Via Arts and Letters Daily comes an Atlantic essay on the causes and implications of the Greek youth and student riots. Why are they happening? Why now? And what can we expect in 2009?


“Youth unemployment is high throughout the European Union, but it is particularly high in Greece, hovering between 25 and 30 percent. With few job prospects, rampant poverty in the face of nouveau riche prosperity, a public university system in shambles, a bloated government sector in desperate need of an overhaul, and a weak, defensive conservative government with only a one-seat majority in parliament, it is a ripe period for protests…”

“The first real crack in the military regime came in November 1973, when protests at the Athens Polytechnic led to the downfall of one junta leader and the ascension of another, whose regime was toppled the next year with the reinstitution of democracy. From then on, student protests in Greece have had a particularly poignant legitimacy to them, as well as a distinctly leftist edge, laced with the left’s uniquely effective ability to question authority…”

“Yes, youth alienation in Greece is influenced by a particular local history that I’ve very briefly outlined here. But it is also influenced by sweeping international trends of uneven development, in which the uncontrolled surges and declines of capitalism have left haves and bitter have-nots, who, in Europe, often tend to be young people. And these young people now have the ability to instantaneously organize themselves through text messages and other new media…”

“Pay close attention to Greece; at a time of world-wide economic upheaval, it might eerily presage disturbances elsewhere in 2009.”