On Youth: Our Children Deserve A Better Future Than This

School re-opened last week for kids in British Columbia and I was called back into the classroom to serve our youngest and brightest. As I watched them struggle to wear a mask all day and choke on the smoke-filled air during recess, I got to thinking about their future. Don’t they deserve a better world than what we’re tossing them into? They have low-wage employment, the high cost of living, ecological destruction, colonialism, future pandemics, systemic racism, police brutality and rising fascist sympathies to look forward to when they grow up and that’s if we even survive much longer as a species. Add to that the status quo warriors that will yell in their ear every step of the way that “everything’s fine” and “the system works” and our kids will have themselves a recipe for a life of struggle, disenchantment, and confusion. I don’t want that existence for them. Our generation and older generations have struggled, but there’s no reason the youth of today should have to walk in our dirty footsteps. Their world has been poisoned by our destructive actions and our apathetic inaction. That’s their inheritance if we don’t start setting a good example now.

This isn’t going to be some liberal pandering, everyone holding hands, singing “Imagine” by the campfire speech designed for fair-weather “allies” and State bureaucrats. I’m not interested in appealing to them because their best interests will always undermine the needs of the many. We need change and we need it fast if we want our kids and their kids and all the rest that come after to have any chance of living a free and wonderful life. That change can’t be accomplished by the stalwart defenders of societal stagnation. I’m appealing to any and all people who care that the youth of today are growing up in a world where they’ll have to delicately navigate and ignore sexual inequality, poverty/debt, racism, and State violence while working themselves into an early grave for just a few more nickels. We’re just supposed to tell them that life isn’t fair and that they just need to keep pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. Hey maybe they’ll get rich and famous or they’ll just die with a mountain of debt and an unpaid parking ticket like the rest of us. Either outcome, it’s a fine way to live.

Millennials have dealt with these hurdles and been told to accept them as inevitable and normal. The politicians, pundits, and corporations say these clear “non-issues” are just the cost of living in a fair and democratic society. We’re just whining and lazy and spending our money on avocado toast instead of buying diamonds or eating at Applebee’s. We’re just wanting everything handed to us and unwilling to work for it like our parents who could buy a house with a single job. Our complaints about the high cost of living, ecological destruction, State violence, and racial/sexual inequality are just the tears of commies and dreamers. That doesn’t even being to cover the added struggles for racialized millennials/youth who have to contend with systemic racism, gentrification, and biased workplaces/educational institutions on top of everything else. We’ve been crushed down by previous generations who were crushed down by their former overlords and so on and so on because both progress and radical change are scary prospects. As millennials, is blatant disregard and mockery really what we want to do to Gen Z and Gen Alpha? Fuck no. Let’s break from tradition. We can support them every step of the way and help these kids and young adults evolve into compassionate human beings instead of the robots that many of us turned into. Where we failed, they can succeed, but only if we don’t hold them back.

The Youth for Wet’suwet’en at the BC legislature (February 2020) https://twitter.com/iy4wetsuweten

Thankfully, many are not standing around waiting for us to get involved. This post was largely inspired by the actions of teenagers and young adults who are actively fighting the State like the Youth for Wet’suwet’en (seen above), Black Lives Matter, Idle No More, and the Never Again Movement started by David Hogg, Emma Gonzales and other survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting in 2018. The Youth for Wet’suwet’en were met with scorn from shithead pundits and media who tried to paint them as violent “anarchists” or paid off by outside forces. They even received death threats and visits from white supremacist groups like the Soldiers of Odin. Big tough wannabe bikers were so manly threatening sign-holding teenagers and elders. Black Lives Matter continues to be targeted by liberals and conservatives alike who want to go back to dewy eyed “peaceful” demonstrations (Remember MLK marching? Wow. By golly, I surely would have marched with him back then. It was a different time, but racism was defeated and no longer exists) in the wake of brutal murders by police/property vigilantes. Idle No More scared the shit out of people in 2012 because Indigenous folks embracing their culture and standing up against State oppression isn’t what the State expects after hundreds of years of depriving them of humanity. Idle No More was compared to “bacteria” by an RCMP report in 2012 with Cpl. Wayne Russett stating “This Idle No More movement is like bacteria, it has grown a life of its own all across this nation. It may be advisable for all to have contingency plans in place, as this is one issue that is not going to go away.” The RCMP was desperate to be rid of Idle No More for fear that it would embolden Indigenous peoples throughout Turtle Island and lead to actual positive changes for humankind. The Never Again Movement in the United States caught the attention of State lawmakers, lobby groups, the goddamn NRA, and the propaganda factories cleverly disguised as legitimate news sources. David Hogg was famously attacked by Fox News’ Laura Ingraham who mocked him for not getting into colleges and attacked his credibility (as well as his fellow teenage shooting victims…classy work, you Nazi harpy). In response, he called out her advertisers and shamed them for supporting fascist Barbie which lost her and Fox a lot of money. Beautiful work. They have also been targeted by Alex Jones and other conspiracy-driven, State puppets (Jones doesn’t think he serves the State, but he’s a millionaire so of course he does and so do his white, lower middle-class, gullible followers as much as they’d hate to hear that) who loved to claim the traumatic shooting was a false flag operation. These movements for social change continue despite the woeful cries of status quo warriors and attacks from both sides of the political spectrum. Each one of these movements was either led by youth or youth played an instrumental role in keeping the momentum going and calling for change when so many people were silent. They recognized that something was deeply wrong with society and they had the courage to say NO MORE. Couldn’t we learn from that determination or at the very least support their efforts to fix the messes of the past/present? I think we could and we definitely should.

So how can we help? The first way is ridiculously simple! Don’t stand in their way when they’re determined to fix this hell for the rest of us. They kinda have to cause most of us are doing shit all, some are only activists when it’s trendy, and the rest are making fun of these “snowflake SJWs” for not wanting to die from ecological collapse or in a police shooting…delusional commie liberals amirite State Daddy who’s watching me from my webcam? Regarding social movements, we need to target the people and institutions that attack them or the youth involved. The Laura Ingraham advertiser example is one way because these mouthpieces mainly care about their bank accounts. Encourage businesses to abandon hateful partnerships and make the fuckers beg and plead for financial relief. We can hit the cops/politicians/media with letters, emails, actions, and phone zaps every time they try to silence the activists or falsify stories for the public. You can call out friends and family who disparage the youth or patronize them. These are less direct ways for us to remain accomplices and show our dedication to change. The best support, however, is through direct action and standing with them on the front lines against injustice. I argue again that we, as millennials, should be their most ardent supporters in order to break the cycle of generational apathy.

Supporting the ones who are fighting is important, but we can’t forget about the even younger generation who are witnessing these changes and issues firsthand with less understanding. I work in an elementary school and firmly leave my politics at the door, but that doesn’t mean I can’t nurture my student’s desire to learn the truth for themselves. As both radical accomplices and compassionate adults, we can make sure our young people are informed and remain inquisitive throughout their lives. My mother never neglected to teach me about human rights or show me right from wrong in an often chaotic world. We might disagree on a lot nowadays, but I owe her for letting me ask questions and form my own conclusions. Being safe and trustworthy adults might be our most important contribution to their growth because youth require stability more than anything else. We need to serve as that stable presence that answers questions, asks questions, supports their hobbies/drives/emotions, shields them from dangers, and actively encourage love and solidarity for their fellow human beings. It probably won’t save the world, but at least we’ll sleep better knowing that we helped raise kids who might give it a shot.

What legacy do you want to leave for the youth of today? Do we want to be judged as the “boomers” for future generations whom they’ll rightfully blame for not taking action? We don’t have to be as long as we’re willing to change ourselves and nurture their fighting spirit now. Most of us do care about social issues, but have been so pressed under the weight of debt, racism, violence, sexism, homophobia, and blind nationalism lovingly brought to us by our predecessors that some have just given in and given up. However, we can’t let past failures be an excuse for not standing up to present-day evils and corruption when kids are looking to us for guidance. We can do better for them. We can be compassionate to every man, woman, non-binary friend, and creature on this planet. We can be inclusive and welcome the oppressed, the vulnerable, and the alienated into our lives. We can teach the importance of always being avid learners as well as teachers. We can be emotional and show vulnerability. We can encourage and embrace creativity. We can reject the shallow values of the State and revel in the joys of solidarity and freedom. We can be on the front lines actively fighting against hatred and inequality. It’s important for the next generations to see that we were trying and not simply giving into the status quo like so many others have done. We can make this world better today and we should do it for them. Our parting gift can be a world worth living in. Now that’s a legacy worth striving for.

Thanks for reading and I hope to see you again. Solidarity, my friends.

X.S.

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