Red Lily in Latvia? Hardly 13

In the beginning of this year, one of my favourite commentators, Timothy Garton Ash, was asked by Guardian weekly what he expected from 2009. In his opinion, this year Europe can expect the public emergence of a new youth leader, 'Red Lily', a female student who would become to the youth protests of 2009 the same that Red Danny, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, had been to the student protests of 1968.

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Indeed, the examples of Greece and, since yesterday, Latvia, show that Europe is ripe for mass protests. And indeed, young people have less to lose and more to gain by protesting against a political and economic system where those with less access to the gears of power have to foot the bill of the economy in crisis, while those with private access to government ears and government funds run away unscathed. In Greece, young people who had little to expect from the existing order of things were called Generation 700 (according to the average monthly salary they get, about 700 EUR). In Latvia, one could recently call them Generation Ireland, as many chose the exit strategy of looking for a better life elsewhere. Now, however, there is no need for them even in Ireland. And they have had ample proof, in recent years, that the government at home has no need of them either.

And yet Red Lily is nowhere to be seen. Yesterday night on Latvian TV one could see young men (and sometimes young women) shouting rude slogans, throwing paving stones at policemen and attacking shops and cars (the same as in Paris 1968, I suppose), but nothing like a counter-culture intellectual leader emerging from the crowds. Possibly, the current political elite has long found a way to sidetrack protest from educated young people by co-opting them to try seemingly high-flying careers in party youth organisations (where they can start by venting all frustrations through anonymous Internet comments directed against the ruling coalition's opponents). Or possibly, they know better than put their future career and personal security at stake by mixing with angry young representatives of the proletariat. One can congratulate them on their survival instinct, but not on their chances to become Europe's leaders of the future. Because apart from throwing bricks and breaking shop windows, there are many less desctructive but fairly effective ways of saying "Enough" to the political elite. And so far, I have not seen a single creative initiative aimed at large-scale societal change that would come from Latvia's students. With an extremely high proportion of students among the pupulation, it is rather a pity.

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Komentāri (13) secība: augoša / dilstoša

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Kinza> ml 16.01.2009 17:38
PS I forgot the most important and obvious one: VOTE in elections (something many young people apparently are reluctant to do)

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Kinza > ml 15.01.2009 13:10
A few ideas off-the-cuff of how to be active and involved:

1. Be aware and informed about what's going on. I've heard so many times from young people "I'm so not interested in politics, corruption and all that, I don't want to hear anything about it". How can you expect people to be active if they even can't be bothered to pay attention to what's going on in their country?

2. Express your opinion publicly: for example, write an opinion piece in your blog/school paper/university paper/regional paper/"Diena"/politika.lv!

3. Express your opinion directly to politicians: write them a letter/email, or give them a call, or arrange a meeting.

4. Join a non-governmental organisation or an informal group of other young people with similar views or values, and think of a plan together of what you'd like to to to change things.

5. Support an event (demonstration) on a cause that you agree with by showing up personally, taking along friends/family, donating to the organizers.

6. Support with a donation or voluntary work a non-governmental organisation of you choice where dedicated experts fight for the cause at a professional level.

7. Establish your own group/organisation to achieve your goals

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Gmorg 15.01.2009 12:48
All of us are in the same boat, so it's stupid to point fingers. Most probably Latvia's students will not come with ideas about - how to solve all this shit, made by corrupted till core politicians. Actually this is the best ground ever for very unpleasant radical mood. That what happened on 13th of January wasn't even a riot yet. It was not the nation who were trying to make some noise, but bunch of airheads form different political youth organization. Real shit will come down when riots will be started by the nation. And somehow it feels, that politicians are on the way to make it come true.
It's a pity that in between all those hordes of politicians are no leaders who could act at least as a responsible persons who are not worried just about their own wealth and business.
When corruption of the people in charge are not even hidden, but average citizens of LR are depressed because of ruined economical situation and there is still no hope that everything will be at least close normal - it is not a big deal, that more and more violent acts will come up again and again.
And if government will chose to fight with the consequences made by their irresponsible attitude and not with the root of this disaster - all of us will fail and fall into deep abyss of submission. With fighting the root of this disaster I mean that they must put all efforts towards support of manufacturing and very sever and instant trials of the corrupted persons. Few thousand folks have to go to prison very soon!! This is what nation wants. Justice and all efforts towards prosperity.
It cannot be done by students. That would be very naive to wait something form them. And this is the worst time for naive hopes.

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ml 15.01.2009 12:28
of course, I'm not saying students shouldn't come up with their ideas...just the style author is writing is a bit frustraiting..it's not cool to critisize without giving any ideas how to change the situation, so that the dialog can begin...otherwise, what are we talking here about???

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Gatis 15.01.2009 11:31
Young students here in Latvia constitute an organic part of corrupt, decaying society. Even more - current protests against government/parliament is just a wish to change a thin and heavily damaged layer of larger body of cancer - otherwise the world will see that everything under it has decayed as well.
During that unhappy unrest of 13th January people felt power for a short while. Symbolically they used it to loot the shops. Someday they will come at power - but alas, nothing will change, because they are the same, as the current politicians.

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Līva 15.01.2009 11:26
To tell the truth, I have not seen a single creative initiative aimed at large-scale societal change that would come from any other class of citizens, either. The current students have grown up in the world where their parents idolise the "Singing revolution" and see protests as the highest and holiest form of social participation. No matter that political systems have changed and now there are more effective and reasonable ways of participation, the society still sees The Protest as the only one.

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Alise 15.01.2009 10:56
I suppose that students (and young people at all)do not believe in option that they can change something. It’s clear that behind the political scene we should deel with extreemly powerful persons and their political and economical interests.

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Pēteris 14.01.2009 20:24
I suppose one of the explanations for such passivity from some educated students could be framing the protest against the government in the terms of "class", as Maria seems to do. Latvia does not have the political context where appealing to one's class could mobilize masses. Therefore to speak about proletariat is useless. Frame the social struggle in terms which are more inclusive, think out of the box - and who knows, maybe you will not only mobilize the masses, but also find a leader.

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Jaņdžs 14.01.2009 19:33
Who wants to see a Red Lily? I never heard of that one before, at least not in Latvia.

Yes, some of the young people yesterday from the so-called "proletariat" were rude. But their parents were MF (or MR or MS--have your pick, it comes to the same thing) and so have these young people by the current govt, one that places education among the least of its priorities. Did you expect them to be genteel?

As far college age students are concerned, I believe that I saw quite a big turnout of them yesterday. In fact, the 10,000 demonstrants stood out with their youth--young adulthood. I suspect that in the future, they may take a more active role than just shout for the Saeima to resign and vote with their presence. Yes, they were genteel, when they should have been rude.

I have been suggesting that it would have been quite a sight if the 10,000 + would have been asked by some speaker on the podium to go down on their knees and pray for Latvia. An effective speaker could have accomplished this form of non-violent direct act. If you do not like this act, join some action committee and make a better suggestion.

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Andrejs 14.01.2009 17:56
Mūsdienu studentiem ir nežēlīgi jāmācās. Ja vien viņu karjeras stratēģija nebalstās uz авось/небось/как-нибудь, izbraukšanu no valsts vai kontaktiem ietekmīgās aprindās. Vilkt kādas paralēles ar 60-tajiem gadiem, protams, var - bet tagad ir pavisam cits laikmets. Pasaulē ir daudz tālāk gājusi globalizācija. Ja jaunietis vēlas nodarboties ar programmēšanu, grāmatvedību vai jebkuru citu darbu - ir jārēķinās, ka būs jākonkurē algu ziņā ar indiešiem un ķīniešiem.

Arvien pieaug ārpakalpojumu daudzveidība. Ja izrādīsies, ka Filipīnās dzīvojošas meitenes māk labāk un lētāk veikt grāmatvedības pakalpojumus (ieskaitot Eiropas valodu prasmes), tad drīz vien Latvijas uzņēmumos aptrūks darba vietu latviešu grāmatvedēm.

Ja runājam konkrēti par "Red Lilly" (t.i. jaunām sievietēm, kuras izvirza un enerģiski bīda uz priekšu jauniešu problēmu risināšanu), tad ir tāda Latvijas Jaunatnes padomes pārstāve, kuras vārds ir Eva Ikstena. Viņai ir gluži labas iemaņas nodibināt kontaktus; pacelt un risināt kaut kādas jauniešiem raksturīgas problēmas.

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strenga.lv 14.01.2009 16:59
I agree with You Maria, Latvian students are not active enough. Students-- young, intelectually developed, skilled and ambitious people are not taking their part in the Latvia's political life and are observing quitely as Latvia's government cuts 25% of higher education budget. It is irresponsible.

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Kinza> ml 14.01.2009 15:56
Why is it that the young people need to be told what to do?! Why can't they get their act together, THINK and decide for themselves what is an appropriate for of protest?! Why do they expect some sort of a guidance instead of taking own initiative?! WHY?!

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ml 14.01.2009 15:37
please, you have all the rights to give a suggestion for less desctructive but fairly effective way of saying "Enough" to the political elite!!!! it's easy to criticize...

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