The old nationalism vs the flexible and global youth
A few years ago, while visiting my grandparents in Belgium, I spent an hour and a half listening to two old men in a cafe, they spoke French and I -trying to practice my language skills- sat quietlty while sipping a Trapiste beer, they discussed every one of the young people that where passing by. As if they were judges in a catwalk they criticized the colourful outfit of a guy, the alternative hairstyle of a girl, the ethnic features of a young man who, according to the elders, argued "it should not be from here, but clearly from somewhere in Africa".
Then they continued discussing the use of mobile phones, social networks and how they have "brainwashed" my generation (yes, they said it, reminding me of a chapter of Animaniacs). That discussion didn´t last long and ran out of arguments after two minutes since none of them had information enough to talk more about it and concluded that the government should monitor more the "derailed youth", "that generation of barbarians", "foreigners and strangers", because that kind of actions could prevent crime, the decline of employment and the excessive crossing of migrants into the country. The next 20 minutes they talked about the national team, of which I am sure that 70% is of African origin. After a while of gettting lost in translation on the football discussion, I decided to head to the park to reflect on everything I had just heard.
The young people of today, some better than others, know that the State could be buying information and monitoring our conversations (which makes us more afraid and aware of what we share and how we share it), but still we use the wonderful tools of the net to buy and sell, we base our lives in this intangible network sponsored by globalisation while the old do not understand the need for wireless internet, much less the manifestation of our personality in our personal fashion.
My brother and I admiring Ben Youseff, Moroco 2008.
There is discomfort in discussing politics between these generations: young brainwashed souls -according to old people- because we go off to see other countries, because we are talking about solidarity beyond the borders of a nation, of a religion or of the colour of our skin, we are seen as crazy liberals who have tattoos and torn clothes. On the other hand, to young people that were taught to respect our elders, we must shut our mouths to listen to the barbarities that the elders want to argue, they try to explain how the idea of the joint nations is "silly", how migration is "barbaric" and how "absurd" tattoos look. And we remain silent, because our parents taught us to respect, but above all, because it is useless to discuss such issues with people who grew up in a pre-globalisation, pre-internet, pre-countries without borders era. Young people understand that the elderly grew up at a time when, like us, they had to respect the elders, and their elders taught these elders certain perspectives that were also formed by the limits and structures of the masterstructure of the State.
How many soldiers in their old age refuse to know "the other side of the story " because their governments taught them that the most important thing was nationalism, that it was an honour to die for their country? If they asked me for which country I would die, they would put me in a real conflict because I -like many other "young people"- am a daughter of globalisation.
I want to make it clear that with this last sentence I don't mean that I agree with many global and neoliberal processes, but that I grew up in a world that was crossing new technological, social, philosophical and artistic boundaries. A new renaissance in which young people, with the help of our parents who lived the movements of the 60's and 70's (the Berkeley Movements, women's liberation and the sexual revolution), are breaking the old paradigms that our grandparents cannot understand with the same flexibility.
For todays’ young adult -again I argue for a few and I do not generalize- it is a barbarism to think in terms of a specific identity, for us who live in liquid times (Bauman, 2000) with urban tribes and hybrid identities (García Canclini, 2005), nationality is shared in terms that do not refer to borders, but to perspectives. For us sexuality is richer when is varied, the skin is more beautiful when painted, and the cultural richness is more interesting and exiting when mixed.
Now that there are several politicians in positions of power who prefer to isolate their nations for fear of the "Other", as young people we should not continue to make the same mistakes that our grandparents and great grandparents committed, we must change. We must continue to break paradigms, to innovate and above all, to understand these almost invisible margins of globalization and take advantage of them. We must stop following obsolete old patterns that discriminate the unknown.
We must learn, to know the unknown, to preserve our roots with love and adapt to live our global identity.
Belgium, 2013. -Reedited for English: Australia, 2018.
García Canclini, Nestor (2005) Hybrid Cultures: Strategies for entering and leaving modernity. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Bauman, Zygmundt (2000) Liquid Modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press.