All over the land the kids are finally startin’ to get the upper hand.
They’re out in the streets they turn on the heat
And soon they could be completely in command.
Imagine the sensation
Of teenage occupation
– ‘Teenage Rampage’ SweeT (1974)
Welcome! Come on in. It’s time again for me to share some things I have learned from my constant international flailing before I turn 21 and can drink the Devil’s Water in America! Never mind, that at 18, I could already vote in state and national elections, get married, join the military, or, you know, show up to Walmart with an expired ID and buy an assault rifle.
I started this post with lyrics from a song written by the 1970s arena rock band SweeT. They’re also know for ‘Ballroom Blitz’ and ‘Fox on the Run.’ Both very good songs that I highly recommend… but anyway.
To celebrate 2018 being the ‘Year of Young People’ here in Scotland…
The topic of this post: Young People and Potential
Remember that bit in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix when the Ministry of Magic refused to do something about Voldemort and instead it was Dumbledore’s Army, a bunch of kids, who actually did something? Yeah, more on that.
Growing up, there were few things I was told I couldn’t do. And, this isn’t meant to be construed as me being a spoiled brat. I mean it more in that my parents had total and complete faith in my abilities to accomplish whatever I sent my mind to. And because I knew they believed in me, I believed in myself. At 8, I have a black belt. By 14, I published my first book. I made the JV/Varsity basketball and track and field team in my freshman year.
In my junior year, when I saw gender discrimination in girls’ sports over guys’, I wrote to the Athletic Director and then met with the Principle to ask why Title IX protocol wasn’t being followed.
Title IX if you are unfamiliar:
No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.— Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute (20 U.S. Code § 1681 – Sex)
At the meeting, I was told that my high school didn’t have a Title IX director (which is Federally required to qualify for funding btw) because apparently we didn’t have any Title IX issues… despite girls’ teams lacking funding in comparison to their male counterparts, were denied equipment due to cost, weren’t sufficient publicity, and had a lack of general respect from our peers. But you know, I’m not bitter or anything. I just wanted to be treated fairly like the rest of the sports teams. Which is why, even now, I’m a massive advocate for equality in sport.
But, now, at 20, I’m sitting in Edinburgh writing this and, arguably, I am still being a massive public nuisance.
And just to be clear! I’m not telling you all this to pat my own ego. I’m telling you all of this to explain where I stand on issues and why I do the things I do.
So, flashback to the 2016 election, I felt so alone. I could not understand why it seemed my country didn’t care about me. Why they voted against their best interests. Why they chose to represent themselves to the world in this way. But, at least, I had a vote in that election. The worst part of that election was explaining to my, then 17-year-old, sister why her country didn’t care enough about her to vote for her future as well. I reminded her that it won’t be forever. We have the chance to do something. We just can’t sit still. And, I think a lot more people realised that as well.
More recently, I have seen young people feel a thousand times worse than what I felt in 2016. I’m going to be frank, the circumstances that have put the young people of Parkland in the spotlight are fucking awful. I wish they would have never been put in that situation. But, they have. However, they are refusing to accept that ‘this is just how things are.’
I could go on and on about gun safety. For example! Did you know you often have to go through more background checks to adopt an animal than to buy a gun?! Or, how people care a whole awful lot about making sure a baby is born but once it’s here they do nothing to protect the kid? Or, you know, if you really want to shoot guns, you could join the military instead of playing military? Guns are tools. There is not a job in today’s society that warrants the need for a civilian to use or own an assault rifle. It was not designed for recreational hunting, it was designed to kill humans. And sorry if that came across as preachy, but it’s the truth.
… but that’s not the point of this mini-essay. It’s always too soon to talk about guns, isn’t it?
Anyway, young people are refusing to accept that this is just how things are. They are putting the pressure on companies, local politicians, and national leaders to reject money from the NRA. (The NRA which comprises roughly 5 million members out of 323.1 million Americans. Truthfully, they are nothing more than a loud minority.)
It is sad that so much pressure has been put on today’s young people. It’s forced too many to grow up a lot faster than they should have. But, sadly, when the adults aren’t doing their jobs, someone has to.
This is not the first time and it won’t be the last. I like to remind people, important figures in history weren’t the grumpy old people we see in museums. In 1776, Alexander Hamilton, who later established the National Treasury, was 21. Joan of Arc was 17 when she was leading the French army during the Hundred Years War. Henry V was 29 at the Battle of Agincourt. Victoria was 18 when she became Queen. Alexander the Great created an empire at 18. Phillis Wheatley published her first book at 20. Mary Shelley, also at 20, published a book you may have heard of, Frankenstein? The book that created the horror genre. At 23, Nellie Bly was exposing poor conditions in asylums. She also traveled around the world in 72 days… just to beat Jules Verne. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were 28 and 29 when they exposed the Watergate scandal. Nadia Comeneci scored a perfect Olympic 10 at age 14.
So please, just give the younger ones time to be old enough to vote, and us older ones time to be old enough to run for office. Young people have a lot more power than they think. I truly believe that. Gift or curse, the internet generation is using their voices to unite for something greater than themselves. I think it’s really amazing how high school and university students from around the world can come together in solidarity.
And maybe it’s a warning, but probably more of a promise: Change is coming. It’s coming from the ones too young to vote in 2016, but foaming at the teeth to vote in the bi-elections this year and in 2020. it’s coming from the university students who grew up reading Harry Potter. And, it’s coming from the older millennials who are a realising that things are still to be done.
So, that’s what I’ve learned is the true power and potential of being a young person. We don’t see limitations as walls to stop us, but something to be climbed over. Just because something works does not mean it cannot be made better and just because something has been that way for a long-ass time, does not mean that it is not time for change.
Progress happens whether we want it or not. You can either fight it or help us out. Your choice.
And sure, my generation made eating a spoonful of cinnamon and TidePods national news but we also are going to be the leaders of the future.