An English version of a comment piece published online in Romanian on Hotnews http://www.contributors.ro/editorial/rosia-montana-o-revolta-a-diferentelor-dintre-tineri-si-batrani/ This article gained over 7,000 visitors and more than 1,100 likes on Facebook.
When I was in my 20s in London, protesting was the only way we could engage in the political process of our country. Yes it was fashionable to protest. Yes it was socialising. Yes there was an element of danger which gave us a thrill. But we did our research. We knew the subjects. Palestinian statehood? Check. Free education. Sure. Deaths of black teenagers in police custody? See you there. Afghanistan bombing. Definitely. Iraq? Meet you at 10 am in front of Costa Coffee Boutique at Charring Cross Road.
We tired out our legs walking the streets of Piccadilly and Oxford Street to rally in Trafalgar Square – the crowded, sometimes rainy, Westminster boulevards were our billboards, our home-page and our status update.
Did it work? Last month the UK voted not to bomb Syria – it was the will of the British people, expressed through Parliament.
Prime Minister David Cameron bitchily stated: “I get it.” The marching started twelve years ago. But now it reaches its destination.
But back in the 1990s, our biggest enemy was not Tony Blair and John Major, it was cynicism.
It was the attitude of the sterile mass with their ingrained opinions – firstly, that protesting does not change anything and, secondly, that young people are too stupid to have an informed voice.
This reaction, expressed through the local media to the protests against the Rosia Montana gold mine, is evident in Romania.
The middle-aged complain the young can’t articulate themselves. They don’t know what they want. They don’t want to debate. They just want to bang plastic bottles full of rocks on a kerbstone.
Most of their information comes from how the event is being framed by the media. If the presentation of an event is stupid, people will believe the event is stupid.
Everyone knows the mainstream media in Romania is absurd, but this is the best example – on the first day of this protest, hundreds of people were wanting to express their frustration with Government corruption, betrayal and mendacity.
They were jumping up and down and shouting slogans in Piata Universitatii.
But as soon as a man playing bongo drums turned up in the audience, every lens, journalist and camera-phone turned to the drums, filming the drums, and bizarrely, even the TV presenter pushed her microphone towards the canvass of the drum. Why? To interview the drums? To solicit the drums’ opinion on a Canadian Mining Project in the Apuseni mountains? How? In Morse Code?
Others attack the young for being “naive” to think that capitalism is bad. Well, if I was 22 years old, I had been studying hard for a decade, I did not have the prospect of a long-term job and financial security, the only work that paid meant ten to 12 hour days, older people employed me as an ‘intern’ for no money and a bit of sexual harassment thrown in for free, I would hate capitalism.
Middle-aged people argue that young protestors haven’t grown up. Young people (and by young, I don’t mean an age in a passport) argue back, stating, no, it’s that they haven’t grown old.
Another criticism of the protestors is that young people do not understand economic arguments. This comes from rich people in a TV studio attacking poor people on the streets. There is your argument. Wherever wealth disparity exists, one has an economic argument.
They attack the young for believing this is a revolt that exists only on Facebook. That it’s a fashion statement, which has no relevance outside a LCD display.
What is stunning about the protests is that the young people are not looking at social media.
On the streets, people are not texting, not taking pictures, not drinking, not checking how many ‘likes’ their photos receive on Facebook.
They have renounced the screen in order to partake in a committed and organised fashion in the protest. They have left their vanity at home.
New media is only a means to assemble somewhere. Yes – a few people take snaps and video and have a couple of beers, but this is not a priority.
They are talking, meeting new people, playing backgammon on a zebra crossing, biking around in circles at midnight on boulevards where motorbikes normally speed, banging drums, pots, pans and plastic bottles – this revolt in percussion is their means of political expression.
They are are occupying, debating and reclaiming a city that has shut them out for too long.