It happened not only when it was least expected, but also from the least expected quarter. Just when we had another Generation X, a lost and purposeless generation, blind, complacent and sunk in its own blandness, the protest movement came along. It sprang from a generation that was raised on idiotic game shows on commercial television that have no room for meaningful debate; on the club scene, another wasteland when it comes to serious talk because of the noise; and on bars and cafes, whose denizens seem to care only about the trivial. It was raised on a school system that has failed to cope with our youth's terrible ignorance and with colleges and universities that have turned into grade stores; on media that brainwash, encourage our baser instincts and spread fear; and on student unions that care only about tuition fees and the singers who perform on Students' Day.
The protest came from a generation that we believed was raised on materialism, designer labels, trends and gadgets, and which was united in the church of escapism. A generation comprised partly of drunks and druggies, some of them violent, a generation that, at least in part, had also become racist and nationalist. A generation that we believed lacked all verbal skills exceeding the 140-character limit. A high-tech generation we believed to be hollow, one that spends most of its time staring into computer and iPhone screens, detached from its nonvirtual surroundings. The protest came from the Tel Aviv bubble that we believed didn't care about anything on the outside. It came from a generation that seemed uneducated, provincial and imitative, from which nothing could be expected.
It was precisely from this generation that the protest movement blossomed. It's nothing short of a miracle, and as with every miracle, it's very hard to explain. Why didn't we hear them until now? Where were they hiding all those years, and what caused them to break out now?
These questions can't be answered. Any attempt to pinpoint the sources of the protest in the participants' pasts is doomed to failure. They were raised to be involved in anything but political engagement, social solidarity and public protest. From the outside, their world appears frighteningly empty: a generation that barely reads books and maybe not at all, whose ignorance is obvious from every survey or brief exchange, a generation whose members know very little about current events and the history of the place where they live. Most of them probably don't bother to vote; for them "political party" was an obscenity and politics the province of the corrupt.
It's a generation that never expressed solidarity with the other, that never expressed any kind of shock at its country's actions, that eagerly swallowed every kind of propaganda and brainwashing, that seemed completely clueless about democracy, that appeared not to know anything about anything. The nothing generation. That generation has surprised us all.
Suddenly they understand the essence of democracy, much more than most of our elected officials. Their arguments are much more cogent than those of most politicians. No, they're not "confused," as some would have it, and they're much more articulate than the politicians. Who's more impressive, MK Carmel Shama-Hacohen or Daphni Leef? MK Miri Regev or Stav Shafir? They know how to conduct a public debate, to convene meetings, to speak eloquently and to listen to the other side. Suddenly it turns out they've heard about the welfare state, about social democracy. Suddenly they're willing to put aside everything they've learned (or not learned), to enlist in a national effort, recruit knowledge resources and evince social engagement and even sacrifice.
Where did they get all this? They were utterly silent for years and years; nothing touched them, nothing moved them to action. When their peers abroad were out fighting over issues, even in much more just and enlightened nations, and were much more concerned and knowledgeable about what was happening around them, they retreated into routine, into "The Million Shekel Drop," into dating, wedding and work.
Now, suddenly, they are in the streets, their throats strained and their eyes beaming, their positions and their leadership solidifying. They have already shifted the national agenda, they have already introduced a new political language and are already more impressive than most of our politicians. Is all that not a miracle?
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