital sex and teen pregnancy and abortion have become issues for debate in my country. The adults criticize girls for being too open-minded and blame it on the “Westernized” thoughts resulted from movies, music and youths studying abroad (like me). Yet, what infuriated me is that only the girls are blamed, and that their values are judged based on a physical condition. It is not the girls’ fault, but the tradition that has made open discussion about safe sex impossible in most families. And when traditional values hinder us, we find a more dangerous way to get away. According to statistics (probably by Google, I’m not certain), Vietnam is among the countries that have the highest number of search for pornography sites. Therefore, we cannot blame if tradition or modernity rotten a generation, but the clash between the two that leave us directionless.

For the most part, I agree that some traditional values should be maintained despite modern values, such as respect for the elders and teachers. I still believe that respect maintain social stability and lead to equality. I think the hardest part is realizing where the balance point is, where respect becomes dependence and obedience or where actively attacking a viewpoint becomes disrespect.

Yet, one thing that I find contradict is that even though my generation is influenced by materialism, we are not less concerned about our community. I actually see more and more people about my age being so committed to helping others and saving the Earth. Concerns for community does not have to be knowing your neighbor, activities inside your school only, but caring for people somewhere else in the world that we have never been to. Some might say, “Why don’t you care for the community that you live in first?” Yet, it is the same as asking selfishly “Why don’t you care for yourself first?” if we regard one small community an individual. This is the difference that the Internet and globalization has brought to my generation. We spread our concerns to other places that might be unrelated to us. Not only do I see this in the US, but gradually in my country when youths take charge of projects for selfless purposes.

 

 

What should youth sociologists studY

Youth sociology will inevitably and increasingly be sociology of social change, a sociology of the future, and concern for the environment, according to Australian scholar Rob White.[i] Everyone is impacted by climate change, which White reminds us is the most pressing issue facing the world. It will influence youth identities such as becoming stigmatized migrants or hopeless victims due to climate change in the Global South, youth transitions to adulthood such as the possibility of working in new green-collar jobs, and youth subcultures such as youth organizing against environmental degradation by the wealthy. White points out that recent sociology of youth points out that youth identity is complex, malleable, multiple and hybrid. The news may focus on youth in terms of  “moral panic” as they migrate to safer lands because the “criminality of youth is touted as a major social problem.”

In developed countries like Australia studies show that young people care about the environment but many feel helpless about being changemakers, undermining belief in their social identity as activists. Youth identities are being shaped by global extremes between poverty and natural disasters in contrast to. media coverage of wealthy celebrities and instant gratification as when the young Indian hero of the film Slumdog Millionaire rises from enslavement to the wealth that comes from winning a TV game show. And of course their local community, family, friends, etc shape youth identity. White concludes, “Globalization is inherent and central to all these problems. This means a return to the grand old days of sociology, when the totality of humanity was explicitly of concern.” Scholars ignore climate change at our peril.


[i] Rob White. Climate Change, Uncertain Futures and the Socioloy of Youth. Youth Studies Australia. Vol. 30, No. 3, 2011.

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