A social phenomenon exploded almost fifty years ago: young people began to make their voice heard and took control of the social space. Different cities witnessed the simultaneous uprising as this clamour became the visible form of the much-discussed Gasset y Ortega thesis on generational dialectics as the driving force of history with extraordinary empirical evidence on the public stage.
It was possible to live within the intense exercise of discussing what was already established on a daily basis: war, consumerism, morality and values were questioned, power itself was questioned. In short, a rejection of the status quo took place. And – what a surprise – education was debated. In fact, the generational clash was mainly based in universities and the movement’s main demand was autonomy for those educational institutions.
The effervescent youth must not have lasted more than a decade. Afterwards it went into decline and gradually disappeared, like a river getting lost in the desert without a trace only to be absorbed by the burning sands. Since then generational dialectics have ceased altogether. To clarify what happened and what were the reasons for such a sudden retreat is the job of historians or sociologists. In some places – Chile among them – the mobilisations resulted in some achievements, which were progressively swept away by the forces of the system.
So, things seemed to return to “normality” for the next fifty years and we all know very well what has happened during this long period, in which practically nothing has been questioned: the system and its customs were strengthened, globalisation ended up being made complete, until arriving at the chaotic social situation we find ourselves in today.
However, at the dawn of the 21st century, youth strength has begun to wake up; shaking itself out of a long lethargy into which it had sunk. Strangely enough, the new winds blew from the least-expected quarters: the Middle East, a place in the world that seemed perfectly controlled by the power-players of the system, given its enormous strategic and economic interest. Its transformational drive is obvious since the demands raised are not merely vengeful or sectorial in nature, but about global projects. What is wanted is a new world. It is essential to understand that once a generation gets going, it is mobilised by a profound questioning of established power and that is what is evident here: the object of its criticism is political power, for its betrayal of the people who it should represent, especially the power of the international banking system, now clearly acknowledged as being directly responsible for the majority of ailments that afflict us today.
Young people in our country have also wanted to be part of that sea change and on this issue they have given an in-depth account about the mass mobilisations of recent weeks. Once again, both the government and the opposition have been surprised. The initial demands had their origin in a sectorial problem: education, however now it has extended to other issues and what is demanded now is much more radical change because it is clearly understood that any modification of this system from within is nothing more than a temporary papering over the cracks.
Power has accused the youth movement of being *”ideologised”* – as if they themselves had no ideology! And they have resorted to all kinds of improper manoeuvres to escape from the pressure but with no results. The youth continued to mobilise, as in other parts of the world, ready to pressurise governments even forcing them to start bringing about the required changes.
This confrontation leads us to reflect on the obvious limitations of the utilitarian democracy governing us. It is assumed that rulers must do exactly what the people who elected them have empowered them to do. However, once in power, they end up doing whatever suits them while grossly manipulating reality to maintain their privileged position.
Therefore it happens when large groups get tired of waiting and break the immobilisation to demand immediate transformations, rulers become victims and try to appeal to *“good manners”*, a situation in which it is they who have not respected the agreements. Furthermore, if this *“soft”* tactic does not work, they always end up falling into the old habit of repression, whether more or less cruel, it is still repression in the end.
Within the framework of the current democratic formality, these conflicts are practically insoluble, basically because governments, however hard they try to hide it, respond to interests that in the overwhelmingly majority of cases do not coincide with those that arouse the people; and in turn, they lack the means to clearly declare their will. Deaf rulers versus mute people, this is what we call democracy today and the popular mobilisations are nothing more than the desperate attempts of these groups to make themselves heard. It is a suit that is splitting at the seams because the people have grown up and is no longer a politically illiterate mass in need of *“enlightenment”* from their leaders. The old leaders have been put on trial, even if it is difficult for them to understand this notion of social dynamic and who insist on feeding us nonsense like they did with the “End of History” theory. The youth uprising has shown undeniably that when the engine is ignited, the historic process gets back on the road immediately.
If they want to take this confrontation down that road, they must change the representational system right away to advance decidedly towards an effective and direct democracy. However, if this step is taken, politicians would lose almost all the privileges afforded to them by their position and definitely grandeur would not be part of their virtues. Therefore, the most important lesson that can be learnt in the face of the encouraging course that events have taken is that all forms of concentration of power, whether economic or political, are equally doomed because they end up turning against the people themselves. Therefore they must be avoided completely in the future, irrespective of the solutions designed to resolve the huge problems that affect us.
*Translated from Spanish by Rhona Desmond*