Apart from the “much-beleaguered middle class” and “pensioners struggling to make ends meet,” Greece’s young people are also growing increasingly desperate and frustrated. We are talking about a generation who have already spent nearly half their lives experiencing a crisis and struggling with its effects. These are financial foremost and have a widespread impact on other interrelated aspects of life: work, family, psychological, social, political and ideological.
The results of successive surveys over the years by the Dianeosis think tank gauging what young people believe about a string of issues have led to several conclusions. To begin with, they paint a contradictory picture: On the one hand, young Greeks appear pro-European and economically and socially liberal; on the other, they thirst for job security, are not interested in taking an active role in public life and are skeptical of the political system.
Indicatively, 56.3% of young men and women aged 17-25 and 48.9% of the 25-39 contingent admit that their civic participation is limited to just voting in elections. Furthermore, 80.1% and 82.3% of those respective age groups believe that most politicians do not care about what people like them think.
Let us take a closer look at that second fact; it is, after all, one that ought to give some pause to the country’s three biggest parties as they head out of (SYRIZA) or into their party congresses (New Democracy and Movement for Change). The absence of political representation felt by young people not only undermines relationships of trust or lower expectations; it also increases the chasm between a “systemic” mentality and “anti-systemic” reactions to it. The denigration of political institutions stemming from the notion that politicians have turned their backs on the people results in indifference or, even worse, an interest in more extreme positions.
Sure, it may be in the nature of young people to be rife with contradictions, to feel anger and disappointment so strongly. But these poll findings are telling us something that goes beyond such stereotypes. They paint a picture of a political system that has become self-referential, that is growing oblivious to citizens’ real problems, and that is trapped in the same old methods of dealing with such problems.
The way forward does not lie in proclamations about insufficient salaries and rising prices, nor in recruiting young people as window dressing to appear behind political leaders in their speeches or commercials. The answer lies in putting in the work and the time to address the real problem.