There is something that we, the Nicaraguan youth of all political persuasions, have not yet understood. According to the old school of thought, which is inculcated in us by our predecessors, we should be loyal and offer unconditional support to the so-called leaders or political parties, even stooping to the level of undignified submission in order to climb up in the structures of the party and to achieve a relevant position in the institutions of the country.
But how feasible is this when it comes to creating new leadership? Does this create political leaders of tomorrow who are capable of independent thought? Or does this just create a legion of robotic and servile followers who only offer blind faith to their superiors?
We have inherited this vice from the current political class in our country, many of whom have held office for more than 15 years and confuse political leadership and party discipline with servility and submission. As a consequence, we understand these bad customs as our only reference for behavior, and this disorients our actions and decision-making.
Let it be understood that the goal of party discipline is to achieve standards of behavior according to the political objectives and tendencies of the party, for the benefit of its members and of the nation. On the other hand, we understand that political leadership means recognizing in one person the qualities and special talents needed to guide the rest of us for the benefit of the nation. It’s not an inheritable asset, nor a personal company, but a responsibility of public service.
In order to be a real political leader, one must have a clear notion of these concepts, and not confuse them with canine loyalty. This implies having enough knowledge, conviction, and courage to take risks, defend one’s own ideas, and work with others as a team to accomplish an objective.
It’s because of this that we, the young party members on the right and left of the political spectrum, have been used by the elders as cannon fodder, as packs of hounds trained to attack. We are sent to protest in sit-ins, to act as delinquent mobs, to pray at the roundabouts, to saturate plazas, and to fill in the empty spaces in television commercials. The worst part is that we, lacking our own criteria, are easily handled to vote in favor of or against a candidate in election season.
It’s essential that we, the young people, educate ourselves and develop our own criteria so we can arrive at our own conclusions. With this, we will be able to make our own decisions and take our own actions, with a sense of creativity and imagination that will set a new course and really make a difference in this country. We need to fill ourselves with all sorts of information and develop a study habit. We must understand that knowledge is our best ally and that it feeds our individuality as human beings, not to mention enriches us as political subjects.
With an invasive, gangster government like the current one, it’s necessary to perform in a new, agile, and imaginative manner to avoid repeating the mistakes of our political forefathers. Repeating those mistakes will get us nowhere. We must wake up our minds in order to be leaders and to think for ourselves: It’s the only way to provide evidence of the miserable morals and internal corruption of authority, so that we can challenge the authority from the inside with real and serious arguments.
Let’s not look ridiculous by doing sit-ins without continuity, by doing marches that accomplish nothing other than obstructing traffic, or by forming mobs that are nothing more than delinquents let loose on the street. Leadership is in our capacity for taking different, rational and timely decisions.
The current reality of our political parties presents us with old and opportunistic men at the top who will never willingly give space to the youth. To think that current leaders will give us space because we are the next generation is dreamy and naïve.
We must represent something different, pound the table, impose ourselves with irrefutable ideas, and protest against the current system. Let’s not allow the mediocre, archaic and traditional behaviors of the past to overwhelm our personalities if we become new politicians. The ideal way of thinking for us is to educate ourselves to develop criteria and character. It’s the only way to generate positive and substantial changes in politics, and above all, in our lives. There is no other way.
Cristiana Guevara-Mena is a lawyer and young blogger living in Managua. A version of this article ran on the author’s blog, Ensayos Politicos, a bilingual blog on national politics and youth issues.