New agenda for students: ‘When I see injustice, I can’t help but react’

«We’re realists. We demand the impossible,» was the slogan of the May 1968 uprising in Paris. Do young people still demand the impossible, or are they just spectators? The recent anti-war fervor and indignation of Greek youngsters found expression on the streets, in the schoolrooms, students’ organizations and in student elections. It subverted the image of an indifferent, apolitical youth. Major social problems, which also concern young people, are back on the students’ agendas, and dialogue has restarted on the great issues of peace, social justice and solidarity. Greek students have again become a lively part of society, a society that undertakes responsibility, protests, condemns and, above all, demands the right to dream. Student participation both in the elections and in the anti-war mobilization represents a very positive move by students toward politics, says Athens University student Iphigenia Vardoulaki. «Our reaction was a loud message. In the past there were occasions when students reacted en masse, but I can’t recall us getting involved to such a large extent in social causes. I believe this will continue, because the situation in the Middle East will not be normalized soon. I was impressed by the number of pupils in the marches. Though I don’t have any special relationship with politics, I’m not actively involved, I make sure I am informed about major issues and when I see injustice I can’t help but react.» Couch potatoes are out of style and the street has become important again. «The war undoubtedly affected the student movement,» says Yiannis Moraitis, 25, who is in his final year of theater studies. But he believes the recent engagement with politics is partly a matter of fashion. «I’m a bit pessimistic. I think it may be an outburst by young people that has been boosted to a large extent by the media, and that it will gradually recede and settle down.» For better or for worse, political action by Greek students was sparked off by the war in Iraq and was expressed as an outcry against it. Whether their strong participation in the anti-war movement broadens into a more militant mood and engagement with political events remains to be seen. What is certain is that young people have found a way of showing their interest in politics, that they are not apathetic after all, and that they are turning their backs on what the politicians offer them – empty words, hypocrisy, bribery, entangled interests, the lack of real opposition and the absence of a vision for the future. Students themselves, talking to Kathimerini, declare they feel more active than ever. They feel they are in step with a pluralist international social movement. They condemn the cliental relations among student organizations, large political parties and professors, and they reject the notion that young people are only interested in money. «I don’t belong to any political party, but I’m interested in political developments,» architecture student Giorgos Papazogkou told Kathimerini. «I feel like an active student. Traditionally, of course, the student community in my faculty exhibited intense political interest and a large number of students used to turn up to meetings, compared with other faculties, where that doesn’t happen any more. On the other hand, though, I think it’s immature to join parties, because they are usually led by the major parties and Parliament. Of course, those who join get certain ‘assistance’ in the academic progress, but that isn’t something that attracts me. But I’m glad when I see that students are adopting a critical stance on party statements, and when they become aware of major social issues or great crises, like collecting humanitarian aid for the Iraqi people,» concluded 21-year-old Giorgos.