It was the second time in the history of Council of Europe (which started more than 60-years ago, in 1949) that the Parliamentarians decided to invite almost two hundred of young people in order to give them space to work and listen to their voices. The first Youth Assembly, organized by COE on the 50th anniversary of its existence, was reviewed as a great success, and it was even reminded by one of the parliamentarians on the meeting we had with them in Hemicycle the first important message given to the ‘adults’ policymakers at that time. We were chosen from almost 700 people from all around Europe, lucky 170 people who were given such a unique chance to meet in the Youth Center with an absolutely prestigious and ambitious task of changing the world by sharing and giving an intellectual output/feedback to reality.
This time we were also asked to participate in a fruitful and breaking-trough debate, invited by Council of Europe in cooperation with European Youth Centre in Strasbourg and Parliamentary Assembly of COE. The decision was made more than a year ago, in 2011, in order to demonstrate the will and take time to prepare everything. I guess the logistic effort of the event could be comparable to mythological works, as it had to smoothly bring together to one place people from the very far ends of Europe (former Soviet countries and Iceland, we even had one exception: participant from Mexico) in the end. The whole meeting was cycling around a theme Youth democracy and the young generation sacrificed, in the circumstances of economic crisis and all kinds of other crises we are facing at the moment. We were all asked simple question, based on the topics of working groups, like youth participation, access to social rights, new media, globalization, multiculturalism, etc, what would we like to improve in the policies and policy making processes, what are the obstacles, and what we see as solutions to exercise democracy more efficiently, etc. As the meeting was combined with World Democracy Forum and we had our representatives chosen for that event, the chance was great…. And it was modest at the same time, like all the chances given by such amazing, splendid, high-level inefficient meetings. We could have had a meeting that would bring some revolutionary tips, some great thoughts, some young, fresh involvement to that completely rigid and lost system we operate in now. We could have also help the politics and parliamentarians, all of these guys being high and deciding about our future, to rescue that sinking ship. And this is what we did.
Although the people I met in the Youth Center in Strasbourg were absolutely interesting and inspiring: politicians, young activists, protagonists, travelers, dreamers with great knowledge and with fantastic stories, so the personal dimension of the Assembly can be judged as profitable and important, the intellectual work we have done was one big disappointment.
While reading the outcomes of working groups I was thinking of surprising and important things that happened in the Hemicycle: young people in presence of high representatives, even Mr. Mignon himself, very fast went out of the predictable track, getting emotional and giving very strong but important information to the parliamentarians: we want DEMOCRACY, not what you call so, we want to be listened to, we want you to DO SOMETHING, change this world, we do not want to be a sacrificed generation. That was beautiful. Those talks, very critical and far from the cliché, really pissed and demanding, close to reality, somehow vanished in a process of working on the clue points. Where and why, god knows. I was thinking also about the poor parliamentarians who gave very bad, dull, boring, full of obvious formulas speeches and were criticized by youth. That the Parliament was represented by around 7… 8 parliamentarians that day, which was such a significant information sent to us: we asked you to come, to give your voice, we want you to participate and tell us what to do, and so when the time comes, we have our politics, we have stuff to do, embrace yourselves kids! People were offended, youngsters felt disappointed that the youngest representative of CoE in the Hemicycle was rather trying to buy us in a very cheap, obvious way, to join his agenda, to be politicians in the way all of they are tem: conformists, pushers, populists, anti intellectuals. And in a while we did exactly the same. We enjoyed ourselves, our new, bright, almost neonish note to put in the CV, we had cool place to stay in a cool city, there was some free alcohol and a lot of entertainment, and a lot of COOOL people to meet, and maybe some career to be done, if you shake right hands. Ach, that is always the point.
My working group tried to prepare some resolutions for the issues of social rights. Ok, a very hard and difficult to reach problem, but we are young, clever and we do not have to stick to some realities. We can abolish them, walk above, neglect some things, be revolutionary. After two days of discussions I lost faith. All that was said, was repeated and reformulated by most of the people. It did not make a difference. It did not bring a change. It did not bring anything out of the box, although everyone saw him/herself as a completely critical and clever person. We were shaking hands, smiling nice, looking cute, repeating what we knew, not understanding that the whole problem is deep in OURSELVES. Nobody said it will be easy to step away, take some distance, understand how amazingly brainwashed we are, but we had this chance, first since 13 years, to be critical indeed. And so we thought we did it, when we simply rewrote tons of documents and treaties in short, we repeated the very well known words, magic formulas that did not work still, and demanded what is demanded already, but simply cannot be IMPOSED on the reality. Born in the beautiful ages, still not hit enough by the harsh economic crisis, given all these splendid traveling and educational opportunities, we are free from concerns, they are neutralized by our luck, we are the ones who take advantage of the system, of the bad education, of the pervasive capitalistic system who shakes the reality and turns us into desperate workers, hoping for IKEA furniture and one or two nice holiday a year. We are taught this is good from the day we are born. We are brainwashed by those who tell us there is no alternative to democracy. They tell us they know what democracy model is the best, we just do not use it properly. And if you open your eyes, you see a corrupted world, full of problems, fake ideas, fake initiatives, fake Nobel Prizes, fake freedom! Is it so hard to get a bit uncomfortable? Soon we all gonna be, just wait.
I realized there is no potential for making a difference among us… we are happy and we definitely are one of the last generations, that actually still are not completely sacrificed… So let’s repeat all the beautiful sentences and believe that some supernatural power will impose them on us somehow. We’re too clever to rebel.
Natalia Skoczylas, EVS CEIPES