What You Want

April 23, 2012

Now for an ageist, condescending edition of…


Anyone who says either “you’re too young to know what you want yet” or “you’re too young to know who you are yet”. Seriously, you just really really need to be shot.

Who the hell are you to say that to anyone? Okay, even if said person-younger-and-therefore-stupider-than-you does in fact not know what he/she wants or whatever, whatever the hell that even means, you know who knows this even less than they do? YOU, dumbass!

It’s a typical silencing and invalidation technique towards young people, an excuse to belittle absolutely any life choices they make by convincing them they are incapable of making sound choices and as such they’ll definitely regret it in like a week. I mean, it’s a terrific way to instill life-halting insecurities and uncertainties into people, making them feel they are never “ready” to do anything, but hey, at least they aren’t making personal decisions that, even though such decisions don’t involve you in any way, make you personally uncomfortable because you just have to pry into their lives, right?
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April 19, 2012

I make a point occasionally to read back through not only my own writings on youth rights, but those of others, even ones that are years old now. The study and recollections are needed sometimes to feed the ever-present thoughts and considerations of the issue.

A little while ago, I reread Alex Koroknay-Palicz’s “The delay between the inarguable and the acted-upon”, about a professor who seemed to agree with all the reasoning behind lowering the voting age yet wouldn’t explicitly come out and say he believed the voting age should be lowered. Why? Because it felt like such a fringe view to take, and nobody wants to be the lone supporter of a fringe issue.

In other words, something we youth rights people hear all too often!

Alex goes on to suggest the solution is to have more high-profile people voicing support for our issues and organization, as well as making what positive changes for youth rights we can already. I agree with the second part wholeheartedly, since making real changes to ageist policies is a pretty clear “yes, we’re serious about this, and, yes, this is in fact realistic” sign.
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What It Means to Me

April 15, 2012

Yesterday was the third annual National Youth Rights Day. A few days ago, I tasked some of my fellow NYRAnians with sharing, in whatever way, why they supported youth rights. Perhaps a little hypocritical on my part, as I not only didn’t share my own but wasn’t even sure how to answer my own question for myself!

But then I realized. Yes, I do!

Youth rights has been such a major part of my life over the past several years that it’s hard to even pinpoint any single sources of inspiration anymore. And even before I found NYRA, there were many little things here and there, the recognition that people thought little of me during my teen years and before, and, of course, my 8th grade English teacher saying “There’s no such thing as a typical teenager.”

But there is an underlying motivation, and it’s a simple one.

In short… I know this is right.

And I know it works.

I’ve met youth who were raised in whatever way in less oppressive conditions than average. In 2006, Alex and I were tabling at a conference and next to us was a table for Albany Free School, and with an adult or two from the school was a group of ten-year-old students from there. These kids? They were actually pretty mature and socially competent. They saw our NYRA table and were happy that we existed and related their frustrations at an Albany mall that had a youth curfew (Fuck you, Crossgates!) and they bought a bunch of our buttons. I don’t remember many more details than that about them, but I recall being pleasantly amazed at these ten-year-olds, the product of a non-oppressive school and probably non-oppressive families (if they had parents cool enough to send them to the non-oppressive school). It was nice to be reminded all the info flyers in front of me on my own NYRA table weren’t just spouting nice-sounding ideas that had little basis in reality, but were encouraging real changes to the way young people are thought of and treated, encouraging freedom and respect, and here were comfortable, competent, dignified kids at the table beside us, having grown up with that respect, as living proof of it.

Unschoolers, too! Whether it’s that teen rebellion isn’t necessarily a thing or just the continual accounts of unschooling families of the quality of life of unschooled youth as compared to traditional school students (yeah, I know there’s a “consider the source” factor here), the comparison between the unschooled youth who are generally more included and their choices respected as opposed to the voiceless traditional students who are coerced and dictated to at every turn.
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As If You’ll Die Tomorrow

April 10, 2012

I tweeted the following yesterday:

If I thought I’d die tomorrow, I’d be paralyzed with panic and terror. Stop telling me to live that way!

Yeah, we’ve all heard the popular saying “live as if you’ll die tomorrow”. The idea is that you’re supposed to live your life to the fullest because it’s precious and for all you know, you really could die tomorrow!

Just one problem. Think of any time in your past when something suddenly went wrong, like maybe you lost control of your car or almost fell off a high place or something like that, where, however briefly, you really did think you were going to die. You survived this, of course, as I find it unlikely any of my readers are ghosts. When death is imminent, you’re in a state of irrational mind-zapping horror and hopelessness. You’re not thinking “you know, I should totally go scuba diving!”

Paired with this is the saying “learn as if you’ll live forever”. This, too, is faulty.

In fact, maybe it should be the other way around. Maybe the whole quote should be “Live as if you’ll live forever. Learn as if you’ll die tomorrow.”

Why? Well, for one, telling people to live with the idea of death being just around the corner is just cruel. That’s not a motivator. That’s the equivalent of “give up all hope”. It also implies that it’s wrong to sit still or be idle for too long, that if you “waste” any time, then oh noes, you’re wasting your life that could be totally gone in the next 24 hours!

Oh, but along with this requirement that you must soak up so much life in every second comes having to learn as much as you can. So you must do lots and lots of stuff because you’ll totally die tomorrow, but be sure to, say, learn to speak Croatian because you never know!

If I’m going to die tomorrow, why the hell do I need to speak Croatian?!

No, if my death is imminent, any learning I’d be interested in doing, provided I could drag myself out of hopeless misery and depression, would be along the lines of saving my life!

Or maybe the afterlife requires one to speak Croatian? Such a small percentage of the world’s population can speak it. English, Chinese, Spanish, French, and Arabic speakers all make up such a huge chunk, yet I suppose without the Croatian for some reason, we’re all screwed. Because, hell, if religion says we need to satisfy some vague requirement of “good” for a favorable afterlife, who knows what other crazy rules there might be? Zagreb might be a holy city!

In fact, I’m not aware of much concern over not “living life to the fullest” as far as the afterlife goes. Once you’re dead, how much will you really care about what you did or didn’t do while you were alive? The only ones who care about this are those who are still alive and most likely can still do some cool stuff. You know which living people wouldn’t bother? The ones who are about to die! Because by then, what’s the point?

So, yeah, live like you’ll live forever, like you’ll always come back, like you’ll have more chances. Would you rather live life rushing around trying to see and do as much as possible because the clock is about to run out, or live it at a comfortable pace, where you’ll still see and enjoy plenty anyway because you aren’t stressed the fuck out?

As for learning, yeah, for that one, learn like you’ll die tomorrow. Or no, that’s not quite right. Learn as though you might die tomorrow or sometime soon. If tomorrow’s death is a sure thing, not much point, but if it’s merely a possibility, learn so you can avoid it! Like maybe what to do in a life threatening situation or safety tips or whatever else. You know, so you can live forever for all that living you want to do! Problem solved!