Justin Broyles: Youth, unemployment and the Internet

Together these three items have served to ignite an explosion of civil unrest in Spain. Since May 15, thousands of frustrated Spaniards, many of them young, have taken to the streets in protest. Many of the protesters that have started to set up camps in major town squares across Spain are young, disenfranchised, and very good at using the Internet for organizing.

Spain is currently in a dire economic downturn. The nation is beset by crippling debt, facing major austerity measures, and rocking an unemployment rate of 21 percent. The unemployment rate among people under 25 is a whopping 45 percent and has helped contribute to the frustration shown by Spain’s “Lost Generation.” The young Spanish protesters have refused to align with political parties and tend to favor a political stance independent of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party and People’s Party that currently dominate the Spanish political scene.

Regardless of their refusal to affiliate with either major party, the youth movement in Spain has helped to greatly reduce the control the Socialists once had over the country and help the conservative People’s Party gain political positions in previous Socialist strongholds during Sunday’s local elections. Now Prime Minister Zapatero has an uphill fight to keep his party in power during the general election next March.

The May-15 movement has proven to be well organized and employs the internet as a major source of information and organization. The use of social-networking sites like Twitter and Facebook has allowed for the movement to rally support at demonstrations and coordinate easily in ways that were previously impossible to manage. The pages on Facebook put up by organizers ballooned in size and began to increase by the thousands daily. Webcams were set up overlooking protests in la Puerta del Sol in Madrid, and live streams of the crowds could be viewed on the Internet. Thousands of protesters in Madrid are connected with protesters in town squares throughout Spain. The Internet proved to be key in the organization of these protests that have rocked Spain.

The Internet is clearly represented in the protests with a myriad of popular internet memes being visible on the signs of many of the protesters. Guy Fawkes masks, as made famous in the film version of Alan Moore’s graphic novel V for Vendetta, are a common sight among protesters and it is clear that the international culture of the Internet has its own influence among the youthful protesters.

While the protests in Spain seem to be dwindling, a wave was carried out to Greece and other nations struggling in the current economic climate. Protests in Greece are certainly not a new occurrence, but the new wave of protests are in solidarity with Spain who suffer from similar circumstances that are even more dire than the problems faced in Spain.

Justin Broyles is an AugustaFreePress.com intern, a rising junior at the University of Mary Washington and alum of R.E. Lee High School in Staunton.

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