Gaza Youth Breaks Out, from Palestine, and the fenqing, or "angry youth" movement in China have rejected the whole lot of old farts who they believe are responsible for stranding them in the present. And they're not being nice about it.Two recent groups of cheesed-off kids have used online tools to circumvent both those who put them down and the creaky old activists who they believe no less authoritarian.
Gaza Youth are a group from the Strip who have taken Facebook by storm, printing a manifesto that is so uncompromising and so full of rejection not just for Israeli occupiers but the bullies and schnorrers in their own communities that reading it is like coming up for air.
Here's an excerpt from their manifesto. If you're of a sensitive disposition, well, you could probably insert your name in there somewhere.
"Fuck Hamas. Fuck Israel. Fuck Fatah. Fuck UN. Fuck UNWRA. Fuck USA! We, the youth in Gaza, are so fed up with Israel, Hamas, the occupation, the violations of human rights and the indifference of the international community! We want to scream and break this wall of silence, injustice and indifference like the Israeli F16's breaking the wall of sound; scream with all the power in our souls in order to release this immense frustration that consumes us because of this fucking situation we live in; we are like lice between two nails living a nightmare inside a nightmare, no room for hope, no space for freedom. We are sick of being caught in this political struggle; sick of coal dark nights with airplanes circling above our homes; sick of innocent farmers getting shot in the buffer zone because they are taking care of their lands; sick of bearded guys walking around with their guns abusing their power, beating up or incarcerating young people demonstrating for what they believe in; sick of the wall of shame that separates us from the rest of our country and keeps us imprisoned in a stamp-sized piece of land; sick of being portrayed as terrorists, homemade fanatics with explosives in our pockets and evil in our eyes; sick of the indifference we meet from the international community, the so-called experts in expressing concerns and drafting resolutions but cowards in enforcing anything they agree on; we are sick and tired of living a shitty life, being kept in jail by Israel, beaten up by Hamas and completely ignored by the rest of the world."
These aren't witless stone-throwers or kids who just want to rage. "We do not want to hate," they say, "we do not want to feel all of this feelings, we do not want to be victims anymore. We want three things. We want to be free. We want to be able to live a normal life. We want peace. Is that too much to ask? "
They're also smart about how they use social media to get their message out. (Their message, not the creaking, self-defeating message of their bankrupt elders.) Although they also have a blog, their primary online presence is their Facebook page, which is "liked" by almost 12,000 people so far.
As of today, however, Facebook has blocked them from uploading anything more! (Anyone who thinks social media is free by its very nature needs to have their head examined.)
"Pls consider supporting us by taking one or more of the following actions:
1) Promoting our manifesto by sharing it on your profile on Facebook
2) Sending an email to your friends asking them to like our page FB
3) Translating the manifesto to your language and sending it to us (we have it in Arabic, Hebrew, French, Portuguese, German, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Danish, Greek, Chinese, Russian, Icelandic, Norwegian, Finnish, Swedish, Estonian)
4) Sending the manifesto to journalists in your country
5) Making organizations in your countries that are concerned with the Palestinian issue and/or youth rights know about our existence
6) Posting links about violation of youth's rights in Gaza on our wall
7) Suggesting us ideas for reaching out to a greater number of people"
The Brookings Institution describes this group:
"These young men and women often use the Internet and other channels of political discourse to publicly express their critical views. Their hyper-nationalistic and often anti-American sentiments, which first emerged in the late 1990s and are widely disseminated today, stand in sharp contrast to a generation of Chinese youth just 20 years ago."
In his keynote to a Brookings conference on this topic, Kai-Fu Lee, founder of Microsoft Research Asia and founding president of Google China, described them much more completely. He has reservations about the term "angry" (as in "enraged") and prefers to highlight their passionate engagement and impatience; he also credits them with patriotism but disagrees with characterizing them as "nationalistic."
"(W)hen we talk about angry youth, I think we're talking about post- 80's, people born after 1980, that they had access to the internet, and that they often use it to vent their frustrations and that frustration often comes from either their patriotism or their desire to seek which is righteous, fair, true, and transparent. They care about social issues. They're concerned, and they feel they need to be outspoken to have their voices heard, and they often use the internet to gain knowledge and to have their voice heard."
What have angry youth done?
- Descried plagiarism among academics and set up a website to battle it
- Created a help-and-resource platform to assist people and communities crushed by the Chengdu earthquake
- Created a site to list earthquake donor levels among China's rich
- Banded together against the high-powered manager of a multinational who abused his young secretary and got him fired
These were not all positive, as any anonymous group can do things that no sensible person would do in the light of day. They set up a website to help others harass a husband whose wife committed suicide, as well as his lover and their families. They also promoted the rumor that a chain of foreign stores, Carrefour, supported Tibetan independence. People boycotted and protested and the store had to shut down countrywide until the furor died down.
Compare and Contrast
Although China is huge and Palestine small and the fenqing less coherent as a group than GYBO, both share a number of things in common. Although they love their people and their country, they're fed up with what's been done to it. They're not just at their wits end with "the enemy" but with those who have set themselves up as "the opposition." They're suspicious of authority in general. They're devoted to the truth: finding it, embracing it and sharing it, largely online. They're technically literate and impatient with common wisdom. They're young, energetic and growing.
Anyone who ignores or minimizes these groups does so at their peril. These kids are going to either rule the world or wind up in a host of unmarked graves. Anyone who believes in their right "to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield" will want to step up and get their backs.
But the members of these groups also have a part to play in ensuring they go forward in a way that ensures they don't self-destruct. The American writer Delmore Schwartz famously said, "in dreams begin responsibilities." The responsibilities of the youth in these groups is to carry the reason, empathy and desire for truth forward, even as they are powered by their anger and impatience, to translate their vision to those who aren't part of the digital world even as they acknowledge the social Web's help in defining those ideas. (Lord, I'm André Gide over here.)
These aren't the only groups like this, of course. Nor are Palestine and China the only countries with such groups. So, if you're a part of one, or know of one, in another place, speak up in the comments.