Being a young person today means that we are sometimes put in a sealed box. The narratives we find in the media flatten our differences and spirits. What is missing often is our complexity. Complexity is such a defining characteristic of being young. We have all the energy, the ideas, the hope, the outlook but we might lack the outlet, the connections, the experience. At Yo!Fest we look at ways of strengthening political participation to create a more cohesive Europe. How can we bridge the gap between young people and institutions? What is the importance of voting in the 2019 European elections? Do we take pride in our democratic agency? We discuss these themes with MEP Brando Benifei.
Brando Benifei, one of the youngest Members of the European Parliament, is known for his “open, accessible and concrete” style. Excluding the voice of young people from decisions that will affect them is detrimental to all – their outlook is instrumental to build a stronger Europe, Benifei believes.
“I think creativity; democratic participation; discussion; debate and exchange of ideas between young people are a fundamental vein for positive change in society and to pursue some crucial social and political objectives of the European Union,” Benifei says.
There is a need of overcoming the wide-spread simplistic notions about political life of young people in our societies, introducing a more complex scenario, taking into account new conditions of youth’s life and the plurality of meanings that converge in their political cosmos. But how do we bridge the apparent gap between young people, new forms of political participation and institutions in our wavering world?
“It’s natural and it’s inevitable that there is a gap between institutions and people as we move towards a more digital, interconnected society that breaks boundaries and intermediate bodies,” Benifei says. “But at the same time, we shouldn’t cling to the past but react instead. We need to understand that institutions, traditional political parties and elections are a crucial political tool that can still be relevant.”
According to Benifei, direct participation, and new forms of political involvement are complementary and not in contradiction with institutional democracy. It’s not an either this or that situation. The complexity of young people’s political life, in fact, does not allow for one-dimensional approach.
“The increased complexities prove the need for stronger institutions, more politics and good politics [that is] youth-inspired” Benefei explains. “Rationally and through good debate we need to convince young people that new forms of participation can be a fundamental ally of a renewed and stronger representative democracy that is needed to tackle the real problems of today that we can’t solve with simplistic solutions”.
In a time of apparent weakness of traditional politics, many have turned to populism that according to Benifei tries to mislead citizens into believing that “you can solve complex issues with very simple and easy solutions”. But in today’s world there is no easy way out. “The more populist narrative tells you everything can be solved with one page solutions, they are enticing, they are charming, but they are bringing false perspectives” Benefei believes.
Now, with the European elections fast approaching, Benefei believes that bringing young people to the voting boots is essential. “Voting is not only about your own preferences, it’s a matter of the overall relevance of young people in decision-making”.
As an inspiring message to young generations Benifei says, “it’s important to think that you can change the world starting from where you live and what is happening around you. An important aspect of human life is caring about what is happening around you, not just care about yourself.”