How do we turn the economy into Tahrir Square?
We get treated like kids with pocket money wages and pay the “poverty premium” for it. We’re cheaper to pay and easier to fire. We’ve gone from low pay to no pay. This is what we all face from Trafalgar Square to Tahrir Square, but you didn’t just go from low pay to no pay, many of you were forced to go to jail or even leave your country.
Across Europe, we’re the generation that thought we had it all until the crisis showed us our dreams were built on a house of cards. From generation Y to generation why?
You on the other hand thought you had nothing and it was your dictators whose illusions were built on a house of cards. You’ve always been in the situation we in Europe find ourselves in now. Moreover, you weren’t just easier to fire, but easier to fire on when you went to protest for your peers. And yet, you gave your country a purpose and a soul.
Shock and awe
We’re not the first generation that has faced shocks or setbacks. Unlike your situation, we have been taught we live in a society where there are no risks. It’s maybe why we find it more difficult to cope with these shocks and bounce back.
Our biggest shock has been our transition to becoming adults. For us, this isn’t just about a transition from leaving school to go to university, getting a job, then a house, then children and then a pension. It’s about a transition from expectations of getting all of those things to realising that all of these aspirations are being pulled from under our noses.
We get advice such as “you don’t get jobs by complaining, whining, going on marches or signing petitions. You get jobs by working your ass off”? I think you’ve shown us what going on marches can do!
Do you think by forcing through a transition to democracy, you’ve forced through a different type of transition to adulthood than you’d imagined, that society is ready for? How can we rethink together what kind of transition our generation wants to make to adulthood?
You’re the people we’ve been waiting for
As you can see from our situation, you might be called the “developing world” and us the “developed world”, but it feels like we’ve stopped learning, that our democracy is rolling back, that it’s “undeveloping” itself before our eyes.
So we’re looking to you. You are our “positive deviants”. Despite having much less opportunities than us, you created a movement to take back your future, you reversed the situation you were in. Now it’s time for us to join in, but first, it’s time we went in reverse. It’s time for “reverse innovation” in creating a better future. It’s time for us to learn from you.
Turning the economy into Tahrir Square
It’s the need for an economic revolution that makes our destinies intertwined so we don’t need up at the wrong end of the global supply chain. You haven’t waited years to remobilise after your revolutions, this time you’re organising to transform your economy. We’ve been sleepwalking for years, thinking that if we spent more, we’d get what we wanted. We assumed the freedom to get into debt equated to economic freedom, that we could bargain our working rights for flexible labour. Our labour market looks like Tahrir Square did before you took it over. So how do we organise together the economy like you organised Tahrir Square?
Public space is not just a metaphor for a better economy. It’s where much of this used to be and still could be played out — from the playground for children to play and learn how to interact with others to the public square where people created public goods at a very human scale — from the market to the marches. Because we have lost the power over our public spaces, they can suffocate us, from the shopping malls that isolate people into cells of consumption to the ghost town high streets that make people feel scared of young people socialising. You’ve taken back public spaces to create the most important public good — democracy.
How do you see public spaces as new spaces to organise an economy that works for local communities rather than the other way round?