Monthly Archives: May 2014

Scholars Neglect Youth Activism

A scan of the Journal of Youth Studies from 2011 found only 26 titles on youth activism or political attitudes out of 224 articles and 10 of the titles were about youth attitudes towards traditional politics. [i] Amazingly, not one article was about the uprisings of 2011 to 2014 discussed in this book. A similar search of the Journal of Adolescence found only one issue on political engagement but not rebellions (June 2012), with no other such articles in other issues.[ii] An online journal called Interface: A Journal For and About Social Movements and an online magazine ROAR do provide current information but not specifically about youth.

Going through the Journal of Youth Studies from 2011 to the present didn’t turn up one article on the recent global uprisings, as discussed in Chapter 2 and 3. Other books describe the characteristics of American youth—many of the books about Generation Y are how to manage them in the US workforce, so this book focuses on other countries where most young people live. However, much of the generational research is done in the US and the UK. Psychologist Jeffrey Jensen Arnett points out that the study of adolescence began in the US early in the 20th century and the study of US adolescents still dominates the field.[iii] He reports that most of the scholarly journals devoted to this age group 10 to 25 are mostly from the US with an occasional European researcher. The Journal of Youth Studies found studies in Canada, Australia, Germany and Sweden, as well as the US and the UK.

Most of the academic books on global youth are anthologies of specialized ethnographies about small groups of young people in various regions without much connection between chapters. For example one such book includes chapters on Thai makeup saleswomen, former child soldiers in Sierra Leone, Latino use of political graphic art, a Sri Lankan refugee, etc. Searching through 15 pages of books listed under “global youth,” I found anthologies, youth ministry, how to market to youth, deviant behavior, by country (such as youth in China), or unemployment, but no overviews of global youth activism. The only books specifically about youth and the recent uprisings are Alcinda Honwana, Youth and Revolution in Tunisia, 2013 and Ahmed Tohamy Abdelhay. Youth Activism in Egypt: Islamism, Political Protest and Revolution, 2015 ($104).             Three books published from 2012 to 2014 cover the global uprisings but not with analysis of the role of young people: Paul Mason, Why It’s Still Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions; an anthology by Anya Schiffrin and Eamon Kircher-Allen, From Cairo to Wall Street: Voices From the Global Spring including activists in their 20s and 30s; and an Internet ebook by Werner Puschra and Sara Burke, eds., The Future We the People Need: Voices from New Social Movements, also about various ages of activists. They wrote another pertinent book available online, World Protests 2006-2013. The latest book is They Can’t Represent us! Reinventing Democracy from Greece to Occupy by Marina Sitrin and Dario Azzellini.

Two books interviewed urban youth activists in the Americas before the global uprisings: Jessica Taft, Rebel Girls: Youth Activism and Social Change Across the Americas, 2010, and Maria De Los Angeles Torres, Irrene Rizzini, and Norma Del Rio, Citizens in the Present: Youth Civic Engagement in the Americas, 2013. Taft reported in Rebel Girls that, “Despite their activism, girls are rarely considered and written about as significant political actors. They appear but do not speak.” They’re left out of academic research on girls’ studies and on youth movements. Taft says that the focus is on college students rather than teenagers. I advocate that researchers change the common practice of ignoring youth or presuming to speak for them without including their voices.



Following are the topics and date posted online: Greek youth’s protests in 2008 (January 2011), theories of youth resistance (June 2012), Canadian youth activism for people with disabilities (June 2012), a student occupation of their university in 2010 (November 2012), University of Ottawa students’ political engagement (June 2012), youth involvement in politics in Scotland (June 2012), How to involve young Canadian women in provincial public police development (August 2012), Peruvian youth activism for sexual health (November 2012), Spanish youths’ attitudes towards politics—based on interviews (November 2012), British youth’s political participation (September 2013), Australian girls’ attitudes towards women leaders (January 2013), youth protests in Africa (march 2013), Australian teens political interests (May 2013), young men’s political participation in an English town (September 2013), influences on British youth’s political participation (September 2013), theories of youth agency (September 2013).


[iii] Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, ed. Adolescent Psychology Around the World. Psychology Press, 2012, p. IX.

What do “Girls” and “Silicon Valley” TV shows say about young adults?

An HBO series about four young women several years out of college, inspired by Sex in the City (1998 to 2004), Girls (began in 2012) strengthens the narcissistic side of the debate, a devolution away from the confidence and humor of the older friends show. (Another spin off of Sex in the City by the same writer was a prequel launched in 2012 called The Carrie Diaries about the fashionable star as a high school student in the early 1980s.) The creator and writer of Girls and lead actor, Lena Dunham, stated in an NPR radio interview, “each character is a piece of me or someone close to me.”[i] Dunham described the character she plays as a brat who usually makes the wrong decisions, as when Hannah bombs a job interview by making a joke that the rape rate went up after the interviewer entered his university and drinks opium tea and then passes out while trying to convince her parents to continue supporting her two years after graduation. The narcissistic wrong decisions continue in Season 3 when Hannah gets fired from a writing job at GQ magazine and springs news on Adam just before his Broadway debut as an actor that she may leave NYC, Shoshanna fails a college class so she can’t graduate, Marnie has sex with Shoshanna’s ex-boyfriend (who Shoshanna wants back) and flirts with a musician who is in a committed relationship. Hannah says the last four years of her life were “a total wash.” More examples of self-absorbed and foolish characters from Girls are on the book website.[ii]

Another HBO series that began in 2014 features equally self-involved men about the same age as Girls. Three techie geeks live in Silicon Valley in the “Hacker Hostel” home of a more experienced app creator, Erlich, who gets 10% of what his tenants sell. Jared, another partner in their startup Pied Piper lives elsewhere. Erlich is arrogant and insulting. The guys are socially awkward, struggle with masculinity, amazed if a dozen girls show up at a party and that they always end up together at one side of the room. Only one of them has a girlfriend. Richard programmed the algorithm that created Pied Piper; he has anxiety attacks and vomits. One woman is an assistant to her boss, but we don’t see other employed women. Youth is valued: the guys call in a high school boy to help them with their cloud technology. He scornfully asks how old Richard is, as if 25 if over the hill. The teen relies on the ADHD drug Adderall to stay alert, and says half the kids in Palo Alto are similar. To keep him going, Erlich threatens to kill a boy’s mother unless he gets six pills and he complies. Another value is “disruption,” the theme of a conference on the show. Shows are available online.[iii]

A similar focus on foolish buddies who have recently graduated from college, a popular Indian film called Dill Chatham Hay (2001) tells the story of their relationships with each other and with the women in their life. Twelve years later, some Indian Speak Out students mentioned to me they wanted to change their Chita Hay attitude, meaning being too carefree and irresponsible. The three friends live with their wealthy parents in Mumbai and are respectful to elders. The most sensitive of the guys, painter Siddhartha falls in love with Tara, an older divorced alcoholic woman, although it’s impossible to show their love because of their families. She tells him, “The trouble with your generation is they think anything is possible.”

In the usual Bollywood style the friends dance with lots of hip trusts and sing: “We are unaware of fear” and “Our paths are full of glory” as they reach for the stars. In a more realistic vein, the lyrics also note, “Everyone seems to be lost,” and “We’re a little crazy.” Also typical of Bollywood films, we don’t see any physical contact between men and women, but the guys hug each other. Akashi limits his romances to two weeks because he doesn’t believe in love—until he did fall in love but risked losing her to another man because of his reluctance to act. Samper is foolishly romantic, often falling in love as with a Western girl who robs him while the guys are on vacation in Goa. He next falls in love with a girl his parents introduce him to for an arranged marriage. The pair initially agreed they wanted a love marriage and were not going to have an arranged marriage to each other. After Tara dies of liver failure, Sid meets a woman at a Goa reunion two years later and all three guys are shown eating in a restaurant with their girlfriends, presumably ready to begin responsible adult life.

The US and Indian film characters illustrate Professor Jeffrey Jensen Arnett’s description of a new emerging life stage in between adolescence and adulthood, as when Dunham said about her Girls characters, “There’s no such thing as age-appropriate behavior.” When Jenna got married, Hannah asked her, “Do you feel like a real adult now?” Like the character she plays, Dunham is dependent on her parents—living with them half the time. Another character, Ray, observed, “its not adult life if your parents still pay for your Blackberry.”





What 80,000 Indian youth want their government to do

Voice of Youth, Youth Ki Awaaz, claims to be the largest online voice for youth. In preparation for national elections, it collected over 80,000 “demands” from diverse young people summarized in the unManifesto in March 2014.[i] The goals were delivered to over 100 politicians. The priorities, in this order were: Mandate youth participation in democratic processes with quotas for youth and women politicians and fining non-voters, make education relevant and spend 7% of GDP on education, ensure the safety and dignity of women as by reserving one third of police forces for women and providing clean public toilets, create viable employment for all including vocational training and special jobs for rural youth, government transparency, reform health care as with free health care in rural areas and safe drinking water, improve infrastructure with access to electricity and public transport, improve the environment, and improve the safety of sex workers and transgendered people, and stem urban migration by improving farming practices.



Global Youth Culture

See for photos and a video presentation about global youth.


Global Youth Culture

*[photo of Joa] I’d like to start our exploration of the global youth community with this photograph. Then we’ll explore four questions.

1. Where do you think this teenager lives?


For the last 8 years, I’ve traveled around the world doing research for a book on how global youth are transforming our future, collecting over 4,000 responses to the book questions from 80 countries. I stayed with families in Brazil, China, Cuba, Egypt, England, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Switzerland and Tanzania.


1. Is there a global youth community?

I was surprised to discover an urban youth culture that transcends national boundaries. Because of electronic communication unique to their generation, youth share music, slang, clothing styles, and values as Jao illustrates and Maham, a Pakistani 13-year-old explains.


If youth meet from 10 different countries with different religions and backgrounds, they will have ideas in common, now that globalization is common and cultural boundaries are reducing. The habits include image consciousness, being tech savvy, living life for today, ignoring consequences of their actions, and being reactive. I feel most of them have complaints about restrictions on them or have problems with how their parents don’t get them right. I certainly do believe that there is a global youth. All the youth can stand together and fight against the differences. Maham, 13, f, Pakistan


2. What characterizes this global community?

A recent survey of 15,000 young people from 24 countries found what defines them is a sense of global community, tolerance, and a desire to share and connect.


Nini, 22, told me about the influence of the global media on her family’s activities and values in New Delhi, India, as you can see on our YouTube interview listed under TheGlobalyouth: She said,


We’ve been influenced by western culture, because of the media. Youth are not as reserved due to westernization. We have the freedom to go out and study and establish a profession, while my mother’s generation married at 20. More women are aware of women’s rights. TV shows educate and motivate women.

People then were more involved with the extended family, now we’re more nuclear family. We don’t live jointly as much, although my uncles live below us. We hardly see family because we’re so busy. My father tries to get the family together every weekend [all three young people live at home but the two in their 20s work and take classes].

We’re more money oriented, instead of values. We’re influenced by the Internet. As kids, we were more likely to go out and play and now kids use IPod and Xbox and gain weight. Little kids know the world because of the Internet. [Her observation was backed up by a recent market survey of over 4,000 kids 6 to 12 from 12 countries that found them aware of global problems like the economy and the environment.]


3. What concerns them?

*This is the largest, best educated, and healthiest generation in history. But there’s a widening gap between the rich and the poor. About 40% of the world lives on $2 a day or less, three-quarters of them in rural areas. [photo] This is Marshal, an illiterate girl in NW Pakistan. You can read an interview with her on my blog on WordPress. She has no power over her own life, only briefly met her fiancé, and says she has no fun in her life. interviewed by Hassan, a university student who teaches in the literacy program we started because of Mashal, when he asked


When have you felt most loved by someone else? Mashal replied,

 Never. My parents have not studied much so they don’t show their emotions. In fact, they don’t understand. I have never felt loved by anyone. Everyone orders me to do work for them. I just stay home, do the household chores everyday, and listen to my parents complain about food, work, money, etc.


*The economic problems facing young people, who have the highest unemployment rate world-wide, resulted in a cascade of youth-led uprisings against inequality starting in 2011: Tunisia to Egypt and Yemen, to Spain, Greece and Israel, to Chile, the US, Russia, and most recently to Turkey and Brazil. [map] Kids as young as 10 are leading reforms and you’ve probably heard of Malala, the 16-year-old champion of education for girls.


4. *How is this community of youthful changemakers different from the 1960s activists? How will they change our future?

This generation values horizontal rather than vertical organizing, pride themselves on being leaderless and are not ideological. They’re egalitarian. No radical today would say what Stokley Carmichael, head of SNCC, commented in 1964 when asked the position of women in his organization—“prone.”


*The bottom line for the global future is the environment. Rural kids I talked with don’t know about global warming, but they don’t do much to pollute. Urban youth are concerned about it, but a UN study found that like us, they haven’t gotten that our lifestyles need to fundamentally change. The Dalai Lama said the world will be saved by Western women, but I’d change that to global youth because of their access to information and their ability to quickly organize large groups of peers.


If this topic interests you, I can email you a draft of the book. And let me know if you know youth who’d like to be included. My email is

Protests in Thailand


In Thailand, between 1968 and 1973, thousands of students were joined by workers and other citizens to protest the military dictatorship. The student uprising ousted the military dictatorship of Thanom Kittikachorm in 1973 when public outrage about police violence against demonstrating Thammasat University students led King Bhumibol to replace the dictator. On October 1973 the military brought in troops, tanks and helicopters to the university and fired on the students. Because of the outrage at murdering students, the king selected the chancellor of Thammasat University as the new prime minister. But, large labor strikes and fear of a communist take over led the king to bring Thanom back as prime minister.

On October 5, 1976, the students and workers again occupied the university to protest Thanom’s reinstatement. Another violent rampage occurred as over 100 students were killed and a new prime minister was appointed who made joining a communist group punishable with the death penalty. Elections were finally held in 2001 when wealthy Thaksin Shinawatra became Prime Minister representing the Pheu Thai Party. He was ousted in another military coup in 2006. Fearing more protests, the military allowed elections in 2011 when Thaksin’s sister was elected prime minister by a large margin. The largest protests in years were organized in November 2013, as thousands of pro-government red shirts opposed the yellow shirts who demand the ouster of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. The yellow shirts charged the government with corruption and “Thaksinocracy,” and the “dictatorship of the majority.” The V for Thailand protesters wore the Guy Fawkes masks but they are on the far right of the yellow shirts, wanting a return to rule by the monarch. They believe Yingluck’s brother, the former prime minister, controls her. The catalyst for the large demonstrations was the prime minister’s attempt to provide amnesty for her brother.

The red shirt protesters are mostly middle-class Bangkok members of the opposition Democrat Party, while the rural yellow shirts like benefits like universal health care and subsidies for rice farmers they’ve received from the government. The Several students were arrested, some killed, and hundreds injured with street rallies of more than 100,000 demonstrators. Yingluck proposed holding elections in February 2014 but the yellow shirts oppose elections because they can’t win. Instead they proposed an appointed “People’s Council” to replace the elected government, an anti-representative democracy movement. They tried to shut down Bangkok to prevent the February election. This is the only large protest movement by the 1%, although it includes poor people from Southern Thailand who feel left out from what they view as a northern party and feel Pheu Thai tries to undermine the power of the deified monarchy. Inspired by global occupations of public parks and squares, they occupied a large park in Bangkok. The government also allowed protesters to occupy some government buildings, hoping to avoid another military coup backed by the monarchy. The army previously led 11 successful coups, the last one ousting Prime minister Thaksin in 2006, so some predicted it would intervene to restore order. The Supreme Court ousted the Prime Minister in May 2014, followed by more demonstrations as her opponents wish to replace the government with an unelected council, since her party will win elections.