Monthly Archives: July 2014

Recent Eastern European Democracy Uprisings

The  activist group Otpor’s ouster of their corrupt president in 2000, was a model for other revolutionaries in the region and beyond to Egypt, etc. Srdja Popovic (age 25) led the Serbian group that evolved into CANVAS and continues to advise international changemakers. Otpor learned revolutionary tactics from American Gene Sharp’s 1973 book The Politics of Nonviolent Action and 1993 book From Dictatorship to Democracy about non-violent resistance (available online).[i] Popovic was also inspired by Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Lech Walesa in Poland, and the Chilean movement against dictator Pinoche demonstrating global idea exchanges in action.[ii]

Popovic was a 25-year-old leader in the Otpor student movement that drove dictator Slobodan Milosevic from power in 2000. A postmodern revolution, it worked to create a lifestyle, identity and brand, a feeling of being heroic and cool. Young men competed to see who could get arrested most often, to become celebrity stars. They used street theater and stunts that made the government look silly to generate media coverage. Young Serbians organized with images and slogans on stickers and T-shirts, banging pans from their apartments during the state radio news (a tactic used in Argentina and later in other youth-led demonstrations in Spain, Canada, Turkey, etc.). They placed women, grandmothers and veterans in front of demonstrators so police would feel less threatened. Popovic explained the essence of Sharp’s teaching was that, “The pillars of the regime support it out of fear. The moment the fear factor disappears and people are fearless with the police and hugging the military, you have lost your main pillars” or resources.

A revelation from WikiLeak’s “Global Intelligence Files” was that Popovic and his wife worked for Stratfor since 2007, a Texas global intelligence-gathering firm whose clients are large corporations and the US government.[iii] For example, Popovic went to Texas to present Stratfor with a plan for how to unseat Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez in 2010 and forwarded emails he received from activists around the world. CANVAS began to train opposition leaders in Venezuela in 2005: President Hugo Chavez called them the Coup D’Etat group. He probably was assisted by the CIA in his work to oust Milosevic in Serbia, Otpor and other opposition groups were funded by US organizations including USAID, Freedom House, and the International Republican Institute. Popovic said that all his briefing papers are public and that CANVAS doesn’t take money from governments.[iv]

Otpor was hired to apply the Serbian formula for regime change to Ukraine in 2004. An unnamed Otpor organizer explained, “We trained them in how to identify the key weaknesses in society and what people’s most pressing problems were—what might be a motivating factor for people, and above all young people, to go to the ballot box and in this way shape their own identity.” Social movement theory would say they identity weakness in the elite and citizen discontent as their main resources or assets. Thus, regime changes happened in Eastern Europe with the help of US funding.

Popovic still leads CANVAS in Belgrade. It’s also called the Revolution Academy and stresses discipline and planning in training leaders from over 59 countries. Their books are available for free download.[v] CANVAS went on to “advise groups of young people on how to take on some of the worst governments in the world–and in Georgia, Ukraine, Syria-occupied Lebanon, the Maldives, and now Egypt, those young people won.”[vi] It trained activists in Spain, Morocco, Azerbaijan, Venezuela, Cuba, Zimbabwe, Syria, Iran, Vietnam, Tibet, Bolivia, etc. CANVAS prefers to work with students because they’re idealistic and energetic. (Reporter Rosenberg describes recent CANVAS training with Burmese resistance leaders in her article cited in the previous endnote.) Within a week of the start of Occupy Wall St., Otpor activists came to New York to assist Americans. CANVAS was also involved in the 2014 Kiev uprising, as in handing out a pamphlet previously given to Egyptian activists and paying university students and unemployed Ukrainians to bus into Kiev to demonstrate. [vii] Ivana Mastilovic Jasnic accuses CANVAS of being a “revolution consultancy” for the US.[viii]

Although the USSR disintegrated in 1991, democracy hasn’t flourished in the former republics. Putin has led Russia since 1999; his current term extends to 2018. The exceptions are the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia that have fair elections and belong to NATO.


Eastern Europe 2012-2014


Poland led the largest movement in Eastern Europe in 1980 to 1981. The Solidarity Movement demanded the right to an independent trade union in the USSR and freedom of speech, mobilizing millions of people. When the USSR fell apart in 1991, the former Yugoslavia broke up into Slovenia, Macedonia, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, and Bosnia.


Hungary and Slovenia

In 2012, hundreds of thousands of Hungarians marched against undemocratic legislation, the new constitution and education budget cuts. Prime Minister Viktor Orban backed down, keeping university education free. Similar large protests occurred in Slovenia that unseated the governing coalition: A protester explained, “People simply can’t stand having corrupted politicians using people’s hard-earned money for their own corrupted interests anymore.” The demonstrators chanted, “It is enough, they are done,” similar to Egyptians telling Mubarak to leave. A transition government was headed by the first woman prime minister, Alenka Bratušek (age 43) who assumed office in 2013. Previously, workers organized strikes in 2007-2008, using direct democracy in general assemblies. Actions were planned in workshops and shared with the larger group. They occupied the square in front of the stock exchange.

The Student Network in Hungary is called HaHa, against proposed cuts in education and advocating for the homeless in a group called City is for All. The younger members were more practical than ideological, according to a student activist, Csaba Jelinek.[ix] He explained they use non-hierarchical organizing, using familiar hand signs to communicate in large groups as used globally. He edits a social science journal, Fordulat, translating leftish academic trends such as the concept of the precarious worker in post-working-class activism.

Locally, people organized district forums to influence municipal planning. In the city of Maribor, led by young people every fifth person was on the streets to get rid of their corrupt mayor. About 120 people were arrested, mostly youth. Some were given prison sentences of seven months. The forums practiced direct democracy in five self-organized assemblies, and started coop projects such as urban gardens. They defined direct democracy as not striving for consensus; those who propose an action are responsible for doing it. Some tried to force consensus statements, but this effort was rejected. They struggled with how to prevent speakers on the central stage from seeming to speak for everyone and how to make civil society out of direct democracy. Activists would like to run their own factories using the principles of self-organization.

Kosovo began a movement for more independence from neoliberal international organizations, called Levizja Vetevendosje, or the Movement for Self-Determination, in 2005. This movement does have a leader who began his activism in the student movement: Albin Kurti explained, “We think that . . .direct participatory democracy ensures a more vibrant society. Representative democracy is illegitimate, it creates alienation and limits choice. The problematizing of the issue was the initial face of our movement.”[x] The movement is known for its use of slogans and graffiti.[xi]



In Sarajevo, Bosnia, thousands of protesters occupied Parliament Square, so the Prime Minister had to escape through a back window. Protesters’ message to politicians was “You are all disgusting, no matter what ethnicity you belong to,” a reference to pitting Serbs against Bosnians. The trigger for the protests was a family couldn’t get a travel ID for their sick baby who needed medical attention outside Bosnia. Protests by laid off workers were organized on the Facebook page “50,000 people for a better tomorrow.” The workers from five factiories in Tuzla were joined by students and others at the Tuzia court building in 2014. Pushed back violently by police, protesters threw eggs and stones at the building and set several government buildings on fire including the presidential building in Sarajevo. Solidarity rallies were organized across the country.

In 2014, Workers and unemployed people joined in the largest and most violent protests since civil war two decades earlier after the fall of communism, with slogans like “He who sows hunger reaps anger” spray painted on government buildings. Most privatization of state-owned companies failed. About 45% are unemployed, health care is unreliable, and pollution problematic. Youth don’t feel they have a future. Protesters are seen on Twitter vandalizing government buildings in various cities and throwing firecrackers and stones at police in what an activist called “a collective nervous breakdown.” They formed a new movement called UDAR (also the name of a Ukrainian opposition party). They urge Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats to fight together—“Death to Nationalism,” said one graffiti message, but Salafi and other Islamic extremist groups exist. General assemblies called plenums were set up in around 20 Bosnian towns, including Tuzia where unemployed workers inspired other cities to do the same. They drew on Yugoslav self-management experiences. A Global Uprisings short video documents the protests that began in Bosnia and Herzegovina in February 2014.[xii]



In Bulgaria tens of thousands demonstrated against high energy costs and corruption that plagued their country since the fall of the USSR, leading to Prime Minister Boiko Borisov’s resignation in 2013. Demonstrators chanted “Mafia” against the appointment of wealthy politician Delyan Peevski (age 32) as head of National Security in June 2013. The government rescinded his nomination. Protesters chanted, “Keep your apologies, give us your resignations.” “You leave or we leave,” a reference to the brightest young people leaving the country. They were backed up by the Bulgarian police union. Protesters burned their electricity bills and protests spread to 17 cities. Prime Minister Boyko Borisov resigned. A young activist, Boris Kolev organizes through social media, to “crowdsource our future political system.” Because of government control of major media, the opposition uses Facebook and Twitter. Sites like published Wikileaks documents. They want the constitution to be rewritten, term limits, and campaign finance reform.



Romanians demonstrated in the largest European environmental protest in more than 25 cities against shale gas fracking by Chevron and open-pit gold mining with tons of cyanide on Rosia Montana. Learning from Turkey’s assemblies and working groups, they formed discussion groups and posted on Facebook to keep each other informed. They handed out flyers in subways and trams in a guerrilla information campaign and Romanians abroad also campaigned against the mining by showing a 20-minute documentary. A slogan was, “The Revolution Begins at Rosia Montana!” In farm villages, people said if Chevron starts drilling they would use their pitchforks to resist. The goal was, “This is a message for international solidarity. If we all are united against our common enemies, the State and Capital, one day we could bring a better world in the place of the current one. Our commons are under attack.”

Youth activists, eight members of a youth movement called N!DA were jailed in 2014 in Azerbaijan for speaking out about police violence and government corruption. One of them was inspired by Russian author Gorky’s novel The Mother, as he wrote to his own mother.[i]


Otpor was hired to apply the Serbian formula for regime change in Ukraine in 2004. An unnamed Otpor organizer explained, “We trained them in how to identify the key weaknesses in society and what people’s most pressing problems were—what might be a motivating factor for people, and above all young people, to go to the ballot box and in this way shape their own identity.” Social Movement Theory would say they identity weakness in the elite and citizen discontent as their main resources or assets.

Ukraine gained independence after the collapse of the USSR in 1991. It’s pulled between dependence on Russia for its energy supply and nearly 30% of its trade is with Russia. Russian influence is strongest in the industrialized and Russian-speaking east, while the West is closer to Poland and the EU, less populated and more agrarian. The south is the only area with a majority of ethnic Russians. As in Russia, oligarchs took control of former state assets and then got involved in politics to protect their wealth. The GDP per capita is only about $6,000 a year, a third of Poland’s GDP.

Government efforts to cheat on the 2004 presidential elections led to the “Orange Revolution,” the symbol of the opposition. Some of the protesters were trained and funded by American NGOs and government agencies like USAID, as in Serbia and Georgia the previous year. George W. Bush’s administration spent $58 million to help Ukrainians foment a peaceful uprising against their dictator, although they complained his administration didn’t help sustain them.[ix] The US spent over $5 billion since its independence in 1991 to “help” pro-western parties, according to US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland.[x] Large protests and rebellion by the media against government control resulted in mediation by the EU and a new election. The tent city occupied by protesters was a precursor for Tahrir Square and other occupations.

The new president, Viktor Yuschenko carried out some democratic reforms but rivalry with Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko inhibited their ability to reverse economic problems after 2008. This led to a $16.5 billion loan from the IMF with all the usual austerity cuts. Their opponent in the Orange Revolution, Viktor Yanukovych won the 2010 presidential election, tilting Ukraine to the Russian side. He restricted media freedom and put rival politicians like Yulia Tymoshenko in jail. He also pushed unpopular neoliberal measures although public pressure prevented them from becoming law.

Large protests occurred in the west against Putin’s pressure on the government to resist closer ties to Europe and a proposed treaty with the European Union in 2013. The president rejected a trade deal with the EU at the last moment partly because it would end gas subsidies from Russia. The government was also negotiating a $15 billion loan from the IMF, with the usual strings attached in terms of austerity cuts. A group of protesters pulled down[xi] Kiev’s statue of Lenin and decapitated it. An opposition leader with the nationalist Svoboda Party, Oleh Tyahnybok told the crowd, “It’s not just a simple revolution. It’s a revolution of dignity.” Protestors called for end of government corruption. Police arrests incited larger crowds, as in all the other uprisings.

Inspired by the Occupy movement and its organizing methods with tents and masks, a large student movement tries to stay clear of political parties asking them not to display party symbols. As reporter Marina Lewycka said, “For the young people in the square, this whole game of political tit-for-tat is what they reject.”[xii] (The endnote includes video sources.) These young people grew up in an independent Ukraine and see themselves as Europeans, while another group of protesters is aligned with political parties. However, they didn’t form assemblies in Independence Square as opposition parties took over organizing. An effort to form a liberal “Civic Council of Maidan” didn’t get off the ground and some leftists carrying feminist slogans were attached by right-wing forces.

Denis, a member of the Autonomous Workers’ Union in Kiev, reported the protesters initially were mainly students and urban “middle classes,” and then over the three months became more “proletarian.”[xiii] However, the percent of workers was low and they didn’t think of themselves as a class. Some far-right groups joined the protests including Right Sector and Svoboda, critical of the EU for being too liberal. Denis used Marxist language to explain, the “intelligentsia and petty bourgeoisie were the main social forces supporting Ukrainian nationalism.” He said the collapse of the USSR was replaced by a mixture of nationalism and conservatism in Ukraine and other former republics like Poland, Hungary, and Romania as well as the Arab Spring countries after the downfall of the dictators. Denis said the Ukrainian Svoboda and other fascists are similar to the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic parties.

Students held up banners in English stating, “Ukraine is part of Europe!” and “Back to Russia? Oh bitch, plss!” The common demand was for Yanukovych to resign, “Get out criminal! Death to the criminal!” The first three post-Soviet Ukrainian leaders wrote a press release stating that, “We express solidarity with the peaceful civil actions of hundreds of thousands of young Ukrainians.” The government sent a mass message to cell phones in use near the protests stating, “Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance.”

I asked Max about it; he’s a 28-year-old high school teacher in western Ukraine.

I support the initiatives of people in Kyiv Maydan. The vector of protests has been changed after the police violated the rights of people in Maydan
[the main square in Kyiv]. You won’t see many people there during the working days, but the number increasingly changes on weekends. It is a peaceful protest. But we have to be realistic; there are no legal backgrounds to overthrow the government now. [Parliament failed to pass a no-confidence vote to topple the government of President Viktor Yanukovych.] In my opinion these events will end up without any changes. The main problem is that the key opposition leader is imprisoned. [He suggested YouTube videos about Ukrainian issues.[xiv]]


The videos Max recommends show many police on the streets and evidence of lavish presidential lifestyle. A more recent video shows the interior after the president fled in a helicopter to Russia in February 2014.[xv] When I commented on this, he said Ukraine is a police state, not just in big cities where they also have plain-clothes police, but in small towns too. The west is more free but in the east and south, “They are like North Korea, with access only to governmental TV channels as most of the independent media are blocked. The Internet helps, but propaganda is stronger coming from the authorities.” Anna, 18, one of his students, commented on corruption,


I would prohibit bribes and try to decline the level of corruption in my country. I would improve the medical and educational systems by modernization and additional qualification improvement programs. I would decrease the number of unemployed people by rehabilitation of the old closed factories. I would do everything possible to make my country great and developed with European values, healthy nation and high standards of living.


Crowds of over 300,000 gathered in the largest protests since the 2004 Orange Revolution. As in other occupations of squares, they built shelters and provided entertainment as well as speeches and services like first aid stations, food stalls, and a church tent. They chanted “Glory to Ukraine” and “Peaceful Protest,” but the police charged them anyway, causing Secretary of State John Kerry to express his “disgust.” Opposition leader Vitali Klitschko told the crowd, “This is an island of freedom and we will defend it.” President Yanukovych represented the eastern part of the country where people speak Russian, while demonstrators are more likely to speak Ukrainian, and live in the western part of the country.

The government outlawed demonstrations in Kiev involving loudspeakers, tents, banners, and wearing helmets and masks on January 16, 2014. This crackdown only made the demonstrations more violent, which increased police violence, kidnapping demonstrators, and the first deaths in the two months of the demonstrations. Protests spread to other western cities and even to eastern and southern Ukraine and tents remained in Independence Square. Demonstrators lit firecrackers, beat rhythms on metal sheets, and burned tires as a circular barricade to keep police out. They fought with rocks, bats and firebombs. Women helped dig up paving stones and passed them down a line for fighters to throw at police. Older women shouted at police, “Killers!” and “Shoot us, kill us, kill us, you bastards.” In negotiations with opposition leaders, Yanukovich promised to reshuffle his cabinet and release some jailed demonstrators. However, the crowd booed opposition leader Vitali Klitschko, yelling “Shame!” and “Revolution!” They wanted the president out.

Two weeks later the president agreed to rescind antiprotest laws that outlawed masks and permitted a six-year jail terms for blocking public buildings, as demonstrators wore masks in defiance. But the government wouldn’t offer amnesty for jailed protesters unless demonstrators stopped their protests against Yanukovych. They also wanted action to prevent election fraud. Thousands of anti-demonstrators tired of the protests rushed a Kiev barricade but retreated after meeting resistance.

Former President Leonid Kravchuk warned that Ukraine was gripped by revolution and on the verge of civil war. On February 18, after Putin offered the Ukraine $2 billion, the conflict escalated. Deaths and injuries escalated as snipers picked off protesters killing 25 people as fires lit up the night sky in Kiev, and a policeman was shot in the head. A protester explained that the difference between the 2004 protests and 2014 was the military didn’t support the current protests. President Obama warned the government not to step over the line and bring in the army while President Putin accused the protesters of being brown shirts, as in Nazi troops and fascist bandits. The far right Freedom Party and Right Sector organized militias that forced police from the streets of Kiev, without a unified left leadership. The EU and Western countries called for an end to violence as 82 people were killed in the protests.

As Yanukovych’s military protectors left him, as they did Ben Ali and Mubarck, he boarded a helicopter for the east on February 23. An activist said as news spread that Yanukovych had left Kiev, “I have never seen so many people smiling. Everyone is overflowing with delight.” Ukrainians lined up to see his place with a zoo, tennis court, swimming pool, car collection, and a huge mansion with gold bathroom fixtures. Parliament took it over as a public space. In a speech given in Russian, from Russia, Yanukovych said he was still the elected president and condemned the “bandit coup” that replaced him with a new leader, Oleksandr Turchynov – he became a Head of the Parliament. He is a close ally of Tymoshenko and her “BatkivschynaFatherland” Party, which is accused of appalling corruption. The new Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenjuk said “welcome to hell’ because Ukraine was bankrupt, “on the brink of a disaster” because $70 billion was sent out of the country during Yanukovych’s presidency. Yatsenjuk was 39, a fluent English speaker and member of the “BatkivschynaFatherland” Party, and one of the new breed of young leaders as in Italy and Greece. Nominees for the new cabinet were introduced to 50,000 people in the square and they were addressed by former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko just released from prison. She told them, “You are heroes, you are the best thing in Ukraine! I was dreaming to feel the power that changed everything.” Rumors were that she would like to be president.

Russia sent troops into Crimea with uniforms with no insignia but Russian license plates on their vehicles. They took over the airport and military bases and public buildings because it has a majority of ethnic Russians and a large Russian naval base. Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev condemned the new Ukrainian government as “Kalashnikov-touting people in black masks,” terrorists backed by the US. Russians also blamed the US for the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine. Putin got the highest public approval rating since he returned to the presidency in 2012. He labeled the revolutionaries in Kiev fascist Nazis backed by the CIA and the EU. Russian parliament member Nikolai Ryzhkov blamed the West, saying, “They tore apart Yugoslavia, routed Egypt, Libya, Iraq and so on, and all this under the false guise of peaceful demonstrations. So we must be ready in case they will unleash the dogs on us.”[xvi] Another member of parliament said President Obama insulted the Russian people. This led to discussion of a new cold war, complicated by the economic fact that about 40% of Europe’s natural gas comes from Russia, mostly through Ukraine.

When asked if the revolution made a difference in his life, Max said:


Nothing has significantly changed with the coming of a new government. We are in a big black hole economically. Most of the prices in Ukraine depend on the dollar rate, within the past few months dollar rate has changed considerably, this change gave a push to turn up the prices for fuel, gas, clothes and even food, in other words our salaries remained the same and most of the prices doubled or even tripled in some areas. I spent almost $100 to buy some clothes and shoes for my son and I was very upset when the shop assistant said that it was not the final price change. So, has the new government changed anything for me? I have to say yes, prices are the only thing they have changed. As for positive changes, so the corruption decreased a little, not much.    

   The new PM is a smart and intelligent guy, but he seems weak as a personality. But I can understand this having such a “good” neighbor as Russia. I am also glad that the president will no longer have such power as the previous one. I agree that the PM must have more power, as the PM can be replaced. As for Russians, these people are unpredictable. They say they won’t go farther at noon, but during the night their troops come up closer and closer. I don’t trust Russians and never did. But we’ll see. I hope they won’t cross the border.


Russian speakers in the east who want to break away from Kiev seized a dozen cities’ government buildings, formed two “people’s republics, and held a referendum for autonomy similar to the vote in Crimea that led to Russian annexation. Some workers formed vigilante groups to oppose them and took over positions in several locations. Presidential elections were held on May 25, with few votes for the neo-fascist parties Right Sector and Svoboda much derided by Russian leaders. Petro Poroshenko was elected pro-western president, called the “chocolate king” because he is one of Ukraine’s richest men, who owns chocolate factories. In second place was another wealthy oligarch, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Six months after the encampment began in Kiev, several hundred protesters remained in the camp, suspicious of the government. They planned to stay until reforms were implemented.

Max update the conflict with the Russians, September 3, 2014:

Russians were in the East from the very beginning.

During my vacation in Carpathians I met a woman from Donetska region.

She was very irate with uninvited Russians. They have destroyed her home and she moved to the Western part of Ukraine.

There is no civil war in Ukraine. We have people from Luhanska region in my site. The attitude to those people is pretty much the same as to anyone else. Nobody violets their rights and no one cares about their language, which is Russian.

So, it is open Russian aggression towards Ukraine.

That woman I met in Carpathians told me that there were many people from her region involved to that conflict as so called “rebels”, are drug and alcohol adicted.

She also said that 5 people out of 10 will be pro-ukrainian, 3 neutral and 2 pro-russian.

And answering the question about the presence of Russian troops, not a single person can deny their presence.


[i]Gene Sharp. From Dictatorship to Democracy. The Albert Einstein Institution. Fourth edition, 2010.

[ii] Sheryl Gay Stolberg, “Shy U.S. Intellectual Created Playbook Used in a Revolution,” New York Times, February 16, 2011.

[iii] Carl Gibson and Steve Horn, “Exposed: Globally Renowned Activist Collaborated with Intelligence Firm Stratfor,” Counter Punch, December 3, 2013.

[iv] Ivana Mastilovic Jasnic, “CIA in Shadow,” BLIC online, November 18, 2013.


[vi] Tina Rosenberg, “Revolution U,” FP: Foreign Policy, February 16, 2011.

[vii] William Engdahl, “US NGO Uncovered in Ukraine Protests,” Boiling Frogs Post, January 7, 2014.

[viii] Ivana Mastilovic Jasnic, “CIA in Shadow,” BLIC online, November 18, 2013.

[ix] Joel Brinkley, “Obstacles to Democracy Remain for Libya, Tunisia,” San Francisco Chronicle, October 30, 2011.

[x] Vidieo on “Regime Change in Kiev,” February 9, 2014.


[xii] Marina Lewychka, “Optimistic Young Ukrainians Look to Europe.” The Guardian, December 1, 2013.

[xiii] Roar Collective, “The Contradictions of the Euromaidan Uprising,” ROAR Magazine, February 21, 2014.



[xvi] Alison Smale and Steven Erlanger, “Ukraine Mobilizes Reserve Troops, Threatening War,” New York Times, March 1, 2014.

[xvii] / ‎

Russians were in the East from the very beginning.

During my vacation in Carpathians I met a woman from Donetska region.

She was very irate with uninvited Russians. They have destroyed her home and she moved to the Western part of Ukraine.

There is no civil war in Ukraine. We have people from Luhanska region in my site. The attitude to those people is pretty much the same as to anyone else. Nobody violets their rights and no one cares about their language, which is Russian.

So, it is open russian agression towards Ukraine.

That woman I met in Carpathians told me that there were many people from her region involved to that conflict as so called “rebels”, are drug and alcohol adicted.

She also said that 5 people out of 10 will be pro-ukrainian, 3 neutral and 2 pro-russian.

And answering the question about the presence of russian troops, not a single person can deny their presence.


[i] Arzu Geybullayeva, “Bring the Bottle,” Global Voices, April 17, 2014.


[i]Gene Sharp. From Dictatorship to Democracy. The Albert Einstein Institution. Fourth edition, 2010.

[ii] Sheryl Gay Stolberg, “Shy U.S. Intellectual Created Playbook Used in a Revolution,” New York Times, February 16, 2011.

[iii] Carl Gibson and Steve Horn, “Exposed: Globally Renowned Activist Collaborated with Intelligence Firm Stratfor,” Counter Punch, December 3, 2013.

[iv] Ivana Mastilovic Jasnic, “CIA in Shadow,” BLIC online, November 18, 2013.


[vi] Tina Rosenberg, “Revolution U,” FP: Foreign Policy, February 16, 2011.

[vii] William Engdahl, “US NGO Uncovered in Ukraine Protests,” Boiling Frogs Post, January 7, 2014.

[viii] Ivana Mastilovic Jasnic, “CIA in Shadow,” BLIC online, November 18, 2013.

[ix]John Feffer, “Hungarian Students Reist,” John Fegger blog, December 10, 2013.

[x] Brad Nosan, “Kosovos’ Vetevendosje Movement Doesn’t Like Foreign Intervention,” Vice, august 15, 2012.



Italian Youth Activism


Tens of thousands of students blocked the Italian Senate in 2008 to protest cuts in university spending in a student movement called the “anomalous wave.” Large protests occurred in Rome on October 15, 2011, but otherwise Italians didn’t join in the 2011 uprisings. In 2012 huge mass protests continued against austerity programs designed to reduce national debts by reducing government services. Eleven politicians who campaigned to return to funding social support programs and to fight recession and high unemployment unseated politicians who advocated austerity.[i] For example, in France socialist Francois Hollande replaced President Nicolas Sarkozy, close ally of austerity advocate German Chancellor Angela Merkel, by advocating growth policies and government spending. Hollande said his enemy was the world of finance.

Difficult to categorize, an Italian youth response to current troubles and austerity measures is the Five Stars Movement (M5S) in Italy, supported by anti-establishment young people who were ignored by the Democratic Party. The year before it was founded in 2009, tens of thousands of students in the “Anomalous Wave” blocked the Italian Senate to protest reduced government funding for universities as part of the Bologna Process. Comedian Beppe Grillo founded M5S; it became the largest party in the Lower House and second largest in the Senate in 2013. The five starts are public water, ecological transportation, development, connectivity, and environmentalism, as well as being anti-austerity and anti-corruption. The party is supported by the unemployed “lost generation.”[ii] The M5S mayor of Parma, age 39, rides a bicycle to work and the official car runs on natural gas. Many believe that austerity measures were dictated to the Italian government by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Women also became more active in politics; the center-left Democratic party reserved 40% of their candidate list for women.

The young M5S legislators came to work by public transport, one wanted childcare for her toddler, and they refused the plastic water bottles available to legislators as environmentally damaging. They advocated direct democracy, posting government debates on the Internet, and attacked corruption. They sought a minimum monthly income of a thousand euros to be funded by reducing pensions and government salaries, funded by reducing public-sector salaries and pensions. Grillo’s blog is the most widely read in Italy, commenting on his mistrust of the political system, shaking up the old right-wing and left-wing factions. A high school teacher from Florence who doesn’t approve of M5S told me, “You can’t rule by protesting only. They will hammer down what is left of Italy.”

They protested the government spending 26 billion euros on construction of a high-speed tail line when people are suffering. Matteo Renzi, 39, was a young political outsider who wears jeans and a black leather jacket who became prime minister in 2014. His only political experience was as mayor of Florence. He has to deal with youth unemployment of 40%, one in four youth are NEETs, and other economic problems. He stated, “I want a Left that governs Italy rather than a Left that prides itself on its defeats.” Half of his cabinet members were women. He (and the French Prime Minister Manuel Valls) proposed cutting taxes for low wage workers and their employers, but had to cut spending as public debt is 90% of eurozone GDP.[iii] Thousands marched in protest.

Tens of thousands marched in Rome in April 2014 to protest Renzi’s austerity measures but these protests were smaller than in previous years. Jerome Roos attributes the reduced activism to anxiety about precarious work under neoliberalism, police repression, and lack of hope and fatigue caused by “unsustainable forms of activism.”[iv] Roos points to Italy’s unifying theme as the way to activate people and unite various groups, the goal of “only one big endeavor: housing and income for all,” universal benefits independent of wage earnings, with neoliberal capitalism as the common enemy. The theme resonates with the 40% of youth who are unemployed and the 68,000 families who received eviction notices in 2013. Working for a common goal would correct the failure of the 2011 uprisings to “construct an alternative political imaginary and long-term revolutionary strategy.” He doesn’t advocate forming a political party as the vehicle to achieve the goal.


[i] Joris Leverink, “Today We Resist,” ROAR Magazine, May 31, 2014.

[ii] “Europe’s Lost Generation Finds a Voice in the Five Star Movement,, March 8, 2013.

[iii] Barry Eichengreen, “Europe’s Crisis Treadmill,” Project Syndicate, May 12, 2014.

[iv] Jerome Roos, “Mobilizing for the Common: Some Lessons from Italy,” ROAR Magazine, April 14, 2014.

A Tanzanian teen’s struggle to get an education

The Short History of My Life written by Abel, 19, Tanzania.

My name is Abel Lucas Mtui [he’s on Facebook under Abel Luca]; I was born in 1987 at Moshi–Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. I’m the first born in our family of four brothers. My father’s name is Lucas Mtui. He is electrician in Nairobi, Kenya, but he is not employed (self-employment) and my mother’s name is Bertha Mtui. She is a home mother taking care of our young brothers and a farmer domesticating one cow, two sheeps and some hens.

I was schooling in Moshi and growing up over there in 1994–2000. I attended one primary school around home. After the last National Exams, I was among the few pupils who performed well in it. In 2001-2004, I was joined with a government secondary school and it was easy for my father to pay the school fees because government school fees are cheaper than private school, which is too expensive. But when I was in Form Two, I was suffering with headache and our school it was very far—about 7 km–to go and to turn back every day. I was trying to talk to my father to explain about the situation but he was saying that he didn’t have enough money to fund my transfer to boarding school.

So after that I didn’t have any chance, so I was schooling in the same school for four years and it was difficult for me to do some study after school because of tiredness. In last national exams I wasn’t performing well, so I was among students who failed those exams. At that time my young brother was already joined with one of government schools (boarding school) because he was doing well in his primary education. My father told me that he didn’t have more money to send me to high school, so I had to select one of the short courses as my last chance.

I was joined with one of the colleges around Moshi town where I was taking my certificate in Tour Guide and Driving for a year. After that I was asking many tour companies in Moshi and Arusha and in national parks for the chance of doing my field practical. Udzungwa Mountain National Park was the first place where they replied to my application after only a month and needed me there soon. I was interested with Udzungwa because it was my first time to live outside of Moshi and to learn how life is. [This is where I met Abel.] But they only offered me the place for field training but no house, no food, and no payment for three months, so every thing I was asking from my father. It was difficult, but after three months they offered me a contract of three months with payment of 60,000 TSH per month. Up to today I continue working with them. It’s not enough but I don’t have choice. I’m afraid that if I will go back at home with nothing to do, my young brothers couldn’t learn anything from me. All of them were schooling at Moshi.

I’m a Christian (Roman Catholic). I believe in God according to our religion. We believe God is each and everything; He is the one who solves our problems, etc.

I don’t have a girlfriend by now because, first of all, I’m still a young boy to have somebody who belongs to me. I have to take care of her, buying her gifts, solving her problems according to any situation. So I think that is very early for me to have girlfriends. I’m attracted with girls who are model-like, look like miss, who has got long hair, who will be able to tell me her feelings and who speak slowly and politely. I would like a wife from any country around the world, who is a bit educated, the one who will appreciate my lifestyle. She will respect others no matter they are poor or rich and their education level.

What do I think about environment? Due to climate change I expect that it will increase the risk of illness in several parts of the world and it may lead to a falling-off economy to some countries. Other problems facing all humans today are poverty, drug abuse, prostitution, AIDS, and abortions, but illiteracy is the mother of all problems. So in order to liberate girls and boys we must educate and train them from all angles of our social and economic activities.

The following are my goals: To get high education (university) in wildlife and environmental conservation. To hold a beautiful house. To have a family of three children. To take care of others like me, especially orphans. [Many African students mentioned wanting to help orphans whose parents died of AIDS.] To help my young brothers’ education. [Update—Abel is working with tourists as a guide and environmental educator in Zanzibar. He wants to go back to his hometown to start an NGO.]

What happened in Egypt after the revolution, 2011 to 2014

Egypt’s Military Stays in Power, 2011 to 2014

Content: Free Elections, Women’s Rights Eroded, Conflict Between the MB and Critics, Desire for Democracy?, The Military Ousts President Morsi

Free Elections

Helping the new Arab democracies stabilize and deal with the main issue of finding jobs for the people is the most important issue of our time, according to Professor Joel Brinkley.[i] A Pew Research Center poll of Muslims more than a year after the Arab Spring began revealed that large majorities in Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, Tunisia and Jordan believe democracy is the best form of government and that women should have equal rights (36% disagree about the latter in Egypt).[ii] Blogger Gigi Ibrahim said on a positive note, “People have found their voice, they are not afraid and they know their way onto the streets.” But she was less optimistic after the military expelled Morsi and pro- and anti-Morsi supporters fought each other. She said the revolutionaries had failed to provide a clear alternative, to spell out how to implement the goals of the revolution. And young people like Yara (17, f) want cooperation not conflict: “I’d change the ‘friend-enemy’ mindset people have. I hate the idea that people think of those who contravene their ideals as enemies. They are not enemies; we are just different.”

A poll conducted in April 2012 reported that two-thirds of Egyptians believe the Koran should shape the country’s laws and that they consider Saudi Arabia a better model than Turkey for the role of religion in government.[iii]  Another poll indicate that 74% of Egyptian Muslims want the country to adopt Sharia law.[iv] The respondents had most favorable views of opposing groups, the MB, the April 6 Movement, and the SCAF ruling military council.

Women running as independents lost, including feminist media personality Gameela Ismail. Only nine women were members of the first parliament, two of them appointed. Egyptian journalist Dina Sadek explained, “While the liberals fought amongst themselves, the Islamist parties were well-organized and united under mutual goals.” Akram commented, “The new parliament is a mess. However, it’s the people’s choice so we shall wait and see.”

The presidential elections held in May and June 2012 resulted in a run-off between Shafiq, the last prime minister under Mubarak, and the MBs’ Mohamed Morsi after the SCAF disqualified many candidates. The military hoped that Ahmed Shafiq would win, but Morsi won with 52% of the vote to the delight of the crowd waiting in Tahrir Square to hear the results, as you can see.[v] Morsi has a Ph.D. in engineering from the University of Southern California, but like all MB officers is a conservative Muslim who wants an Egyptian constitution based on Sharia law.


Conflict Between the MB and Critics

Morsi told his followers in June 2012 that a “heinous coup” was underway when SCAF sent soldiers to lock out lawmakers from parliament after the highest court declared it was illegally elected. The SCAF claimed its right to write a new interim constitution, and control their own huge military budget. Reform leader Mohamed ElBaradei warned on Twitter that Morsi was Egypt’s “new pharaoh,” assuming “imperial powers,” especially in November of 2012. Morsi overturned the judicial system that had challenged his decisions, selected the constitution-writing committee, and gave himself the absolute power to take steps to deal with any “threat” to the revolution and to enact laws until a new parliament was elected. Judges went on strike to protest Morsi’s decrees. He led a coalition of 35 opposition groups called the National Front for the Salvation of the Revolution.

Demonstrators again took to Tahrir Square, carrying signs with half Morsi’s face and the other half Mubarak’s face. Egypt was divided between the MB and the poor they court with food, versus the liberals, judges, youth, and intellectuals, as seen in conflicting demonstrations and rock throwing, with police using tear gas. Supporters and opponents of Morsi clashed in the largest demonstrations since the revolution: 200,000 protesters filled Tahrir Square in November changing erhal, erhal, leave, leave and the same chant they used against Mubarak, “the people want to topple the regime.” Even the police went on strike in 2013 to protest the MB’s attempt to politicize the police force.

Morsi pushed for voters to approve the new constitution in December quickly drafted by a 100-person committee without the three dozen liberals and Coptic Christians who walked out in protest. Morsi’s committee rushed through a constitution, with only four women, all Islamists, attending the all-night session. They acted before the Supreme Constitutional Court could dissolve the committee and the MB locked the judges out of the court building. The constitution was criticized for not guaranteeing rights for minorities and women and giving Sharia law and clergy too much power over civil rights. It aimed to “preserve the genuine character of the Egyptian family” and permited freedom of the press to be controlled in times of war or “public mobilization.”

The MB campaigned that a yes vote on the constitution was a yes to Islam, that “Islam is the solution,” with posters saying to vote “yes to protecting Sharia law.” The liberal opposition coalition National Salvation Front’s slogan was “A constitution to divide Egypt.” They gained about a third of the seats in Parliament in 2011. Egyptian human-rights organizations charged that some women, including some Christian Copts, were refused ballots in the December referendum. The constitution received a yes vote of nearly 64% percent but only one-third voted. In Cairo, 56% voted no.

Protest demonstrations continued on the Jan25 anniversary in 2013 with young people especially angry about the lack of jobs or other economic improvements under Morsi. The Global Uprisings online documentary Egyptian Winter shows that unemployment increased, the economy was failing, and prices of staples like bread increased. Many trade unions led strikes, including independent unions, opposing the constitution that took away labor rights, resulting in more child labor, forced labor, and military tribunals for civilians (the latter is discussed in a Mosireen media collective documentary[vi]).


Desire for Democracy?

The Salafist Islamic extremists kept stirring flames of anti-Americanism. They led attacks on the US embassy in Cairo to protest an anti-Muslim YouTube video titled Innocence of Muslims in September 2012. Similar attacks occurred in Libya where the US ambassador was killed, in Yemen, and other Muslim countries. These extremists want to see secular political parties replaced by Muslim rule. Some commentators explain the angry demonstrations reflected young men’s continued frustration over lack of jobs and dignity and anger at US Middle East policy favoring Israel.

Despite all the turmoil after ousting the dictators, youth are still supportive of democratic change. Two years after Jan25, the economy was in free fall, tourism—that used to bring in as much as 20% of the revenue—is reduced to almost nothing as I experienced when I was there in 2011. Unemployment and inflation increased, street battles continued between secularists and Islamists, young ultra soccer fans and police with homeless street children joining in. Coptic Christians feared ongoing attacks. The faces of young men killed in the battles are often seen painted on walls, banners, and shirts.

After two years of ongoing conflict with the Morsi regime and the MB, some young people turned to civil disobedience like the general strike supported by around 10,000 people in Port Said the end of January 2013. Ultra soccer fans joined demonstrations to demand that police officials be punished for the deaths of 74 soccer fans killed the previous year. They protested of the sentencing of 21 Port Said soccer fans to death for the killings of their Cairo rivals in the soccer riot the previous year. Some attacked MB offices, blaming Morsi for the lack of democracy. They were protesting the court’s rulings about the soccer riot the year before. A third of Egyptians lived on $2 a day and faced power outages and crime. New York Times reporter David Kirkpatrick, who lives in Cairo, suggested to NPR radio host Terry Gross that the fact that the long gas lines and frequent lack of power ended after Morsi was ousted indicates that the shortages may have been part of the military’s plan to take over.


The Military Ousts President Morsi

On Facebook, Bothaina Kamel criticized media coverage of the ouster of Morsi as a military coup:


If you define 33 million citizens described by the BBC as the biggest protest in the history of mankind, led by the opposition figures, WONDERFUL YOUTH GROUPS WHO ARE THE ACTUAL OWNERS OF THE JANUARY’S REVOLUTION, and its demands implemented by Ministries of Defense and Interior, as a “small group” or if you describe the fall of a DICTATOR TERRORIST and his regime as “roller coaster” or “new crisis,” kindly SHUT the hell your mouth and go back to DICTIONARY that can define “small,” “sudden,” and most importantly “ETHICS,” “RESPECT TO THE WILL OF NATIONS: and “HUMAN RIGHTS.”


Teacher Amal reported to me,


I’ve been one of the participants of 30th June revolution which is a wholehearted revolution and it wasn’t a coup at all as about 33 million Egyptians took to the streets all over Egypt and asking Morsi to leave the office, raising red signs with the word LEAVE and holding whistles and whistling with them during our marches on the streets. All Egyptians urged the army to make our wish true as the army has the mandate according to the Egyptian constitution to execute people’s will.

Morsi made huge promises to improve Egyptian economy, health care system, traffic system and he never delivered of any of them. Moreover he started to impose restrictions on the freedom expression and detain activists opposing him, poverty increased, prices were sky high and unemployment grew up and he allow such high positions in all sectors to only MB members and their followers, which mounted corruption in Egypt. 

The demonstrations were hugely amazing and they were nation-wide. But thank God the Egyptians won and gained their freedom and gave the criminal Morsi, who keeps claiming that he wants to maintain legitimacy by causing civil war in the country, a hard lesson. We taught him that the ballot is not a guarantee to any oppressive ruler to keep running our country and the people of the country are the master. The ruler is just a public servant and should serve all his people and not discriminate and he should fulfill his promises of freedom, justice, maintaining dignity for his people–otherwise he should leave. 

This is a message from Egyptians to the misled American people. The situation right now is still unstable as the MB are trying to cause chaos and attack the military and its generals through the social media and try to damage its image by spreading the misleading news that it was a coup by the Egyptian generals. They try to mobilize and use violence against their opponents. But I’m sure stability will happen soon.

Regarding the sits-in by Morsi supporters, they were not peaceful ones as the protesters there were armed with very advanced weapons and the leaders of the MB sitting in there were bribing very poor people with food and money to stay there and they were misleading their followers by making false promises that America will help them to return Morsi to the office. So to maintain law and order it was the right decision to clear such unpeaceful sits-in and during such operation there were more than 30 officers killed by the armed protesters there.


The effort to depose Morsi was also supported by a group of opposition parties and movements including the April 6th Youth Movement and the National Salvation Front. On Monday, Tamarod gave Morsi 24 hours to leave or face “complete civil disobedience.” Many of his cabinet ministers defected to the opposition. Military helicopters circles over Tahrir Square dropping flags while fireworks lit up the sky and some people chanted, “The people and the military are one hand,” while others shouted, “No Mubarak, No Military, No Morsi!” They waved red cards signally a no vote and flags, and some wore headbands with “Leave, Morsi” written on them, as seen in the video of Tamarod leaders.

The army joined in the ultimatum to “meet the people’s demands,” giving him a week to reach a compromise. They deposed Morsi on July 3 after four days of huge protests to prevent the nation from entering a “dark tunnel,” replacing him with Adli Mansour, the head of the Supreme Court, until elections were held. Mansour said these actions “corrected the path of its glorious revolution” and promised, “We will preserve the revolution.” They also arrested MB leaders and shut down their media outlets. Economist Hazem el-Beblawi was appointed Prime Minister, a founder of the Social Democratic party, one of the secular members of the National Salvation Front. President Mansur announced that an amended constitution would be put to a referendum and a new parliament elected within months.

The MB organized counter-demonstrations in support of their democratically elected president and against what they called a coup and the return of dictatorship, resulting in deaths and injuries in Cairo, Alexandria and other cities including Upper Egypt. Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie told his supporters “May the Lord destroy” the secular opponents of the Islamist movement. A warrant was issued for his arrest. A “massacre” killed over 50 Morsi supporters in clashes with security forces in front of the Republican Guard headquarters in Cairo on July 8, including four officers. Morsi supporters vowed to continue their sit-in at Baba’a al-Adawiya Square where some children wore t-shirts with Jihadist messages like “martyr on call” and families were divided as to which side they supported. A rumor circulated that the coup was an Israeli plot to destroy an Islamist government. Supporters of both sides were killed and widespread lawlessness is reported.

When Yemeni “Mother of the Revolution” Tawakkol Karman flew to Cairo to support Morsi, who she viewed as on the side of democracy versus military coup, she was sent back home. She supported replacing Morsi but not by the military. After six weeks of sit-ins by MB supporters, the security forces cleared two massive sit-ins in Cairo on August 14 beginning at 6:00 AM, wounding nearly four thousand, and killing over 600 the first day, the most violent day since Jan25. Some protesters wrote their names and phone numbers on their arms in case they were shot. More than 1,000 people were killed nation-wide. Vice-President ElBaradei resigned in protest. Morsi supporters called for daily protests and were accused of attacking dozens of Coptic Christians and their churches, especially in Lower Egypt. MB supporters fought not only the police but also armed residents, some of them who threw rocks and glass bottles. Protesters chanted General “El-Sisi is the enemy of God” and “Down with the murder.”

A state of emergency was declared and a nighttime curfew put in place. Freedom of press was curtailed as in shutting down Al Jazeera TV in September, a seeming return to Mubarak era repression in opposition to the spirit of the revolution. Four Al Jazeera employees were arrested and put on trial in 2014, accused of being a terrorist cell. Blogger Gigi Ibrahim faulted the SCAF and police for “an endless list of vicious crimes” that the people will not forget. I asked Amal about this disturbing trend, but she remained optimistic; “Most Egyptians are asking the authorities in Egypt to close the Al Jazerra office in Cairo as it’s not a credible channel and it’s so biased to the MB. [Ibrahim agreed that Aljzeera and CNN were pro-Morsi, while many Egyptian-owned channels were pro-military.] Moreover they bring false news about what’s happening in Egypt and they are conspiring against the interim government and June 30th revolution.”

While some look at military takeover as a response to the people’s demands, groups like the Egyptian Revolutionary Socialists believe that the military encouraged the demonstrations as an excuse to take power, fearful of the instability Morsi was generating. Some speculate that Morsi was trying to replace Minister of Defense Sisi.[vii] On July 3, the Interior Ministry instructed security forces to hand out water and juice to demonstrators rather than teargas, indicating their support. Dilip Hiro, a prolific author born in Pakistani who lives in London, also maintains that the military pulled the strings.[viii] They abandoned former officer Mubarak because they were afraid his son Gamal as the next president would interfere with their undocumented business economy, which some guess is 40% or more of the GDP. Hiro adds that no independent organization verified the number of signatures on the petition to oust Morsi.             Shortly before the June 30 demonstrations police disappeared from street patrols, power cuts became more frequent, and fuel shortages appeared to create discontent with Morsi. A New York Times article links the “miraculous end” to these problems right after the coup evidence of a plan to replace Morsi.[ix] The problem was that military intelligence agents infiltrated the group in March, helped fund their petition campaign. Within a week after Morsi was imprisoned, the military cast Tamarod aside: “Having ridden the Tamarod horse to total power, SCAF had no more use for it.” To squelch MB supporters, Interior Ministry troops killed nearly 1,000 protesters at two sites. Within days of the coup, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and UAE gave $12 billion to the military and the US continued to provide aid. The US did very little to express disapproval, even when the military’s president Adly Mansour approved a new law that essentially outlawed the right to protest unless approved by officials.

A new constitution mandated that the defense minister be a military officer and civilians could be tried in military courts for some crimes. It was approved in a referendum in January 2014. In Sisi’s acceptance speech as president in June 2014 he made many references to the slogan of the revolution, but the army’s massacre of MB protesters and outlawing demonstrations indicates their reactionary stance rather than aiming for a second revolution.

The January 2014 vote to approve the amended constitution was approved by 98% of the 39% of the eligible voters who turned out at the polls, compared to 64% of the third of the voters in the Mori referendum the previous year. The MB and other groups called for a boycott of the election. Islam remains the state religion but freedom of religion is guaranteed, it guarantees “equality between men and women,” political parties can’t be formed based on religion, and the military will appoint the defense minister for the next eight years. General Sisi interpreted the election as a mandate to run for president in 2014.

On August 14 the Egyptian Revolutionary Socialists posted on Facebook that they were active in the overthrow of Mubarak; they didn’t support Morsi for a single day as he continued the armed power structures used by Mubarak, but were against the “brutal massacre which the army and police are committing. It is a bloody dress rehearsal for the liquidation of the Egyptian Revolution. . . creating a state of terror.” They charged military rule with a “filthy attempt to create a civil war.” I asked Omar if he thought civil war is occurring: “Yes, but the new president is not doing his job as the numbers of Egyptian killed from July 3 till today [August 19] is double the number of Egyptians whom killed during Morsi.” Akram, now a university student, told me:


I’d say it’s just some riots, some very serious riots, it’s not a civil war since its not people against each other, it’s a war against terrorism between the people supported by the army and the terrorist MB. You have no idea how much people hate the Brotherhood here (and how mad they are against the US for supporting them). But yeah, it’s mainly clashes and chaos, no civil war in sight.


The military outlawed the MB, seized their assets and newspaper building, and arrested most of the leaders and around 2,000 Brotherhood members, calling them terrorists linked to a growing insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula. Militant Islamists groups there consider the army and police to be infidels because they work for a secular government. It’s a vast desert hardly populated as I saw taking a bus from Cairo to the Red Sea. Police stood by while a crowd burned down the MB headquarters in Cairo. In August 2013, nearly a thousand MB demonstrators were killed in the largest mass killings in modern Egyptian history and more than 40 security officers were also killed. Videos show young men in morgues with bullet holes in their heads and chests—not rubber bullets. This was the excuse for reinstating a state of emergency.

To bolster public support the military provided subsidies for low-income families, helping with education and public transportation costs. To spur employment, $3.1 billion was budgeted for infrastructure projects, much of it funded by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Kuwait (over $12 billion), countries interested in stability and expansion of their control in the region. With the exception of Qatar, Gulf States also cracked down on MB members, viewed as part of the Arab Spring rebellions.

I asked Yara what her friends thought as of October 2013. She said they’re divided, but most like her don’t support the military or the Brotherhood. At first, she was rather relieved when the military ousted Morsi because she believes in secular government in opposition to traditional pharonic thinking. An example of that mode of thinking is some people are begging General Sisi to run for president in 2014. She added that under Morsi, if you didn’t support him, you weren’t considered a Muslim. She would vote for ElBaradei for president but fears that he is too idealistic, too utopian for Egypt, and that the military will continue to control Egypt.

The military controls much of the economy, many officials are ex-generals, it’s funded by over a billion dollars from the US each year, and insists on shaping the new constitution to keep some of its power. The military outlawed street demonstrations without approval from the Ministry of Interior, banned overnight sit-ins and protests at places of worship, and gave police the right to ban political campaign meetings.

A post from “Comrades from Cairo” in December 2013 reminded readers that this was the “same Interior Ministry whose soldiers killed thousands of protesters, maimed tens of thousands and tortured unknown others in recent years.” They also faulted approval of military trials for civilians in the new constitution. They call the July 3 regime change a military coup and believe the military uses the excuse of fighting terrorism and the need for stability to “whitewash the violence of the security regime.” They declared, “The January 25 revolution has returned to the streets. We will oppose the system everywhere we can. Stand by our side.” Morsi and 35 other MB leaders were put on trial charged with attempting to incite civil war in Sinai, revealing state secrets to Iran, sponsoring terrorism, and inciting the murder of anti-Morsi protesters against him while he was in office.

The Mosireen Collective reported that protesters were hit with water hoses and tear gas, beaten, sexually assaulted, and arrested—including 14 women. The females refused to be released until the men were also free. One protester said, “Those thinking the authoritarian, pharaonic style works will find it doesn’t anymore. There will be a third wave of the revolution much more violent than before. We are witnessing a turning point.” A police senior officer said the new law is “unenforceable.” Police jailed well-known revolutionary activists including Ahmed Maher, Mohamed Adel, Ahmed Douma and Alaa Abdel-Fattah in 20 other demonstrators in November 2013, organized by the “No to Military Trials of Civilians” group. They were accused of organizing a protest without permission. In June 2014 blogger Abdel-Fattah and 24 other demonstrators was sentenced to 15 years in prison, not allowed to enter the courtroom or have lawyers present a defense, the longest sentence for a youth activist. His sister Mona Seif said he did attend but didn’t organize the demonstration. She and other female demonstrators were taken by police in a van, dumped in the desert in the middle of the night. A Facebook page and Twitter campaign was created, “Free Alaa.” President Sisi said freedom of speech will take a back seat to restoring security and revitalized the economy.

On the other side of the political spectrum, police attacked a MB student protest in Cairo University, using live ammunition. The students continued to protest almost daily, leading one policeman to remark to his colleague, “The students are bullies. I’m not going back.” Jihadist groups have also attacked police and soldiers. More than 150 policemen were killed just in the months between August and December 2013; they called for higher wages.

The military declared the MB a terrorist organization thereby outlawing the organization and possibly also prohibiting the activities of its more than a 1,000 charitable organizations after most of its leaders and thousands of its members were jailed. The government also seized land and property belong to MB members. One of them told a reporter, “I personally am not scared. People don’t have anything to lose.”

On November 28, 2013, Yara, 17, emailed from Cairo about pro-Morsi demonstrators captured by police. Seven were girls ages 15 and 16 and the others were in their early 20s:


In what could only be described as a dark day in the history of the revolution, 21 girls today we’re sentenced to prison. Some were sentenced to more than 14 years! Others who are underage were sent to juvenile! For peaceful protesting!! The court made its decision in only ONE session. Mubarak has been on trial for the past 3 years or so, and he wasn’t even sentenced… Not only that, but also the government just passed the “No protesting” law which basically gives a right to officer to dismiss using force any groups of more than 10, and even arrest them without a warrant. I think you should mark today in your book, as the beginning of the end.


Because of the outrage, the girls were released, but 24 young men were kept in jail and tortured. In court, the prisoners chanted “down with military rule,” and started a hunger strike in jail.

Yara’s teacher, Amal, had a different perspective and rather condescending analysis.


I would like to assure you that we are not ruled right now by military at all. And I am afraid to say that what Yara mentioned about the girls who belonged to MB is not exact. As I see Yara hasn’t got adequate information, as I think she depends only on Facebook, like all the young nowadays, to get information and have views. And the fact is that such young girls have participated in violent demonstrations by MB who insist on spreading fear and chaos in Egypt. And that is why they have been arrested among others for their violent attacks during such demonstration, and through the investigation they have admitted that they used weapons and they participated in violent attacks. I have been following such case through newspapers and TV and radio. So my information is more accurate than Yara’s information and I understand Yara’s stand as she belongs to the same age. But as one of the TV announcers said if you were in the judge’s position and you asked a suspect and he or she fully confessed and pleaded guilty, so what would be your verdict?!

Also I would like to correct Yara as she mentioned that the girls are sentenced to 14 years and the right verdict is 11 years each. And my third correction to my dear Yara is that such verdict is not a final one; it is just a primary one and the girls can resume and go to a higher court and resume their case. So my dear Gayle it is not a final judgment. And this is one of the sufferings of our society as most of our youth never get information but from Facebook. As they pass inaccurate information to each other without trying to verify such information.

Next Yara emailed to tell me that an icon of the revolution, Bassem Mohsen was shot in the head during a November 20 protest against police violence. He lost an eye during the 2011 demonstrations, was jailed, almost beaten to death, became the coordinator of Tamarod in Suez. He was a “martyr for what he believed in, who fought for the revolution with everything he had.” Youth leaders of Jan25 were arrested the end of 2013 and sentenced to three years in jail under the new anti-protest law, including Ahmed Maher, Mohamed Adel and Alaa Abdel-Fattah, and Ahmed Douma co-founders of the April movement. Amr Ali, another leader of the youth movement, reported, “The repression happening now to the movement and other NGOs is even higher than what we experienced in Mubarak’s time. Mubarak’s regime is trying to get power back, and there is a systematic approach of revenge against groups and movements that stood against it.”[x]

Security forces detained and beat up staff members of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights in December 2013, including Mohamed Adel who was active in the April 6 movement. At the same time, Mubarak’s sons were acquitted of some corruption charges as the military sought to broaden its support base as it faces almost daily demonstrations by Morsi supporters secular youth groups. Maher acknowledged that the people are tired of revolution and want stability.

The “Revolution Path Front” was formed September 2013 to prevent the revolution from being hijacked again and proposed an “Egyptian Bill of Rights.”[xi] At a press conference of “left” activists, they stated that although millions took to the streets in January 2011 and June 2013, “It has been two-and-a-half years since the revolution began and Egyptians have not yet achieved their dream of building a new republic that will provide them with democracy, justice and equality.” They blamed the MB and the military. About 150 founding members belonged to April 6 movement, The Revolutionary Socialists, Justice and Freedom Youth, and Strong Egypt Party. Yara said she had heard of them, “A lot of people have given up though and just feel like all this isn’t going to work. We are all very frustrated as you can imagine.”

Fault lines are coming to the surface three years after the revolution, with attacks on women getting worse. Escalating violence includes gang rape of a woman surrounded by a large swarm of men referred to as a “a circle of hell.” In a video shot from above you see a rotating circle of men like an angry swarm of bees. Mariam Kirollos reported to the Global Uprisings conference that many groups around Egypt are organizing independently with different ideologies to rescue the victims. She said that during the revolution women were told to wait until their issues were addressed, that they were a diversion from the important issues at hand, but they’re not waiting anymore. “Now if our demands are not met, we’ll start our own revolution.” A government official commented in 2013 that women go to Tahrir in order to get raped, so the outcome is a lot of women are afraid to organize in Tahrir.

Western powers pushed the military to follow through on its promise to write a more secular and democratic constitution and hold elections in 2014. Amazingly, in August 2013 Secretary of State Kerry praised the military for “restoring democracy.” In November, the government prohibited public meetings of more than 10 people without approval from the Interior Ministry as well as all demonstrations at religious buildings like mosques. In response three members of April 6 and others protested outside the upper house of parliament; the three leaders were sentenced to three years in jail. In December, Morsi supporters held a large demonstration were five people were killed and over 250 arrested.

In the constitution proposed in December 2013, the military gave itself more power while cleansing Islamic elements from Morsi’s version of the constitution. The military reserves the right to name the Defense Minister for the next two presidential terms. A 50-member panel drafted it in preparation for a national referendum. Soldiers beat and arrested some well-know human rights activists including members of the ”No Military Trials for Civilians” group when they protested the restrictive rules in the new constitution on November 26. Youth succeeded in making a revolution but not in long-term planning for a democracy free of military influence.

A referendum on the new constitution was held in January 2014, billed as also a straw poll on General Sisi’s bid for the presidency. It included exceptions to free speech including punishment for “dishonoring individuals” and “inciting violence.” TV ads and posters told voters a yes vote is a vote for the continuation of the revolution, despite its special treatment of the military and outlawing unauthorized protests. Campaigning for a no vote could lend up in arrest and being called traitors. Eleven people were killed in protests. Most of the 39% of the eligible voters who cast a ballot said yes. The military regime used classic imperial strategy of divide and conquer, setting Islamists, Salafis, Coptic Christians, and secularists against each other. I asked Akram why Sisi was popular when he jailed secular youth activists as well as MB members: “Because most of the people are not revolutionaries. Plus, there’s an awful campaign that’s distorting the image of activists and the 25th of January revolution!“

Since three out of four Egyptians are under 40, the government worried about low youth voter turnout for the referendum. In referendums after the revolution, their turnout was high. The Minister of Youth, age 55, discounted the youth disaffection, saying “It was exaggerated, until it became a subject addressed by everyone who works in the media.” President Adly Mansour (age 68), invited youth leaders to the presidential palace for discussions where he asked them why youth didn’t vote.  After attending three meetings, activist Shady el-Ghazaly Harb (age 35) said he stopped attending because authorities hadn’t stopped arresting young people and jailing them in appalling conditions. In another government meeting with youth in February 2014, the groups selected were Tamarod, the Wafd Party, and the Free Egyptians Party.

General Sisi, Defense Minister, was elected president in 2014, Egypt’s fifth military president. He was opposed by a left-wing politician called Hamdeen Sabahi who finished third in the June 2012 presidential election. A devout Muslim, growing up in a poor family in Cairo, the military was Sisi’s way out. He begins the day at 5:00 am for dawn prayers. Mosireen Media Collective warned him in January 2014, “You, General al-Sisi, will keep killing us, we’ll keep dying and grieving until your time comes. Like it did for Morsi, the tables will turn on you….We used to face Morsi down with rocks for hours. . . but we weren’t afraid.” (Their videos are on YouTube.[xii]) He said in his inauguration speech that “It is time for our great people to reap the harvest of their two revolutions,” but that free speech would take a back seat to stability.[xiii] Since Morsi was ousted in a coup, the military killed more than 1,000 protesters and jailed at least 16,000 others. He thanked Saudi despot King Abdullah for his monetary support.

Amnesty International said the military-backed government has “trampled on human rights and quashed dissent,” pointing in January 2014 to at least 1,400 deaths in political demonstrations since July 2013. Government crackdowns jailed 16,000 in the eight months after the coup with many reports of beatings, according to senior officials.[xiv] The mother of a jailed 20-year-old said he looks like a dirty caveman with long hair and nails. Protesters are increasingly resorting to violence, throwing Molotov cocktails and homemade grenades at police cars and barracks in Cairo. Pro-Sisi demonstrators chanted, “The people want the execution of the Brothers,” waving flags and holding photos of Sisi with a lion or hawk. Ahmed Shafik, a former general and prime minister, the runner-up behind Morsi, said the 2014 elections would be a farce, a comedy show, “I know very well they will fix all the ballot boxes.”[xv] The turn out on May 26 was lower than the election of Morsi, so the military extended voting by another day, threatened to fine people who didn’t vote, and TV announcers and religious leaders scolded non-voters. The official turnout rate was 46% with 103 million spoiled ballots. Harry Potter fan Yara emailed a photo of a ballot with a message written on it (shown on the book website),


A lot of Egyptians are NOT supporting the play that the system chooses to call “presidential elections.” For this reason, and in an act of protestation, many Egyptians have opted to invalidate their votes on the voting papers. It is in this time that the hilarity of the Egyptian people makes itself clear. Some chose to draw; others wrote a punch line or a joke. However, this has to be my favorite. It says: “The entirety of the Egyptian People hereby extend their warmest, heartfelt regards to actress Emma Watson for her Bachelor Degree.” I thought you may enjoy this! I thought it was gold!


The state of emergency was reinstated and protesters are jailed—at least 22,000 by mid-2014, including friends of Yara’s. Aril 6 youth movement was banned in April 2014 by the Court for Urgent Matters, but its Facebook page remained up.[xvi] Ahmed Abd Alla, a member of April 6, said “thousands of the revolutionaries are in prison. Our revolution did not succeed.” A judge sentenced 529 MB supporters to death after a few hours of trial in March for the murder of a police officer after Morsi was ousted, with another groups of 600 accused of attacking a police station were put on trial soon after. Several students were sentenced to 17 years in prison. In June 2014, Alaa Abdel Fattah (33) and 24 others were sentenced to 15 years in jail for violating 2013 protest laws. He was a leading activist in Jan25.

With the military in control of Tahrir, universities became the places to demonstrate against the coup, as in March 2014, around the country. They demanded the release of classmates jailed during the previous semester and that security forces who killed students be put on trial. In February, a judge lifted a ban on police entering campuses and administrators dissolved elected student unions, suspended activists, and fired professors who supported them. Students want an end to military rule. Multiple student groups including revolutionary socialists organized a protest in May called “Black Week for Universities.”

Yara and her peers were discouraged. She reported in 2014, “There’s minor activism now. It has less to do with fear and more to do with frustration. A lot of us feel like there’s no point anymore. We learned a long time ago to not fear bullets, sticks, fires, or jail. We seek freedom and death with the same zeal that they seek life in ignominy.” Students against the Coup clashed with security forces on numerous campuses, including Cairo, Alexandria, and Beni Fuef on March 20, 2014. Two students were killed by birdshot and many more were injured. Cairo University expelled 23 students for taking part in campus protests. The same month, a court sentenced 500 Muslim Brotherhood members to death in a joint trial.

Yara revealed a generational divide as she commented on the state of the revolution in 2014,


Youth did lead the revolution. We started it. We didn’t lead it to victory though; we lost it along the way. Here’s what I feel, and a lot of people my age feel the same way. We started this; the older generation claimed we were spies for the western world. After a while they joined. Then they expected their voices to mean more than ours, because they’re the “ADULTS.” They said yes to the military council for stability and when we screamed no, they called us thugs. Then they went out of their way and elected members to the Egyptian equivalent of the Senate house, that were old enough to have witnessed the 1919 revolution! Then again they dragged us to the dirt with electing Morsi and Shafeek for the final round of presidential elections. When we started talking about how it was unfair for the right wing Muslims to control the political scene, they called us atheists. And now here we are again screaming that the military should NOT be ruling the country, yet again. This time it’s no different. They deem our voices because we are “kids, atheists, thugs, and spies” and theirs are the only ones that matter. At this point though, we are tired of fighting. We fight, we protest, we sleep in the streets, we get shot, we get arrested, we die, and they, well, they rule. Everyone is frustrated. Everyone’s hope is lost. I know mine is.


In a generation gap, they’re blaming each other. A New York Times reporter who lives in Cairo, David Kirkpatrick also observed a generation gap.[xvii]  The two-thirds of the Egyptians under age 35 had their Woodstock moment in Jan25 and feel the regime repudiated their revolution. He sites a blogger called Sandmonkey (32) who said in a widely viewed post that elders are incompetent: “Egypt is facing the tragedy of an entire generation incapable and unqualified to deal with their plight.”[xviii] Young members of the MB blame the old guard for making the MB unpopular and not following “the revolutionary path.” An April 6 member said, “Their generation was silent for 60 years, and when we have paid the price in blood for them to have the right to say something, they turn around and call us traitors.” A pro-military elder blames youth for confusing revolution with chaos and destruction. Akram provides and example of elders discrediting the revolution:


Abdel Rehim Aly has an “exposé” TV show now where he claims to have documents against activists and some key players in the revolution, it’s really annoying and he claims they wanted to destroy Egypt and all are affiliated with the MB. Being a member of the 6th of April now is like the worst thing that can be said about someone as everyone now thinks they were funded and trained by foreign authorities.


Some fault youth for not organizing a coherent political plan, for not being a vanguard leadership, like New York Times op-ed columnist who wrote, “I blame the squabbling Egyptian liberals.” The filmmakers of Oscar-nominated The Square said in 2014 that the genie is out of the bottle. Director Jehane Noujaim followed activists shown in the film for two years. She told Al Jazzera America that more than 16,000 people were detained by the military since Morsi was ousted but she’s optimistic.[xix] Producer Karim Amer noted,


Everyone who felt that power isn’t going to give up. What was born in that square was a sense of dignity, as people felt for the first time they could be authors of their future. It’s an ongoing struggle. I believe in the resistance of a dedicated few. Especially the young Egyptians will take things into their own hands. We haven’t had a chance to reflect, live moment to moment. This revolution comes in waves, part of a global struggle. Youth are going to write our own stories that will and interconnected and hard to beat.


To keep current, check online sites such as the Foreign Policy’s Middle East Channel, Al Jazeera English, and the Khaled Said Facebook page. Akram reports one can follow all the news on Egyptian Chronicles.[xx] Zeinobia, its author, is one of the most famous bloggers in Egypt. She says she posts about everything that happens and describes herself on the blog as, “I am just an Egyptian girl who lives in the present with the glories of the past and hopes in a better future for herself and for her country.” Egypt’s revolution got rid of Mubarak and Morsi, but the military remained in power, jailing young liberal activists, discouraging others. But they influenced global uprisings and believe they eventually will succeed in establishing democracy after older people are replaced in power. Sub-Saharan Africa has many countries with youth bulges living in poverty, but do they have the resources to displace corrupt governments? So far, not much progress in that regard, although poverty is being reduced.



[i] Joel Brinkley, “A Lesson from America,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 17, 2011, p. F9. He points out that Latin American democracies crumbled over their failure to improve the quality of life for the people, leading to the authoritarianism of leaders like Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.

[ii] “Most Muslims Want Democracy, Personal Freedoms, and Islam in Political Life,” Pew Global Attitudes Project, July 10, 2012.

[iii] “One Year Later, Egyptians Embrace Democracy, Islam in Political Life,” Pew Research Center Publications, May 8, 2012.

[iv] Nathan Key, “Survey Shows Majority of Muslims in Favor of Sharia,” The Layman, May 3, 2013.



[vii] Peter Storm, “Egyptian Revolutionary Socialists’ Letter to Supporters,” Socialist Worker, August 20, 2013.

[viii] Dilip Hiro, “Clueless in Cairo,” Huffington Post, June 5, 2014.

[ix] Ben Hubbard and David Kirkpatrick, “Sudden Improvements in Egypt Suggest a Campaign to Undermine Morsi,” New York Times, July 10, 2013.


[xi] “A Revolutionary Front in Egypt,” Socialist Worker, October 10, 2013.


[xiii] David Kirkpatrick, “At Swearing-In, Ex-General Vows ‘Inclusive’ Egypt,” New York Times, June 8, 2014.


[xv] David Kirkpatrick, “Former Egyptian General Calls Promise of Free Elections a ‘Farce,’” New York Times, March 13, 2014.


[xvii] David Kirkpatrick and Mayy El Sheikh, “In Egypt, A Chasm Grows Between Young and Old,” New York Times, February 16, 2014. Ahmad Abd Allah is 34.



February 11, 2014


Interview with a Saudi Young Woman about Generational Changes

To find out more about generational values in another traditional Arab society where Muslim religious leaders and police are dominant, I talked with a young Saudi woman who I will call Aamina, age 27. She came to the US in 2006 to study English and computer science. She said things are changing in Saudi Arabia although the religious police will approach shoppers to remind them it’s time for prayers. (Hamas also has modesty patrols to check on clothing on college campuses and limit contact between young unmarried men and women in the Gaza Strip. Its government approved a law in 2013 prohibiting co-education after age eight.) Malls–their social centers–don’t allow single men to enter without their families to prevent them from flirting with girls. Her cousin was holding hands with her fiancé in a mall and was stopped for proof they were married or engaged. Wedding parties separate men and women and some homes have separate living rooms for the two groups. (The Saudi film Wadja (2012) shows male guests meeting behind a closed door while the wife cooks and serves the food on trays outside the door.) She said young men and women can sometimes get away with meeting in coffee shops because there are so many of them. A woman doesn’t have the freedom to just go for a walk by herself, as people would talk.

Aamina reports that Islam permeates every aspect of Saudi life, what you wear, what you say and do. Schools and colleges include courses on Islam. Girls learn cooking, sewing and drawing in high school but receive no physical education. She didn’t learn to swim until she was in the US, as only little girls under age seven or so can swim in public waters. Women are prevented from taking college subjects such as engineering, journalism, and architecture. Although women make up the majority of college students, they account for only 14% of the workforce, the lowest in the Middle East. DVDs are censored–sex scenes are removed, but not violent scenes.

It’s not just women who lack freedom; her brother visited her in California for three months and upon returning home said it was like going from heaven to hell, from freedom to restrictions and concern about what people think about your family. An American who taught in a Saudi college for men was amazed at the walls along all the silent residential streets, never seeing children playing or people out for a walk, or hearing any noise on the other side of the fences.[i] He said many of his students hadn’t spoken with non-relative females and would like to leave the country. Aamina compares living in Saudi Arabia and the US.


I was in a small world there, while here everyday I learn something new, like to swim or play the piano. To me America is another name for opportunity. I am learning so much about life, religions, how to be independent, and how to deal with men. It is a place for me to be who I am and act like how I think is right, without worrying about religion or culture.


This freedom makes her happy and relaxed, so much so that friends commented when she went home to visit her family that she looked ten years younger.

She likes King Abdullah who promised that women will be allowed to drive, after driving schools become available with female instructors. This is a big deal for young men as well because they get tired of chauffeuring their female relatives. In California, her brother sat in the back seat in relief and said, “Drive me!” She says the king is also thinking about co-ed primary schools. He established scholarships for young people like her to study abroad and bring back new ideas. In a country ruled by Shariah law, the king has a record of dismissing religious leaders who are too critical of his “legalizing taboos” against men and women interacting, as one of those advisors said before he was fired. King Abdullah permitted women to work in stores selling to women, but groups of conservative sheikhs protested, demanding that such storefronts be covered and only women allowed to enter.

In 2013 the king added 30 women to the top advisory group of 150 members, the Shura Council, not just as advisors but for the first time giving them a vote. One of their first steps was to bring up the issue of women being permitted to drive. He also gave women the right to vote and run for office in municipal elections in 2015, without their husbands’ approval. The kingdom’s chief cleric warned against these changes; “It is necessary for women to be separated from men as much as possible, because this great religion protects the chastity of women against evil and corruption,” said Grand Mufti Sheik Abdul-Aziz Al-Sheik.

Aamina worried because Prince Naïf (born in 1933) was in line to become king after Abdullah (born in 1923). Naïf was a very strict religious conservative who said, “Women will not drive cars as long as I am alive.” He also opposed women voting. Aamina was afraid to go back to Saudi Arabia because of the possibility of him becoming king. He died shortly after our conversation, to be replaced as Crown Prince by his more moderate brother Defense Minister Prince Selman. He was born in 1935 to his father’s favorite wife, the 31st son of the founder of the monarchy.

Change happens slowly in Saudi Arabia, but girls don’t cover up as much as in her mother’s generation; it’s not unusual to see hair under a loosely wrapped scarf in public. Although all women wear the abaya robe, she has seen some with no head covering in public. Aamina wears shorts and sleeveless shirts around her male relatives at home, although her mother always has her arms and legs covered. After several years in the US she stopped wearing a hijab although her uncle (her father died when she was a girl so they live with her mother’s family) wanted her to keep wearing it so people wouldn’t talk badly about her at home.

Her mother, age 45, married at 14 and had six children so she wasn’t well educated except for reading on her own. She says she lives for her children. In Aamina’s grandmother’s day some families thought it was wrong to send girls to school, even though all the staff in girls’ schools are female. Even now, male teachers speak on video and can’t see their students. When Aamina was a teenager she thought about marriage and children, but she says teens nowadays are more focused on their education and know a lot more than she did. She turned down many suitors because they wanted her to be a housewife. Now that she’s a college student in the US, she has her own boyfriend, also a Saudi, who is supportive of her desire to pursue more education and have a career, “unlike the typical Saudi man.” Whereas traditional Islam maintains that women are more emotional and men more rational—hence a woman’s testimony counts for half a man’s and she inherits half of what a man inherits—she believes that women are stronger emotionally.

Although her life has changed since coming to California, what survives strongly is the traditional emphasis on extended family that gets together at least once a week. Aamina phones her mother every day she’s in the US. Young Saudi adults live with their parents until marriage, so she was shocked that some US teens leave home after high school graduation. Also, Islamic practices of prayer five times a day and fasting during the month of Ramadan are heart-felt and followed. This all changed when I talked with her a year later and she told me, “I was looking for the truth and I was struggling to find the true loving God and I found Christ 🙂 I am saved by his grace and my boy friend was struggling too and he received Christ last night. I am so happy and content, the relationship with Jesus is amazing, full of love and hope.” Her life is certainly different than her mother’s.



[i] Joseph Marais, “Saudi Arabia Under Siege,” Sacramento News and Review, May 11, 2011.

Stages of a Successful Social Movement, Bill Moyer

Bill Moyer defined eight stages of successful social movements to mobilize the masses because of the lack of “analytic tools for evaluating and organizing social movements.” His 1987 “Movement Action Plan” believes that power lies with the people and their values. Symbols are useful in informing the people that their values are being violated and giving them hope for change. Building a social movement is like playing chess.

Stage One: Normal times with the elites in power.

Stage Two: Prove that institutions failed

Stage Three: Growing discontent

Stage Four: A trigger event generates civil disobedience, a dramatic nonviolent action campaign, and the social movement takes off

Stage Five: After a year of two, a feeling of powerlessness sets in.

Stage Six: New organization, paradigm, strategy and leadership models to achieve grassroots public support. This requires a switch from “loose” to “empowerment” model of organization.

Stage Seven: Success creates new policies and the central powerholders are defeated.

Stage Eight: Continue the struggle and create new beginnings. Struggle never ends.

Generation We or Me? Narcissistic?

A Pew Research Center report names US Millennials the “Look at Me” generation because they post photos and activities of themselves on social networking sites.[i] In the Pew survey, when respondents were asked about the life goals of others in their age group they guessed fortune and fame would top the list, but that didn’t mean the respondents personally had the same goals. SpeakOut youths who mentioned fame usually framed it in the context of doing good.

The webpage for Twenge and Campbell’s The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement gives this definition: “Narcissists believe they are better than others, lack emotionally warm and caring relationships, constantly seek attention, and treasure material wealth and physical appearance.” Based on all the surveys I’ve read, Millennials as a group may like attention and fame as on social media, want money to enable a middle-class lifestyle, and like most adolescents care about their appearance as part of defining themselves, but they also highly value warm relationships with family and friends and don’t believe they’re better than others. Young people I’ve studied don’t lack empathy, don’t require excessive admiration, and aren’t arrogant. They don’t like judgment or bigotry but value accepting someone for their personal qualities rather than their race, gender, or sexual preference.

This WE/ME debate is an excellent case study of the inexactness of social science. Twenge and her co-authors draw from two huge yearly surveys of high school seniors (463,753 gathered from 1976 to 2008) and college freshman (8.7 million, gathered since the late 1960s by the Higher Education Research Institute to compare Millennials born after 1982 with Baby Boomers and Gen Xers. She also uses essays written by her college students at San Diego State University, and respondents to her website.[ii] Twenge includes herself in Generation Me, although she was born in 1971. In her first book she combined very different Gen X with Gen Y, those born in the 1970s to 1990s, referring to them as Gen Me. In a 2012 article she changed the dates to those born from 1982 to 1999.

Authors such as Jensen Arnett and co-authors Winograd and Hais question Twenge’s methodology. The latter state on their blog that she relies too much on just 182 San Diego State student survey responses although Twenge says she has around 15,000 NPI responses.[iii] Jensen Arnett and Philhour maintain that Twenge makes too much out of small percentage changes. I asked CSUC statistics expert David Philhour to look at Twenge’s statistical methodology:


I looked at the full study in order to assess how much “practical significance” there is in these studies. Given that the numbers are HUGE, it is not surprising that they got lots of p values of less than .01, but the effect size for these differences is VERY SMALL. Other problems I see relate to claims about representing Boomers (1946-1961) whereas they present only data for folks born 1958-1961 for the Monitor the Future survey (graduating high schoolers).


Professor Kali Trzesniewski and her colleagues reviewed the same surveys used by Twenge–410,527 high school student responses and 26,867 college students’ scores over 30 years. They found no evidence for increase in narcissism, self-esteem, egotism, political activity, or the importance of religion.[iv] The few differences they found are youth today are more cynical and less trusting and have “higher educational expectations” than previous generations. Similar to authors Winograd and Hais, the professors “emphasize the need for care when psychological scientists offer broad and often moralistic pronouncements about entire generations of young people.” Twenge responded to Trzesniewski and colleagues’ criticism in an article that criticized their methodology, saying they ignored many variables in the survey of high school students, and that her conclusions stand that youth are less interested in civic matters, more materialistic, and more self-satisfied.[v]

Other scholars join in criticizing Twenge, reporting that when recent data is included there is no increase in narcissism in college students and that being self-centered is part of youth: “Every generation is Generation Me.”[vi] A study of the recent data about college students concluded that there was no increase in narcissism over the last few decades and that “every generation is Generation Me,” as young are developmentally more narcissistic than older people.[i] [i] Brent Roberts, et al., “It is Developmental Me, Not Generation Me,” Perspect Psychol Sci. January 1, 2010; Vol. 5(1), pp. 97–102.doi:  10.1177/1745691609357019


Roberts, Edmonds and Grijalva added recent NPI surveys of college undergraduates to older data in a meta analysis in 2010 and re-analyzed Twenge’s data.[i] They found no increase in NPI scores, but that men are more narcissistic than women regardless of age and African American groups score higher on the NPI. Instead they found that narcissism rose in generations coming of age in the 1960s and 70s and declines with age, thus “the evidence for Generation Me disappears.” Thus narcissism is developmental rather than generational phenomenon, so every generation of young people is more narcissistic than their elders who may criticism them for being self-centered. . Professor Jeffrey Jensen Arnett points to the new life stage of “emerging adulthood” that leads some older adults to judge young people as selfish because they delay stepping into adult roles. He observes that “youth bashing” is common and problematic although older Millennials follow through with their simple dreams of finding a romantic partner and the right job as they approach 30.[ii]


[i] Brent Roberts, Grant Edmonds, and Emily Grijalva, “It’s Developmental Me, Not Generation Me,” Perspect Psychol Sci, January 1, 2010.

doi: 10.1177/1745691609357019

[ii] Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, “To Grow Up,” Perspectives on Psychological Science, Vol. 5(1), 2010.

Professor Jeffrey Jensen Arnett points to the new life stage of “emerging adulthood” that leads some older adults to judge young people as selfish because they delay stepping into adult roles. He observes that “youth bashing” is common and problematic although older Millennials follow through with their simple dreams of finding a romantic partner and the right job as they approach 30.[vii]

Twenge’s evidence is based on an increase in college students scoring narcissistic on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) from one in four in 2006, compared to one in seven in 1982.[viii] That means 75% aren’t narcissistic even using the NPI. An examination of the NPI questions indicates many of them just measure self-confidence as in the statement “I’m a good leader.” Does a yes answer signify egoism or a statement of fact? You can take the NPI online and see how you score.[ix] In the same article, Twenge says for the first time I’ve read this kind of caution from her: “Most young people are, even now, not very narcissistic, but there are now more individuals who reach a very high level of narcissism.” She adds that women, Latinos and Asian Americans have lower narcissism rates than white men.

In comments about an Atlantic magazine article by Twenge, someone called PurpleCat3–I didn’t get a response to my online request for identification, responded to my posted doubts about the relevance of the NPI:


The NPI is not “outdated”–it’s the measure most commonly used now by research psychologists to measure narcissistic traits. It doesn’t “really measure self-confidence”–it measures narcissism, something completely different. For example, narcissism is linked to anger and aggression, but self-esteem is not. Twenge and her co-author explain all of this at length in their book. . . 
And does the survey of 3,000 global youth [referencing this book] compare them to previous generations? If not, how can you make a generational conclusion?”[x]


There’s no evidence Millennials are more aggressive than other generations, in fact they are less likely to commit crimes. Checking with the main psychology reference book, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition, it defines a personality disorder as “a pattern of deviant or abnormal behavior that the person doesn’t change.”[xi] A narcissistic personality disorder is defined as “a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy.” Narcissists have an exaggerated sense of self-importance as if no one else mattered. In terms of origins, the “preferred theory seems to be that narcissism is caused by very early affective deprivation,” yet the Twenge theory is that doting parents who emphasized self-esteem are the roots of youth narcissism.

Psychologists estimate narcissists to be around 1% of the population, yet Twenge labels a generation “Me.” Who wasn’t self-centered as an adolescent when the task is to form an identity different from our parents, as psychoanalyst Erik Erikson explained?[xii] As we transit to adult responsibilities—especially parenting, focus shifts from self to others. But we can also care about others at an earlier age, as illustrated by the numbers of teen volunteers in high school, college, and after graduation working in organizations like Americorps.[xiii]

Twenge’s college students score more extroverted than previous generations and both sexes score more instrumental/masculine on the Bem Sex-Role Inventory rather than feminine/nurturant or androgynous. Instrumentals tend to be confident. Twenge believes they are more likely than other generations to believe that external forces control their lives and feel apathetical, uninterested in and uninformed about politics. However, they got involved in the election campaigns that elected President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 and Zoe (17, f, California) reported backlash to the Republican “war on women” with state laws like Virginia’s mandatory vaginal probe ultrasound before being allowed to get an abortion, attacks on Planned Parenthood, etc.


A Canadian mother, Nancy Hillis, who has spent a lot of time in India living with families there, said she agreed with the charge that kids are overly protected in the West:


Yes, I see this and agree heartily–adversity indeed makes for strong resilient resourceful souls. I was amazed with how I witnessed this in India: God, and therefore surrender to what ‘is’, is deeply woven into daily life and there are few social safety nets to provide the comforts we are accustomed to here in Canada and the western world. Life is one of poverty and uncertainty contrasted with richness in acceptance and allowing and simply being; there is not the neurosis of the western mind and body.
American Teen Mental Health

A study by the American College Counseling Association found that 37% of college students seeking help in 2012 had severe psychological problems, up from 16% in 2000.[xiv] Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students. In addition to an insecure future, a Cornell counselor blames preoccupation with media that distracts students from developing emotional skills such as staying focused on a task and understanding they can’t control everything. Information technology changes the brain, makes some people feel disconnected and anxious, according to The Shallows by Nicholas Carr (2011).

An online survey of over 2,000 adults found that Millennials are more likely than other age groups to be told by a health care provider that they have depression (19%) or anxiety disorder (12%). About 6.4 million children ages four through 17 have received a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About two-thirds are prescribed stimulants like Ritalin or Adderall that can increase anxiety for some children. According to the Harris poll, Millennials’ most popular coping mechanisms are music (59%), exercise (51%) and spending time with family and friends (46%). They were more likely than other age groups to get solace from their relationships (vs. an average of 39%).

The 2010 and 2011 national survey of US college freshmen found the numbers who felt overwhelmed in high school increased to 28.5%. Their self-rating of their peers’ emotional health was at an all-time low, although the majority (53%) said their own emotional health compared to peers was high or average. (The Icarus Project developed peer-support groups for people diagnosed as mentally ill and put together information about medication.[xv]) Burstein says Millennials have to figure out how to find a job and make money, and be happy in a recession, but have the ability to adapt. Why are so many optimistic about the long term? He says we’re trying to make something out this time in our 20s, not just getting married, rather, having new experiences.

Moral Relativism and Extreme Individualism: A Cautionary Tale from the US


Some scholars believe US Millennials are narcissistic and politically apathetic while others defend them as highly motivated to do good. We’ll start with the pessimists. Two huge yearly surveys of high school seniors (463,753 gathered from 1976 to 2008) and college freshman (8.7 million, gathered from 1966 to 2009) compared Millennials born after 1982 with Baby Boomers and Gen Xers. Authors Twenge, Campbell, and Freeman’s findings back up the authors of Lost in Transition charge (to be discussed later) that money and image is more important to Millennials than affiliation and community, continuing the trends started by Gen X.[i] When asked about the importance of having lots of money, 26% of Millennials said it was extremely important, compared to 16% of Boomers. These critics charge that Millennials are less interested in “developing a meaningful philosophy of life” and “finding meaning and purpose in my life,” than Baby Boomers. However, more Millennials still rate finding meaning as more important than having lots of money. Regarding Millennials’ goal to be well-off, Winograd and Hais comment, “Where we differ from Twenge is in placing moral value on these values or goals….The implication that the core values of one generation are ‘better’ than those of another, may, in the end, be the greatest flaw in Professor Twenge’s writing.”

Narcissism vs. Altruism

Lead researcher Jean Twenge, author of Generation Me, maintains that her earlier conclusion that this generation is more narcissistic holds based on an increase of one in four in 2006, up from one in seven in 1982.[ii] That means 75% aren’t narcissistic even using the Narcissistic Personality Inventory. Some say the NPI just measures confidence, as in the question “I’m a good leader;” does a yes answer signify egoism or a statement of fact? You can take the NPI online: I scored one point lower than being defined as a narcissist and I’m not at all self-centered, just confident and at times—like when teaching, extroverted.[iii] In the same article, Twenge says for the first time I’ve read this kind of caution from her: “Most young people are, even now, not very narcissistic, but there are now more individuals who reach a very high level of narcissism.” She adds that women, Latinos and Asian Americans have lower narcissism rates than men and Anglos.

According to Twenge, Millennials’ concern for others declined slightly in comparison to previous generations and their “civic orientation” (interest in social problems, political participation, and environmental action) also declined, especially in taking action to help the environment. Millennials only outscored Gen X on civic awareness in talking about politics, but most of the differences between generations were small and Millennials have lower crime rates than Gen X did when they were young. Twenge, et al., acknowledge that, “In most cases, Millennials slowed, though did not reverse, trends toward reduced community feeling begun by Gen X,” and that the declines were slight.[iv] Twenge includes herself in Generation Me, although she was born in 1971, mixing very different Gen X with Gen Y, and calls the combined group Gen Me. In a 2012 article she defines them as roughly born from 1982 to 1999. She attributes general trends for all ages, such as Americans of all ages feeling more stressed over time, not just a characteristic of young people. Among the various scholars who report civic-mindedness, Twenge chose only to criticize the positive findings of Neil Howe and Willaim Strauss (Millennials Rising) and Eric Greenbergy and Karl Weber (Generation We) only because they didn’t include comparative data from previous generations.[v]

She states that narcissists lack empathy for others, but clearly Millennials are liberal about social issues like national health care, same-sex marriage, and expanding college scholarships for low-income families, which seems like concern for others. Twenge herself notes in Generation Me the increase in equality and tolerance. Generational expert Neil Howe says, “Today’s youth want government to participate actively in building communities and helping those in need,” nearly two to one of people aged 18 to 29 take this stance, in comparison to older Gen Xers who are about evenly split on the issue.[vi] A report called “New Progressive America: The Millennial Generation,” confirms that youth are liberal in their political views, as does a Pew Research Institute report.[vii]

The Millennials—women more than men, are more liberal than their elders on every social issue (with majority support for gay marriage, affirmative action, national health care, unions, and government providing more services) except abortion. They’re evenly divided on whether it should be legal in all or most cases.[viii] In the 2011 college freshmen survey, the belief that abortion should be legal increased to 61% in support.[ix] Millennials expect government to provide services. They are drawn to collective action including openness, cooperation, group decision-making, and individual responsibility within the collective action. Zoe, 17, reports,

I do feel this change in my generation; it’s more socially accepting on social issues like legalizing marijuana. We’re looking at the debate over contraception and wondering, “Is this 1973? Do they want to want to overturn Roe v. Wade?” We have to stall their efforts so they die before our generation can take over in office. The median age of the Supreme Court is like 150. It’s going to be really interesting when this generation starts moving into office.

A Pew Research Institute report also found that Millennials are more liberal than older Americans about social issues like homosexuality, abortion, and belief in evolution, and large numbers (67%) say they would prefer a bigger government that provides more services.[x] This generation is “more inclusive and more tolerant of group differences than any previous generation,” has more global awareness, and is more likely to volunteer in high school, college, and afterwards in organizations like Americorps.[xi] Regarding volunteerism, which Twenge ascribed to high school students wanting to beef up college application, Wonograd and Hais point to a 20% increase in college student volunteering between 2002 and 2005. There’s even a service webpage for young tweens.[xii] The Corporation for National and Community Service reported that 26% of college students volunteered in 2005 down from 31% in 2004, perhaps because tuition is rising and they have to spend more time earning money.[xiii] The authors of Lost in Transition charge, “They are so focused on their own personal lives, especially on trying to stand on their own two feet, that they seem incapable of thinking more broadly about community involvement, good citizenship, or even very modest levels of charitable giving.” [xiv]

Millennial comments responding to a 2012 Twenge article in The Atlantic explained that if they were uninterested in social issues it’s because they’re overwhelmed and disgusted: “Millennials are steadily being crapped on by a bad economy and political policies that redistribute wealth to the old and very old. With a 54% unemployment rate for those under 24, is it any wonder young people feel disconnected?” Tim S

There is a trend for my generation to find less interest in the news, less interest in going “green” and less interest in religion because of over- population, conflicting information, marketing that appeals to emotion (like the marketing used for “green” products) and our vast ability to communicate with others in the world and the relations we establish with them.[xv] Nicholas Yount

As part of the generation in question, the government isn’t going to help us, it doesn’t matter who is in “power.” It’s a stalemate. Nothing productive gets done–and if something is going to be done the politicians have to be bribed with earmarks or support for pet projects. So why would we care about politics? Politics and reality television are similar–a waste of time and money, made to cater to anyone who will listen, loud, obnoxious, over-the-top targeting only their demographic and annoying everyone else.

I used to care. But the more I cared, the more obvious it was that it doesn’t matter. If we’re going to change the world, we have to do it ourselves–by making our own businesses and working through those channels, by vetting and policing every organization that we volunteer for or donate to or better yet–just doing it ourselves. We get blasted every day with stories of government corruption, corporate corruption, police corruption, media bias and lies, non-profit organizations squandering money. Is it really surprising that we’re a self-centered generation? All we hear about is how often society–the government, corporations, organizations, ect. has failed us. Ashrak

Wonograd and Hais report that all generations value being a good parent and having a successful marriage, but Millennials are much more likely to value doing work that benefits society as well as having a high-paying job.[xvi] This is especially true for the younger Millennials age 18 to 24: more than three-quarters of them said both goals are very important. Despite the apparent contradiction of a well-paid “philiantrocapitalist” job, almost two-thirds of 18 to 34-year-old are confident they will achieve their goals. The data is from the yearly survey of college freshman by the Higher Education Research Institute. Examples of altruistic young social entrepreneurial business leaders such a co-founder of Kiva are featured in Shake the World by James Marshall Reilly (2011).

I asked statistics expert David Philhour to look at Twenge’s data:

I looked at the full study in order to assess how much “practical significance” there is in these studies. Given that the numbers are HUGE, it is not surprising that they got lots of p values of less than .01, but the effect size for these differences is VERY SMALL. Other problems I see relate to claims about representing Boomer (1946-1961) whereas they present only data for folks born 1958-1961 for the Monitor the Future survey (graduating high schoolers).

Professor Kali Trzesniewski and colleagues reviewed 410,527 high school students responses and 26,867 college students’ scores over 30 years, reporting they found no evidence for increase in narcissism, self-esteem, egotism, political activity, the importance of religion, etc.).[xvii] The few differences are youth today are more cynical and less trusting and have “higher educational expectations” than previous generations. Similar to Wonograd and Hais, the authors “emphasize the need for care when psychological scientists offer broad and often moralistic pronouncements about entire generations of young people.”

Twenge responded to Trzesniewski and colleagues’ criticism in an article by criticizing their methodology, saying they ignored many variables in the survey of high school students, and that her conclusions stand that youth are less interested in civic matters, more materialistic, and more self-satisfied.[xviii] A Pew Research Center report names Millennials the “Look at Me” generation because they post photos and activities on social networking sites.[xix] In the Pew survey, when respondents were asked about the life goals of others in their age group they said fortune and fame, but that didn’t mean individuals personally agreed with the goals.

Other scholars join in criticizing Twenge, reporting when recent data is included there is no increase in narcissism in college students and being self-centered is part of youth: “Every generation is Generation Me.”[xx] Professor Jeffrey Arnett points to the new life stage of “emerging adulthood” leading some older adults to judge young people as selfish because they delay stepping into adult roles. He observes that “youth bashing” is common and problematic although older Millennials follow through with their simple dreams of finding a love partner and the right job as they approach 30.[xxi] Emerging adulthood is a new life stage postponing commitments as young adults must spend more time in education, delay marriage, and perhaps return home to live with their parents as they struggle to find a good job. It will continue so it’s not a uniquely Millennial phenomenon.

The Higher Education Research Institute summary of freshmen survey trends from 1966 to 2006 reported in response to a question about your most important beliefs, “The importance of helping others” was the highest it has been in 20 years at 67%.[xxii] It was third on the priority list, with raising a family at the top (75.5%) and being well-off financially (73%) in second place. Current freshmen come from more wealthy families than in the past, 60% higher than the national average income, which may be a factor in students’ emphasis on money to sustain their parents’ lifestyle, faced with rising tuition fees and the average $25,000 student debt. The Institute summary stated that becoming a community leader gained in importance (35%) and the number of students who said they would participate in community service in college increased from 17% in 1990 to 27% in 2006, with women twice as likely as men to be interested in service. (Women are 55% of the freshmen.)

In a generational survey of insurance employees by Howe and Nadler, nearly two-thirds of Millennials and Gen X wanted their employer “to contribute to social and ethical causes.’”[xxiii] The authors point to other studies confirming this social conscience and attraction to “helping” professions like teaching or nonprofits. Because of their open-mindedness, their lack of doctrinaire religiosity, because 40% of this generation is people of color, their acceptance of gender equality, and because they’re a Civic generation in Howe’s scheme, they are in line to end the culture wars, the bitter debates between religious right and secular left. If Millennials were narcissistic they wouldn’t be concerned about equality for others.

Rebuttals to the narcissism charge include: every generation of young people is more self-centered than adults—especially until they become parents. The NPI is flawed. Others, such as authors Jeffrey Arnett and co-authors Morley Winograd and Michael Hais, question Twenge’s methodology; the latter state on their blog that she relies too much on just 182 San Diego State student survey responses.[xxiv] I agree with Arnett maintain that Twenge makes too much out of small percentage changes.

Other Mental Health Problems

Twenge and co-authors maintain that compared with other generations Millennials suffer from increased anxiety, depression, and poor mental health. The 2010 and 2011 national survey of college freshmen found the numbers who felt overwhelmed in high school increased to 28.5%. Their self-rating of emotional health was at an all-time low although the majority (53%) said their emotional health compared to peers was high or average. Despite this, Twenge states that these surveys of freshmen and high school seniors report “large generational increases in psychopathology,” a sharp rise with a five-fold increase.[xxv] Yet the majority feels fine about their mental health. Worry over getting into college or paying for it doesn’t count as mental illness but seems very in touch with reality.

Professor Arnett arrives at a different conclusion than Twenge after looking at survey data: “In fact, the evidence shows emerging adults overall to be highly contented with themselves and their lives, and remarkable optimistic.”[xxvi] Arnett adds that many studies in the US and Canada show rising well-being from the late teens through the mid-20s, with high levels of optimism, rather than Twenge’s assertion that young people are both more confident and more miserable than ever before.[xxvii] They’re not naïve; they’re skeptical about large political and religious institutions, but optimistic about their own abilities to create a good life.

Some agree that youth are increasingly suffering from anxiety and depression. Kirby, 22, writes from Massachusetts, “It’s become more and more of a trend that people with easy childhoods and great parents, good education, fine jobs and good relationships, basically people who’ve had everything go right so far, are dealing with seemingly unexplainable depression and/or anxiety. It’s talked about all the time in my communications classes.” A therapist, Cyndi Sarnoff-Ross, sees this problem in her clients and reports, “Many clinicians are now focusing on this phenomenon of the let down,” the confusion young adults feel transitioning from a happy childhood where they could do no wrong to the real world.[xxviii] Kirby offers an explanation:

I think the problem is that without adversity, a person is never tested, and that inhibits the formation of identity. It’s related to the problem of “helicopter parents.” We’re also living in a time where decisions don’t seem to have many consequences. For example, our nation is in debt, but really for the most part we’re continuing to live the way we always have. Kids don’t see really lasting, important decisions being made; they see Congress refusing to make decisions that protect or positively impact their nation. This generation’s kids feel like they don’t have much to fight against, not like bad parenting or the Vietnam war that the hippies were kind of contrasting. A lot of psychologists are finding that too little stress is actually creating stress down the line.


Psychologists believe that some stress promotes problem-solving skills and too much triggers stress hormone cortisol and the person shuts down.


In one of the largest generational gaps discussed by Twenge, 15% of Millennials said they made no personal effort at all to help the environment, compared to only 5% of the Boomers. Only 9% of Millennials said they made quite a bit of effort to help the environmental, compared to 15% of Boomers. However, a in a 2010 Pew Research Center survey of the generations, Millennials were slightly more likely to be approving of the greater availability of green products (77%) than older generations and much more so than those over 65 (45%). A review of various surveys by the Center for American Progress found that Millennials are often more supportive of environmentalism than older generations, with 79% thinking “it’s my responsibility to improve the environment,” 74% supporting a national implementation of green energy, and 58% being more in favor of implementing environmental protection even if it slows economic growth.[xxix] The gulf between seniors and younger generations continued on other social issues.

I asked Zoe about environmental issues as she identifies as an activist. She isn’t convinced that humans cause global warming:

My biology teacher told us global warming doesn’t exist; he wants us to be skeptical and think twice about what we’re presented with in the media. I don’t know where I stand on global warming. I do know that we stop to poisoning the place in which we live. You can’t shit where you eat, as they say. We have to control the consumption of our resources because we have so few. I’m a huge environmentalist, but it’s not my top priority, I don’t know a whole lot about it. I approach it from capitalism’s waste and the inefficiencies of the economic system. It doesn’t make sense that we’re consuming at this rate. We have a lot of resources in this world but they’re not getting to where they need to be because people who need them don’t have the money to pay for them so they end up in landfills as a result of overproduction. You see science fiction shows like Firefire where we colonize other planets, which might be a good idea.

Zoe, 17, f, California

Marin, 14, agreed with Zoe about schools in our town; “In school, we don’t learn about environmental issues. We just learn what’s in our text books. We learn what the California State Law requires us to learn. It’s very disappointing that they don’t teach us anything about how our ways are effecting the environment. Its true that many kids don’t care about the environmental issues because they don’t know how big of a deal it is.” A blogger called Kayraha explained that Millennials’ lack of environmental action could be explained by: lack of time spent exploring nature, being overwhelmed by the volume of information, being pampered, they don’t think of ingrained habits such as shopping with reusable bags or recycling as action but take them for granted, plus the data was collected before the recession [and the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf] so attitudes may have changed.[xxx] “Jstudev” made a comment on The Atlantic website that backs up her point:

I ride a bike instead of driving and recycle but I eat meat so I would not go as far as to say I am helping the environment because of the culture I’m in. Whereas I bet my Dad who eats meat, drives and has a lot of posters of sharks and other exciting animals he likes on his wall would say he does a lot to help the environment because of a cultural difference in expectations.


As a working Millennial, I can say that I’ll only give two s**ts about the environment once I’m comfortable in my own life, paying bills, etc.  In a period of record values of the dollar (low) and cost of living (high), we need to survive before we thrive. Nick Vaccaro

Winograd and Hais point out when the environment question in the longitudinal surveys was re-worded in 2011 to a more action-oriented approach instead of “participate in programs to clean up the environment,” 41% rated it as very important behavior.  They add that, according to Pew Research 2010 survey, 80% of Millennials viewed climate change as a serious problem, 10 points higher than Gen X or Boomers. Youth lead large active environmental groups such as the Energy Action Coalition; the largest issue-based global youth blog is “It’s Getting Hot in Here.” Millennials often believe the best way to create change is to share information. It’s safe to say that some young people are environmental leaders and some don’t know much about problems like global warming.


In another book that could be called “youth bashing,” the evangelical father and son authors of Lost in Transition concluded that postmodern extreme individualism and moral relativity has left young adults confused and without vision of a greater good. The book draws from 230 in-depth interviews in 45 states with a representative cross-section of US “emerging adults,” ages 18 to 23, in 2008. The authors also refer to written surveys and telephone surveys they conducted before the face-to-face interviews. The authors focus on youth problems but mention that on the positive side, the percentage of youth starting and finishing college has increased, they’re optimistic about their futures, teen pregnancies have declined, and youth are less prejudiced than older generations.

The authors’ thesis is that youth suffer from postmodern moral relativity or “moral individualism;” they are unable to think through moral principles believing that what ever works for an individual is permissible. Their interviewees often said something like, “It’s up to the individual. Who am I to say?” The authors believe this lack of moral grounding leads to promiscuity, excessive drinking, over-emphasis on consumerism and political apathy.”[xxxi] The young adults who are lost without a moral compass feel confusion and pain. However, the percentages in their study who misbehave are in the minority (the majority are not politically active and emphasize consumerism), so it may be the authors have overstated their concerns. When I asked the lead author Christian Smith for a list of interview response percentages in an email, he declined referring me to their previous book about youth’s religious beliefs. The larger Pew Research Center surveys found that although US youth are less likely to attend religious services and affiliate with a particular religion than older generations, “Millennials are no less convinced than their elders that there are absolute standards of right and wrong,” and they are as likely to pray daily as well as have similar beliefs about the afterlife.[xxxii]

Rather than believing in objective moral truths, many young adults believe that morality is a social construction that changes with time and culture. And that in fact is true: For example, currently some Americans believe in a woman’s reproductive rights over her own body while others accuse anyone who performs or has an abortion, while others accuse them of baby killing and are adamant that human life begins at conception. Some believe that guns should be harder to get and kept out of the hands of killers, while others view gun ownership as a sacred constitutional right. Some believe that government should make sure every American has health care and others believe that each person is responsible for him or herself, as debated in the 2012 presidential race. Candidate Rick Santorum argued against birth control and abortion on the basis of his Catholic beliefs. Mitt Romney agreed with him, advocating defunded Planned Parenthood. President Obama disagreed.

Also in 2012, the Vatican accused US nuns in the Leadership Conference of Women Religious of “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.” A bishop was put in charge of reining them in from their 2010 support of national health care in opposition to American bishops and their emphasis on helping the poor rather than opposing abortion and same-sex marriage. Sister Simone Campbell explained the Vatican is not used to strong women. But Millennials are used to them. Is the Holy Father correct or the radical feminist nuns? In the face of these kinds of opposing beliefs, it’s understandable that youth would question moral absolutes.

They’re also disappointed in their leaders. Many youth who were inspired by Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign of hope summarized in his slogans “Change we can believe in” and the chant “Yes We Can” were responsible for his election stopped believing and hoping. Their impact on the November 2012 election was _______.  Although Millennials are more likely than older generations to advocate a strong federal government that provides services, recent surveys find them increasingly critical of the federal government and less trusting of the federal government than any time during the 50 years this question has been asked.[xxxiii] They especially (54%) distrust elected officials for being “crooked.” When the Gerstein-Agne Generation We survey asked respondents to select one characteristic that was least likely to describe Millennials, they picked trusting government and political leaders. Most (93%) thought that special interests and lobbyists dominate government, but they’re less likely than older generations to think that government is inherently inefficient. They think that politics and political engagement is relevant to them and in favor of government activism although cynical about its ability to do good.

About one-third of the Lost in Transition interviewees believed it’s all right to break moral rules if it works for you and you can get away with it. One-third didn’t know what makes something right or wrong, but 40% were influenced by what other people might think of them. About half said something that hurts other people is wrong, which seems to be a moral absolute. Some (27%) said most moral beliefs are relative, but with some exceptions. The authors qualified their conclusion about youth lacking moral principles by reporting that although nearly one-third of the respondents were moral relativists, two-thirds do not accept total moral relativism, although many couldn’t give an explanation for their beliefs. Another one-quarter of interviewees couldn’t decide, saying, “I think moral relativism kind of sucks. I think there are things that are inherently right and wrong. At the same time, situations, people change, society changes, culture changes to define, you know, what’s moral.”

When asked about their vision for a good life, the most frequent response (60%) was having close relationships (not getting a divorce) and wanting to be happy (40%). Over half (57%) of interviewees mentioned the importance of having money to pay for comfortable life. Only 9% mention belief in God or a religious goal as an important aspect of a life well lived. However, there are different findings in other studies discussed in the next chapter; for example, a 2010 Pew Research Center report on the ages 18 to 29 found they’re less religious than older Americans but as likely to pray.[xxxiv] Less than half say that religion is very important in their lives (45%) but two-thirds are certain of God’s existence and their beliefs about the afterlife are similar to older people.

What counts to emerging adults interviewed for Lost in Transition is having enough money to buy a middle-class lifestyle, including a nice house and car, although they don’t aim to be super rich. Having a college degree is valued more often for leading to a better job rather than learning. It may be they are reacting to the recession of 2008, rising tuition costs, large debt upon graduation from college ($1 trillion collectively), and high youth unemployment, so it’s understandable they would be concerned about having a middle-class lifestyle.

Few of the interviewees (less than one in ten) were critical of mass consumer materialism; they feel buying things helps the American economy. Shopping is a source of pleasure and happiness for 61%, while only 30% expressed concerns about consumerism. They felt there is nothing they can do to change the system so they might as well enjoying buying things.  As one woman said, “There’s a lot of people who need shoes and I have over 100 pairs that I don’t need. So yeah, I’m worried about how consuming we are as a society, but not worried enough to change my ways yet.” [xxxv] Only a few percent of all interviewees were concerned enough to take action, such as something easy like shopping in a thrift store instead of a mall. Their primary solution is to be a more discriminating consumer. However, about one-quarter said they wanted to help others or have a positive influence on others, not just be comfortable.

In the national survey of college freshmen in 2011, the main motive for going to college was to get a better job, but a close second was to learn. Before the recession, learning was the main motivation. Also, more students (52.5%) rely on loans so they need a good paying job to pay them back. The freshmen’s parents are more affluent than in previous years, backing up other studies showing an achievement gap between children from high- and low-income families, about a third larger among children born in 2001 than those born 25 years earlier.[xxxvi] With youth unemployment of around 18%, 74% of over 3,000 young people put jobs and the economy as their top issue in a 2011 survey.[xxxvii] The same survey reported 69% regard community service as an “honorable thing to do.”

Young adults’ supposed lack of principles leads to casual sex, referred to as  “hooking up.” One young woman advocated, “Sex should be a big deal. Sex is not a big enough deal to enough people.” Written survey results found 73% of never-married emerging adults have had sexual intercourse and the average age for first sexual intercourse was 16.[xxxviii] But the average number of sexual partners was three, which doesn’t suggest a lot of casual hooking up. In telephone surveys, over half (57%) had some regrets about their past sexual experiences. Women were more likely to express regrets, while three-quarters of those with no regrets were male. Few of either gender mentioned concerns about STDs although they’re widespread. The authors found romantic breakups were usually more painful for the women involved than the men and that a double-standard still exists: “Many guys act like women are different, they cannot understand them, and it is not their responsibility to try to.”[xxxix]

Lost in Transition authors believe moral relativism also leads to binge drinking and use of drugs, mainly tobacco and marijuana. The authors report that more than 40% of college students report binge drinking during the past two weeks and that thousands of college co-eds are victims of alcohol-related date rape. However, the 2011 survey of almost 204,000 college freshmen reported that drinking alcohol was at an all-time low down to 41% who had consumed frequently or occasionally in their senior year of high school. The Lost in Transition authors site studies that about one-quarter of young women experience rape or attempted rape during their college years. “Partying” means getting intoxicated, which is associated with having fun and being wild. The authors fault alcohol advertisers who spend billions of dollars to associate alcohol with living with gusto. However, they report 22% of the interviewees were non-drinkers, 25% were occasional users, and 22% were recovering drinkers who had become more moderate. These figures mean that less than one-third were heavy drinkers. The authors fault older adults—parents, educators and religious leaders–for doing “an awful job” in teaching moral reasoning and for not being more involved as mentors to young adults. They believe secondary schools try to ignore and avoid moral issues and instead focus on standardized test results.

Lacking moral convictions is also associated with lack of political interest and involvement—69% of the young adults said they are not political in any way and others count watching the news on TV or reading a newspaper as being political.[xl] The authors categorized young adult’s political orientation as apathetic (27%), the uninformed (13%), the distrustful but informed (19%), the disempowered but informed who don’t think they can make a difference (10%), the marginally political (27%) who are somewhat informed but not activists, while only 4% are genuinely political and engaged. The young adults feel stretched for time and don’t have much faith in their ability to make a difference, so they spend little time volunteering. By 2012 Millennials were about a quarter of the eligible voters, which will increase to over a third by 2020. True, youth voter turnout decreased in the 2010 elections, as it did for all ages, but Rock the Vote works to encourage youth voter turnout and in 2012 _______.[xli]

They found a correlation between emphasis on consumerism and less interest in politics and the common good, the effect heightened by individualism. As one of the young adults said, “I really like this idea of self-responsibility and only caring about oneself. …. I don’t think that we should be concerned with other people, unless they ask for help.”[xlii] The majority of the interviewees said no one has a responsibility to help other people. Their focus is on their own relationships. The authors conclude, “Having freed people from the formative influences and obligations of town, church, extended family, and conventional morality, American individualism has exposed those people to the more powerful influences and manipulations of mass consumer capitalism….all done in the name of individual self-determination.”[xliii] My interpretation of the problem is different, not so much a failure of their educators and parents, but youths’ reaction against the dangers of black and white absolutism, in terms of debates about reproductive choice, health care, guns, justification for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and responsibility for caring for disadvantaged people. It’s logical to conclude that the individual has to make up his or her mind about what’s right.

When in doubt, go to the source: I asked Zoe, 17, about the Gen We, Gen Me debate. You can see her on TheGlobalyouth YouTube channel wisely saying:

It’s hard to polarize these ways of looking at an aspect of life; when you polarize ways of looking it distorts it, the truth is somewhere in the middle. In some ways we are a narcissistic generation but that doesn’t speak for everyone. I don’t think they’re so much narcissistic, but they’re feeling helpless so they come to the conclusion they can’t change the world around them, that what they do and think doesn’t matter, so they bury themselves in more trivial matters. I think there’s a lot of pessimism driving this. Also, being self-centered is normal behavior for teenagers. And how you’re perceived influences how you act, the media portrays teens in a way that’s sometime harmful.

I talked with a group of six university students at CSUC to see what they thought about the Lost in Transition characterizations. They agreed that their generation is very individualistic about morality, but Nikki said her parents drummed it into her that some things, like lying and cheating, are wrong and consequences will come back to haunt you. They thought their individualism followed from a loss of community, a lack of a rallying point like surviving WWII or opposing the war in Vietnam. “A lot was given to us,” said Rachel, “so we have freedom without responsibility.”

They know friends who hook up, people who don’t, and players who change once they get into a monogamous steady relationship. When saturated with ads associating alcohol, sex and freedom in a college party culture with alcohol flowing and sexy music, sexual activity is a predictable outcome. They know people who wake up and don’t like what they did the previous evening, so this generation is not without morality. They also pointed to “free love” culture and drug use in the 60s and felt Gen X used more drugs than Millennials. The difference is now people are more aware of the need for sexual consent to prevent rape and assault. This particular group of students considers themselves activists. It appears Lost in Transition may paint too dismal a picture of Millennials according to the scattered percentages they report and their sample of only 230 young adults. But we need to pay attention to their warnings about taking modern consumerist values to their extreme.

In many countries youth are cynical about government corruption. In China a young man thinks at its beginnings the Chinese Communist Party tried to help the people, but now leaders are just concerned with power and money. Now the media are known as the Communist Party’s “throat and tongue.” In the TV studio where he works, the wages are so low employees rely on “gray income,” receiving bribes to not report news such as malpractice at a hospital. Much depends on connections called guanxi. His reaction is cynical and relativistic, not because of his upbringing, but because of the corruption and greed he experiences:

I used to think life is all about love and the reason why we are here on Earth. But now, I doubt what it is all about. I don’t see it simply right or wrong anymore. There is no right or wrong, good or evil. One plus one doesn’t have to equal two; there are no rules. It is so complicated and beyond my cognition.


It’s not surprising that young people are suspicious of claims that certain values are absolutely the right ones, not because they weren’t given proper moral instruction, but because they’re logical. As Tom, 14, said in New Zealand, “Look at religion. The Jews are the chosen ones. No, wait, the Muslims are the chosen ones. Hey! God said that we Christians are the chosen ones! It’s a big mess.” The star of the Harry Potter movies, Daniel Radcliffe, 22, doesn’t believe in God because, “I have a problem with religion or anything that says, ‘We have all the answers’ because there’s no such thing as ‘the answers.’ Religion leaves no room for human complexity.”[xliv] Like others in his generation, he says what counts for him is loving relationships. Millennials are skeptical about absolute values but care about helping others.


Jean Twenge commented on the topic in an email September 2016:

Some of the surveys mentioned here are of only one generation without any comparison to another. That makes it difficult to draw any conclusions about a generational difference. If Millennials value (say) family, that doesn’t mean much unless it’s compared to how much other generations valued family when they were the same age.


The “debate” over narcissism increasing has been resolved for 6 years (see attached). The other authors’ data also show an increase. The idea that narcissism is fine because some of the traits are positive is a fundamental misunderstanding of what narcissism is and how it is measured. For example, 80% of the research studies on narcissism use the NPI, and it predicts what you would expect (lack of empathy, relationship troubles, aggression after insult).


Whether the generational differences in narcissistic traits are small or large is a subjective judgment — is it impactful that 50% more college students in 2009 (vs. 1982) answer the majority of the items in the narcissistic direction? Some people might say yes, some might say no. The overall effect size of d = .33 that we found is the same size as the increase in obesity over the same time period. Note that the most recent analysis ends in 2009, so we don’t know what things look like after the recession.


Even if we ignore all of the research on narcissism, the evidence for positive self-views increasing over the generations is overwhelming. See, for example:


You should know that much of what Arnett says about my work is false (see attached). It’s especially odd because he is best known for saying that emerging adulthood is a new developmental stage that didn’t used to exist — in other words, he argues for a fundamental generational difference in his own work, but then argues this and other cultural shifts have no implications for personality and attitudes.


Another paper (also attached) uses two large, nationally representative datasets to examine generational differences around life goals, concern for others, and civic engagement. This is the best data we have, with Millennials expressing their interests compared to previous generations when they were the same age, and it shows that Millennials are less civically engaged, not more, no matter what we might like to believe. However, they are more tolerant and less prejudiced (attached, and there are lots of other examples too, e.g., support for same-sex marriage).


Overall I completely agree that it’s best to rely on what young people say about themselves rather than relying on what older people say. The point of this research is NOT to bash youth — it is instead to understand how the generations differ, so we can all understand each other better.

Jean Twenge and Joshua Foster, “Mapping the Scale of the Narcissism epidemic: Increases in Narcissism, 2002–2007 within ethnic groups,” Journal of Research in Personality, July 22, 2008.




Jean Twenge and Joshua Foster, “Birth Cohort Increases in Narcissistic

Personality Traits Among American College Students, 1982–2009,” Social Psychological and Personality Science, Vol. 1(1), pp. 99-106, 2010.

DOI: 10.1177/1948550609355719.


Jean Twenge, W. Ketih Campbell, and Elise Freeman, “Generational Differences in Young Adults’ Life Goals, Concern for Others, and Civic Orientation, 1966–2009,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2012, Vol. 102, No. 5, 1045–1062.

DOI: 10.1037/a0027408


Jean Twenge, “Overwhelming Evidence for Generation Me: A Reply to Arnett,” Emerging Adulthood, Vol. 1: 21, March 1, 2013.

DOI: 10.1177/2167696812468112


Kristen Donnelly et al, “Attitudes Toward Women’s Work and

Family Roles in the United States, 1976–2013,” Psychology of Women Quarterly

2016, Vol. 40(1) pp. 41-54

DOI: 10.1177/0361684315590774



[i] Jean Twenge, W. Keith Campbell, and Elise Freeman, “Generational Differences in Young Adults’ Life Goals, Concern for Others, and Civic Orientation, 1966-2009.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, March 5, 2012.

[ii] Jean Twenge, et al., “Egos Inflated Over Time: A Cross-Temporal Meta-Analysis of the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, Journal of Personality, Vol. 76, Issue 4, August 2008.…


[iv] Jean Twenge, et al., “Generational Differences in Young Adults’ Life Goals, Concern for Others, and Civic Orientation, 1966–2009.”

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, March 5 , 2012.

doi: 10.1037/a0027408

[v] Jean Twenge, “Millennials: The Greatest Generation or the Most Narcissistic?”, The Atlantic, May 2, 2012.

[vi] Neil Howe and Reena Nadler, “Why Generations Matter,” LifeCourse Associates, February 28, 2012.

[vii] David Madland and Ruy Teixeira, “New Progressive America: The Millennial Generation,” Center for American Progress, May 13, 2009.

“The Generation Gap and the 2012 Election,” Pew Research Center, November 3, 2012. Millennials favor a bigger government; just 35% prefer a smaller government.

[viii] Ibid, p. 33, 35.

[ix] John Pryor, et al., “The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2011,”…/TheAmericanFreshman2011.pdf

[x] “Religion Among the Millennials: Less Religiously Active Than Older Americans, But Fairly Traditional In Other Ways,” Pew Research Institute,

POLL February 17, 2010.

[xi] Jeffrey Arnett, “The Empathic Civilization: The Young Pioneers of the Empathic Generation,” Huffington Post, February 9, 2010.

[xiv] Ibid., p. 210

[xvi] Morley Winograd and Michael Hais. Millennial Momentum: How a New Generation is Remaking America. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2011.

[xvii]Kali Trzesniewski, et. al, “Do Today’s Young People Really Think They Are So Extraordinary? An Examination of Secular Trends in Narcissism and Self-Enhancement,”

Kali Trzesniewski and M. Brent Donnellan, “Rethinking ‘Generation Me:’

A Study of Cohort Effects From 1976–2006,”

Perspectives on Psychological Science, January 2010 55875

[xviii] Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell, “Birth Cohort Differences in the Monitoring the Future Dataset and Elsewhere

Further Evidence for Generation Me—Commentary on Trzesniewski & Donnellan,”

Perspectives on Psychological Science January 2010, Vol. 55875.

[xix] Pew Research Center, “A Portrait of ‘Generation Next,’” January 9, 2007.

A Portrait of “Generation Next”

[xx] Brent Roberts, et. al., “It Is Developmental Me, Not Generation Me

Developmental Changes Are More Important Than Generational Changes in Narcissism—Commentary on Trzesniewski & Donnellan,”

Perspectives on Psychological Science, January 2010 5: 58-75

In the most recent General Social Survey, 26% of Millennial generation respondents said they were unaffiliated, as did 21% of Gen Xers. Among Baby Boomers, 15% were unaffiliated – not significantly different from when they were first measured in the 1970s.

Section 1: How Generations Have Changed

[xxi] Jeffrey Arnett, “To Grow Up,” Perspectives on Psychological Science, Vol. 5(1), 2010.

[xxii] UCLA News, “Today’s College Freshmen Have Family Income 60% Above   National Average, UCLA Survey Reveals,” April 9, 2007.

[xxiii] Neil Howe and Reena Nadler, “Why Generations Matter,” LifeCourse Associates, February 28, 2012.

[xxiv] Mikeandmorley, “Millennials are a ‘We’ Not ‘Me’ Generation,” March 15, 2012,

[xxv] Jean Twenge et al., “Birth cohort Increases in Psychopathology Among Young Americans, 1938-2007,” Clinical Psychology Review, Vol. 30, Issue 2, March 2010.…/birth-cohort-increases-psychopathology-amo..

[xxvii] Jeffrey Arnett, “Suffering, Selfish, Slackers?,” Journal of Youth Adolescence,” Vol. 36, December 16, 2006, p. 24.

[xxix] David Madland and Ruy Teixeira, “New Progressive America: The Millennial Generation,” Center for American Progress, May 13, 2009, pp. 25-26.

[xxxii] Pew Research Center, “Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change.” February 24, 2010.

[xxxiii] David Madland and Ruy Teixeira, “New Progressive America: The Millennial Generation,” Center for American Progress, May 13, 2009, pp. 3-31.

[xxxiv] Pew Research Center, “Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change.” February 24, 2010.

[xxxv] Ibid, p. 83.

[xxxvi] Bill Boyarsky, “Income Inequality goes to School, “ Truthdig, February 24, 2012.

[xxxviii] Ibid., p. 149

[xxxix] Ibid, p. 177

[xl] Ibid, p. 196

[xli] Jeffrey Arnett, “Suffering, Selfish, slackers?,” Journal of Youth Adolescence, Vol. 36, December 16, 2006.

[xlii] Ibid., p. 219

[xliii] Ibid, p. 235





[i] Pew Research Center, “A Portrait of ‘Generation Next,’” January 9, 2007.

A Portrait of “Generation Next”


[iii] Mikeandmorley, “Millennials are a ‘We’ Not ‘Me’ Generation,” March 15, 2012,

[iv]Kali Trzesniewski, et al., “Do Today’s Young People Really Think They Are So Extraordinary? An Examination of Secular Trends in Narcissism and Self-Enhancement, Kali Trzesniewski and M. Brent Donnellan, “Rethinking ‘Generation Me:’A Study of Cohort Effects From 1976–2006,”Perspectives on Psychological Science, January 2010 5: 58-75.

[v] Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell, “Birth Cohort Differences in the Monitoring the Future Dataset and Elsewhere: Further Evidence for Generation Me—Commentary on Trzesniewski & Donnellan,” Perspectives on Psychological Science January 2010, Vol. 5: 58-75.

[vi] Brent Roberts, et. al., “It Is Developmental Me, Not Generation Me: Developmental Changes Are More Important Than Generational Changes in Narcissism—Commentaryon Trzesniewski & Donnellan,”Perspectives on Psychological Science, January 2010 5: 58-75

In the most recent General Social Survey, 26% of Millennial generation respondents said they were unaffiliated, as did 21% of Gen Xers. Among Baby Boomers, 15% were unaffiliated – not significantly different from when they were first measured in the 1970s.

Section 1: How Generations Have Changed

[vii] Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, “To Grow Up,” Perspectives on Psychological Science, Vol. 5(1), 2010.

[viii] Jean Twenge, et al., “Egos Inflated Over Time: A Cross-Temporal Meta-Analysis of the Narcissistic Personality Inventory,” Journal of Personality, Vol. 76, Issue 4, August 2008.…





[xiii] Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, “The Empathic Civilization: The Young Pioneers of the Empathic Generation,” Huffington Post, February 9, 2010.

[xiv] Francesca Di Meglio, “Stress Takes Its Toll on College Students,” Bloomberg Businessweek, May 10, 2012.


What Countries are Happiest? Why?


Which Countries Are Happiest?

“Is it easy to find happiness in this 21st century, a fast moving life where one finds difficult to even find a smile on one’s face? asks Dhwani, 14, f, India. Despite their number one concern being the global economic crisis and unemployment, global youth feel happy—76% say they’re very happy even though one in three is stressed, according to a Viacom survey of 15,000 youth ages 9 to 30 from 24 countries.[i] Latin Americans and the younger respondents are especially happy. As we’ve seen, what makes young people most happy is spending time with family and 45% say their best friend is a family member. Friends also make them happy. They average over 200 online friends; three-quarters of the respondents report social media has a beneficial effect on their friendships and changes the way they think about the world. Over 80% say they always try to be positive and can accomplish anything if “I work hard enough.”

Beyond the fulfillment of basic needs, having more technology and possessions don’t lead to happiness. The WIN-Gallup International Global Barometer of Happiness surveyed 58 countries and found no relationship between income and happiness; what influences well-being is social status compared to peers.[ii] Americans who’ve spent time living with poor people living traditional lives in Africa comment on their happiness and lack of complaining, even when dealing with prolonged hunger. For example, a development expert commented in her book, “I was awestruck by the Ugandans’ ability to endure suffering and still embrace great joy.”[iii] In Havana, Cubans told me that Americans have a lot of material things, but Cubans enjoy life more, dancing, going to the beach, and spending relaxed time with family and friends. When I asked an Indian high school principal how his generation is different than teens today, retired Colonel Sekar said, “We enjoyed life better and are more at peace with failures.” Another Indian principal told me his generation had more time to play sports and enjoy life. Europeans tend to work less, have less stuff, and have more time and quality of life than Americans.

A 2012 Gallup World poll about well-being reported that Latin America stood at the forefront for positive emotions, with Panama, Paraguay and Venezuela at the top.[iv] The poll asked 1,000 people age 15 and older in 148 countries questions like “Did you smile or laugh a lot yesterday? Did you feel a lot of enjoyment, physical pain, worry, sadness, stress, or anger?” Thailand and the Philippines also scored high for positive emotions. Negative emotions were highest in the Middle East and North Africa, with Iraq, Bahrain and Palestine topping that list. Singapore is very prosperous but the people were the least emotionally expressive. The countries of the former USSR also scored low on expressing emotions. Countries with greater economic suffering become unstable—on average, about two countries per year collapse into revolution.

The Gallup World poll found East Asian countries tend to have lower levels of life satisfaction that would be expected, while Latin Americans had higher levels than expected.[v] The poll found that well-being follows from good health, feeling secure and having freedom. Having a good job helps but economic factors have less impact, after basic needs are met. Few differences were found between men and women except that having children is more difficult for men and marriage is more beneficial for them, while their social connections were more important to young people.

A Pew Research Center global survey of self-reported well-being on a “ladder of life” in 43 countries reported in 2014 that increases in national income increase personal satisfaction to a certain level.[i] For example, Germans have higher income than Malaysians, but Germans score only four points higher in their life satisfaction. Among the least satisfied countries are Jordan, Egypt and Tunisia. Satisfaction in emerging countries increased since 2007 while it stayed about the same in wealthier nations, with the exception of Spain where satisfaction dropped 12 points. Other influences on feelings of well-being are younger people, women, and married people tend to be happier.

[i] “People in Emerging Markets Catch Up to Advanced Economies in Life Satisfaction,” Pew Research Global Attitudes Project, October 30, 2014.

            In Pakistan, Hassan observed that villagers are happier than wealthy urban dwellers:


The villagers, despite of not earning enough and facing daunting economic challenges, sleep like babies at the end of the day for multiple reasons.

A. They are tired from the day’s work and have spent lots of time in the fields. Hence, when they return home in the evenings, all they care about is a few bites of food and sleep. This is their life.

B. Their faith is strong and subtle so that they do not worry about any robbery. They have submitted their everything to Allah and believe that He will protect their well-deserved earnings. The rich are insecure about the safety and protection of their wealth, house, car, etc. which doesn’t give them the inner peace they desire. 


A World Happiness Report, presented to a 2012 UN conference on creating a new economic model, found that happiness is more strongly associated with community engagement, social networks, mental health, and individual freedom and lack of corruption than with money—again, once basic needs are met.[vi] In this framework, individualism and social support both are helpful. Costa Rica is an example of a happy poor country. In the Happiness Index of 170 counties, the wealthy US ranked at a low 150. An Indian man explained to an Australian woman living in India, “We Indian people, we look at the people more poor, more low, more hard than us and we be thanking God we are not them. So we are happy. But you white peoples, you are looking at the peoples above you all of the times and you are thinking, Why aren’t I them? Why am I not having that moneys and things? And so you are unhappy all of the time.”[vii]

As usual, Scandinavian countries are among the top of the list of good outcomes, among the happiest, while the lowest are poor countries in sub-Saharan Africa indicating that poverty of course diminishes life satisfaction. The UN Happiness Report advocates “adopting lifestyles and technologies that improve happiness (or life satisfaction) while reducing human damage to the environment.” Examples of taking action towards this goal, Brazilian youth in an eco-village are trained to conduct happiness surveys and practice altruism, resulting in new neighborhood activities to take action when needs are identified.[viii] Schools near San Paulo teach compassion and wellbeing, encouraging children to be “doctors of joy.”

OECD (Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development) rated 36 countries on their life satisfaction,[ix] reporting that the strongest influence on well-being is high social status among peers. Other influences on satisfaction include community and civic participation, education, jobs, health, and work-life balance. The lowest satisfaction scores are in Hungary, Portugal, Turkey, Russia and Greece, again indicating that economic difficulty lowers life satisfaction. The OCED report found that happiest countries are Australia, Norway and the US. Australia has near full-employment and 71% of the people trust their political institutions, compared with the OECD average of 56% trust. Australian men had one of the highest scores for helping with family work, higher than the US and Canada. This finding is a wonderful contradiction to the old stereotype of the macho Aussie man drinking beer with his mates.

UNICEF’s large survey of about 10,000 youth in 17 countries found that in East Asia and Pacific, the young people said they are happy most of the time (52%) or sometimes (47%). The happiest were younger and urban kids, and those who live in Australia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. Happiness was low in China. What makes youth happy is contact with family and friends. Youth feel sad when they’re scolded or punished as for doing poorly in school, when they’re left alone, and when thinking about death.

In Europe and Central Asia, two-thirds of the young people felt happy most of the time, more so in Western Europe (80%) than in transition countries (60%). Those in two-parent and more well-to-do families were more likely to be happy. Similar to Asian students, causes of happiness were being with friends and family, followed by doing well in school and playing or having free time. Like Asia, being scolded caused unhappiness, as did getting poor marks in school, and problems or quarrels at home. They worried most about family problems, doing badly in school, and economic problems. Other worries included the environment, politics, war and future employment. Despite their fears, 60% believe their life will be better than their parents’ lives, but only 43% believe life is better today than a decade ago, while 26% believe it is worse–especially in eastern countries.

About the same percentage of South American kids feel happy as Europeans, while one third of kids in South American don’t often feel happy. Unhappiness increases with poorer families, kids who are black or indigenous, and in the Caribbean. What upsets kids is family problems and quarrels, school problems, and money worries. The saddest news they had heard recently was about natural disasters, followed by hunger, war, child abuse, delinquency, and violence. However, 76% think the quality of their lives will be better than their parents, more than in Europe. Youth are generally optimistic.

More than 100 questions about happiness were asked of 1,280 Americans ages 13 to 24 in 2007 by the Associated Press and MTV. As for people of all ages, relationships are the greatest source of happiness in this order: spending time with family (73% say their relationship with their parents makes them happy), spending time with friends and with a boyfriend or girlfriend. Money was not high on the list, nor was sex, although 70% said they would like to be rich in the future. Having highly educated parents has a more positive effect on happiness than income. These young people report their electronic devices increase their happiness. Having spiritual beliefs is also associated with happiness (80% of those who say religion and spirituality are very important to them are happy, compared to 60% who say spirituality is not an important part of life). Comparing groups of young people, 72% of whites said they’re happy with life in general, but only 56% of blacks and 51% of Hispanics agreed. When asked to name their heroes, nearly half mentioned one or both of their parents, with Mom a bit out in front—as with our SpeakOut respondents. Most want to be married and have kids.

In general kids seem happier, as studies show they laugh a lot more than adults. Women tend to laugh more than men and men are the best laugh-getters, states Robert Province in Laughter: A Scientific Investigation. (It’s good for our health, increasing the healthy function of the tissue lining the blood vessels, reports a 2005 study at the University of Maryland.) Differences in life satisfaction aren’t much different between men and women, according to the OCED report, although women are slightly more likely to be concerned about their health and having a social support network and slightly less concerned about income.

A study of 420,000 people from 63 countries found that people who had the freedom to make their own choices claimed the highest levels of well-being.[x]The analysis revealed, “a very consistent and robust finding that societal values of [freedom and autonomy] were the best predictors of well-being,” reported study authors Ronald Fischer and Diana Boer. Freedom influences happiness, agrees a Chinese student.


American people are mostly comfortable with their condition. I know people from all poor and rich families; they are the same, feel happy here. But in China everyone wants to have more, so how can they happy? In the States, people mostly the same rights, it’s fair. But it’s not fair in China in school, society, organizations, or companies. It’s difficulty to get anywhere without connections. Zheyu, 20, m, Central China


An illustration of this equation that freedom equals happiness is the high teen suicide rates in Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia, where autonomy is discouraged. Russian health experts explain that suicide happens because of rigid parenting, alcohol abuse and domestic violence. One of the few Russian child psychologists, Anatoly Severny, observed, “At home, you order, you enforce, you punish your kids instead of trying to understand them. Schools use what I call repressive pedagogic. Kids are forced to do everything.”[xi] Post-materialistic values seem to be better for child raising.


[i] “The Next Normal,” Viacom Media Networks. This market study claims to be the “broadest single study of Millennials to date” and the first “truly global portrait.” 2012. Analyzed 15,000 youth ages 9 to 30 in 24 countries.

[ii]  Mary Rauto, “Survey Rates Fiji as the Happiest Country,” the Fiji Times Online, January 20, 2012.

[iii] Jacqueline Novogratz. The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World. Rodale Press, 2009, p. 19.

[iv] Jon Clifton, “Latin Americans Most Positive in the World,” Gallup World, December 19, 2012.

[v] Romina Boarini, et al., “What Makes for a Better Life?,” OECK Publishing, march 2012.

[vi] “First World Happiness Report Launched at the United Nations,” Earth Institute, April 2, 2012.

[vii] Sarah Macdonald. Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure. Broadway Books, 2003, p. 111.

[viii] Laura Musikanski,” The UN Embraces the Economics of Happiness, Yes Magazine, April 12, 2012. Reported by Susan Andrews about Future Vision Eco-Village to a UN conference on “Wellbeing and Happiness: Defining a New Economic Paradigm.”


[x] Robert Preidt, “Study: Freedom More Important to Happiness than Wealth,” USA Today, June 24, 2011.

“What Is More Important for National Well-Being: Money or Autonomy? A Meta-Analysis of Well-Being, Burnout and Anxiety Across 63 Societies,” Ronald Fischer and Diana Boer, Victoria University of Wellington; Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 101, Issue 1.ß

[xi] Will Englund, “Teens Choosing Death in Russia,” Washington Post, March 7, 2012.

What an Indian Novel Reveals About Gender and Class (by Chetan Bhagat)

The novel Five Point Someone is reported to be the best-selling English-language novel, by Chetan Bhagat (2004). The title refers to mediocre students, three friends at ITT where 10-point “toppers” are admired. ITT is the best tech institute in India, where Bhagat was actually a student. The novel reveals class and gender differences. Hari, the narrator, goes to visit his friend Alok’s home where he was surprised to see only a black and white TV with two channels, no couches in the living room, and no shades on the lamps. Hari believes two kinds of pretty girls exist in Delhi. The modern type wears jeans or skirts, has short hair, and wears tiny earrings. He says the traditional type wears the salwar kameez (tunic over pants), a bindi (colored dot on the forehead) and large earrings. 44 . Hari is mystified by his girlfriend Neha’s emotions. At 18, her father doesn’t permit her to talk with boys, so they meet secretly to go to an ice cream shop or see movies (Hari says Hindi movies all have the same plot, boy meets girl, boy is poor and honest, girl’s dad is rich and a crook). 37 After dating for a year, being a good girl, she doesn’t even kiss Hari until her birthday. At the end of the novel, Hari gets a job in Mumbai and hopes Neha will find a job there in the fashion industry. In his book of essays, Bhagat says youth issues are corruption, education (he mentions a decline in primary school enrollment and obsolete curriculum and a halt in building new universities) 110, and secularism. He believes India has major problems and that they can be fixed, hopefully by youth because they have “sparks,” that fade as people age. 103



Chetan Bhagat. Five Point Someone. Rupa & Co., 2004

Cehtan Bhagat. What Young India Wants. Rupa & Co, 2012.

How to Change Politics from the Bottom Up, Gene Sharp

Gene Sharp explained how to succeed at peaceful civil resistance in his The Politics of Nonviolent Action (1973). He was criticized for not recognizing that power lies in institutions and social systems, but was proved to be right. Robert Helvey developed the idea of undermining pillars of support for a regime in On Strategic Nonviolent Conflict (2004). If enough pillars are removed, transformation occurs and the roof will collapse. Tools available to citizens include worker strikes, a boycott such as the United Farm Workers’ campaign to not buy grapes, and protests such as at nuclear sites or segregated restaurants.

A success story of civil resistance using Sharp’s tactics is the relatively fast turn around of opposition to same sex marriage and GLBT rights in the US. When public opinion was won over, Presidents Clinton and Obama, legislators, and courts followed, making change from the bottom up–not top down. Opinion was changed by likeable athletes and actors like Ellen DeGeneres coming out (1997), TV shows and movies including GLBT characters, mainline Protestant churches embracing GLBT members, international models like Canada’s 2005 marriage equality law, and GLBT student support groups in the 1990s. “Youth were a final decisive pillar that began to move early;” youth are more likely to know someone who is gay, a strong predicator of support fro marriage quality. By 2011, for the first time polls showed over half the respondents supported same-sex marriage and in that year the military ended “don’t ask, don’t tell” policies.