De Balie: The European Gen Z Manifesto

Dit artikel maakt deel uit van een bundel die is overhandigd aan het Europees Parlement. Lees hier meer over het project ‘The European Gen Z Manifesto’.

Dear reader,

Allow me to introduce myself. I am Dilara, currently 17 years old, and I am writing because I’m concerned. Concerned about not being heard. About being underestimated. I am worried about our future. That’s why I am writing you, youngsters. Because your ideas and opinions matter and deserve to be heard.

               Nowadays we’re often considered as ‘not grown up yet’. Take the climate change protests organized by youngsters: many adults in the Netherlands believed that these youngsters were merely protesting to skip classes, that these ‘kids’ didn’t even know why they were protesting, that they were too idealistic. But was it true? Is this eagerness for change just a phase of life, a phase of idealism, that we have to grow through? Aren’t we, adolescents, mature or realistic yet? Or was their hushing maybe a way to mute our voices?

               Do we actually have the freedom to change the world? Are we, adolescents, even allowed to give our opinion about a discrepancy between what ‘is’ and what ‘ought’? Will the adults listen? 

Let’s go back in time: November 17, 2018. A new protest movement was born in France: the yellow vest movement. We stood at the cradle of rebellion: mass demonstrations, online petitions, the blocking of roads and more. Were these protesters too optimistic? Too idealistic? Had they lost touch with the world as it was, as they were focussing on how it ought to be? 

The present-day American philosopher Susan Neiman advocates a balance between what ‘is’ on one side and what ‘ought’ on the other side: ‘’It demands that we learn the difference between is and ought without ever giving up on either one. (…)

Keeping one eye on the way the world ought to be, while never losing sight of the way it is, requires permanent, precarious balance.’’ Neiman believes that we should find a balance between merely cynicism, and pure idealism; a balance between mindlessly refusing, and mindlessly accepting.

The philosopher Hannah Arendt also emphasizes our freedom to change the world. She states that human beings have the capability to change facts, due to the ability of imagination : ‘’In order to make room for one’s own action, something that was there before must be removed or destroyed, and things as they were before are changed. Such change would be impossible if we could not (…) imagine that things might as well be different from what they actually are. (…) Without the mental freedom to deny or affirm existence (…) no action would be possible; and action is of course the very stuff politics are made of.’’

The very stuff politics are made of. 

I am eager to hear about your ideas: what is your opinion about democracy in your European country? What do you think we should do to make the democracy feel like ‘our democracy’? To fully embrace the political system in Europe? To make it a system in which we want to (and can) participate? One built on trust. How do we create a democracy in which everyone has a voice, one that will be heard? 

In the Netherlands prime-minister Mark Rutte recently said in one of the press conferences about the coronavirus measures: ‘’My colleagues and I, we find it very important that you youngsters will think with us, and talk with us about it. Because in the end, it is about your future. Your ideas and your creativity are needed right now. (…) Criticize, provided that it is constructive.’’ And: ‘‘start the revolution from below.’’

Let’s follow his appeal, shall we? Youngsters of all countries, unite.

Awaiting your ideas and letters,

Best regards,