Generation What?: A self portrait of Europe’s youth (2/2)

Article published on May 6, 2016
Article published on May 6, 2016

"It's important that you take to the streets. Young people need to spread outside of their circle of friends and acknowledge that they are part of a collective that ignores its own existence." The second part of our interview with Christophe Nick, the co-founder of the operation aimed at passing the mic to Europe’s youth. 

This article is the second part of an interview, the beginning of which can be found here.

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cafébabel: Do you think that new digital technologies are essential for a popular initiative to be taken seriously by the political agenda? Is, for example, the "Nuit Debout" phenomenon – which is a bit more IRL – lacking it?

Christophe Nick: We will see what Nuit Debout will become  will they manage to organise themselves? Will they find solutions? It's not easy. All these spontaneous movements are at least proof that citizens' movement are on the rise. There are a huge amount of tributaries, but could they combine to become one big river? We shall see.

The last few months have proved that Internet-initiated mobilisations can have real impact. A petition on change.org led to Jacqueline Sauvage’s presidential pardon [sentenced for killing her husband after years of domestic abuse towards her and her daughters. ed.]. These kinds of things are happening across the whole world. It's important that you take to the streets. Young people need to spread outside of their circle of friends and acknowledge that they are part of a collective that ignores its own existence. The same thing is happening in other countries  in the Arab world as well  on a worldwide scale. The Internet lets you think beyond borders so we can instead bet on an emerging collective intelligence.

cafébabel: Doesn't it worry you that part of Europe's youth won't be able to access these kinds of actions, and could thus be sidelined within the movement?

Christophe Nick: Disadvantaged youth represent 20% to 25% of your generation. So it's not uncommon to see responses from three quarters of young people saying that they are doing well. It can also be pretty hard to admit that you are "in deep shit".

In the beginning students were over represented. Obviously, we weren't reaching as many young people who didn't have any kind of diploma. But we know that there are different social stratas within today's youth. We also know that those on the margins are particularly difficult to reach. This is exactly why we worked with local youth associations in difficult neighbourhoods.

Of course, it's an enormous challenge to be integrated in a society that does properly integrate itself. Everything has its limits. If you go to Place de la République tonight [the site of Nuit Debout in Paris. ed.], there won't be any young people from these difficult neighbourhoods. How can we reach them? There is no magic formula – although the use of TV and other mass media is still the best way to do this.

For example, we managed to get the soap opera Plus Belle la Vie to mention Generation What? in one or two episodes in order to help reach out to their audience. We're facing the same challenge when it comes to agricultural youth. Young people living in rural areas are not so easily reached either. 

cafébabel: Your 150 question survey is designed to reach as wide a range of Europe's youth as possible. How did you decide on your sections?

Christophe Nick: We worked a lot with two sociologists. We tried to have a wide range that covered all areas of an individual's life: privacy, family, work, society, how you perceive the future etc. From there, we alternated between the sociologists' rather classic questions and a few quirkier ones. When you want to understand the values, the behaviours, the perceptions people have... it's much more difficult. We also wanted to do something funnier, and to ask questions serving a specific purpose. These questions related to sexuality in particular, the idea being to help those young people wondering if they are "normal". Because we are also here to help young people discover themselves by drawing comparisons to other citizens of their country or wider Europeans. It's a mix between a study designed to help and one functioning as a means of being heard. We hope to discover what values unite us  values we hold in common  as well as individual values. The idea is that every question, even if it seems insignificant, will say a lot about you.

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One of life’s golden rule is ‘you either fuck or get fucked'”: Two third of young Austrians surveyed agreed with this saying. What about you? Come and discover your generation and what it thinks about immigration, love, Europe, porn and many more topics. Come to understand what it fears and what it expects from the future. 

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This article was published by our local team at cafébabel Brussels.