Don't Trust Anyone Over Forty – A Brief Report on How the Youth are Making a Change in the November 2015 Protests For Colectiv and Against Corruption and Abuses

“When Nixon resigned in August 1974, we were onstage at the Roosevelt Raceway in New York, in front of 60,000 people. We had a TV backstage. ‘Guess what, folks? He’s gone!’ we announced. We didn’t have to say who, everyone knew. Huge cheers erupted.” – Graham Nash on Richard Nixon’s resignation, which took place during the 1974 tour of Crosby, Stills and Nash

 

On the evening of November 4th 2015 I have had the unique opportunity to be amongst the approximately 35.000 people from Piața Universității, Bucharest who protested against the corrupt political establishment and made a display of solidarity and compassion for the unfortunate victims of the Colectiv nightclub incident.  The manifestation itself was a very Rousseaunian outburst which brought together concerned citizens whose ideological standpoints, values and religious views were strikingly diverse and divergent: some of them demanded for an increase in healthcare spendings (and, consequently, a decrease in spendings related to the Orthodox Church), others were very vocal about the possibility of resetting the current political scene through a mass resignation on behalf of the members of parliament or a complete parliamentary dissolution (which, constitutionally speaking, can only occur if the President doesn’t get a vote of confidence from Parliament within 60 days in order to form a new government, and has at least two requests rejected), more radical Orthodox Church critics have demanded for the religious institutions to pay taxes and wanted its Patriarch to resign,  whilst more eccentric protesters have attacked the previous and current Romanian heads of state (in an attempt to undo the public canonization of Traian Băsescu and hold incumbent president Klaus Iohannis equally accountable for the deaths that took place on Friday, October 30th 2015, in Colectiv nightclub). Contrary to my expectations, the event was not even close to a celebration of the resignation of Prime Minister Victor Ponta – on the contrary, it felt like a demonstration of popular strength which faces off against any oppressive authority that undermines fundamental and universal human values. Though the demands were more vague and less precise than the evening before, the statement of standing ground was just as powerful.

However, critics might argue that the only noticeable volonté générale consisted of the many contrasting moments of chants and silence in memory of the tragedy that took place only 5 days before. Otherwise, the whole movement seemed disorganized and chaotic – and not just in terms of a common ethos, as groups of protesters were scattering around the different areas between Piața Universității and The Palance of Parliament, while certain individuals were talking about mass maneuvers of manipulation and diversion.

But regardless the way in which the protesters have moved around the city center of Bucharest (there were even rumors about a group going to the Romanian Patriarchy), one pattern has been clearly established: the protest belonged to an assembly of civilized, respectful, well-educated and non-violent young people who have somehow managed to leave all the differences aside in order to get together for a greater purpose. The sight of anyone older than forty was not a common occurrence, as the youngsters were leading the way both in ideological and logistical terms. From my point of view, it resembled the establishment of a consensus according to which the new generation is taking over political activism by showing more interest and more involvement in the affairs – and it is all a part of the heritage and moral duty that was taken from those who are older than forty and have participated the more violent movements that took place during the Romanian Revolution and in the subsequent years.

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During the nearly 4 hours I spent along with the young, dynamic and perpetually-expanding crowd, we took a walk from Piața Universității to the Palace of Parliament, stopped at Piața Unirii on the way back, then returned for a louder and more intense gathering at Piața Universității. If the idea that a protest has caused the resignation of the head of the executive has made me think of the Watergate Scandal from the United States of America, the ethos of the crowd has reminded me of the notions I’ve read about the Free Speech Movement from Berkeley University, California. Jack Weinberg has famously coined the term “Don’t trust anyone over thirty” in order to designate a state in which the young are trying to take over the establishment and come up with their own rules and values. Similarly, it was the youth who led the crowd and have created a series of historic political movements that distinguish themselves through the peaceful means, strong ideological stance against corruption, and solidarity for those who were unfortunate enough to pay with their lives in a tragedy for which administrative errors and failed legislative implementations are primordial bearers of blame. Furthermore, as the protest movements progress, the demands seem to increase from one day to the other and, consequently, the movements do not show signs or tendencies to cease anytime soon. That is exactly why, based on the experiences I have had as a participant, I can affirm that the new slogan of the young and bold concerned citizens is “Don’t trust anyone over forty”.

 

 

 

Sources:

Graham Nash Article on Richard Nixon’s Resignation: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/event/article-2418626/Graham-Nash-Come-house-Ill-care-Graham-Nash-Joni-Mitchell-Crosby-Stills.html

The Constitution of Romania, Article 89, Available at: http://www.cdep.ro/pls/dic/site.page?id=371&idl=2&par1=3

Jack Weinberg, “Don’t trust anyone over thirty”, Available at: http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2000-04-06/article/759?headline=Don-t-trust-anyone-over-30-unless-it-s-Jack-Weinberg–Daily-Planet-Staff

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