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March 05, 2003

Chapter 1: About This Book - part 7

II. Goals (Continued)

(5) Support Youth Liberation activists.
The most important goal of this book is to support actual Youth Liberation activists. I want to offer them new ideas about how adultism works and how to fight it.

You don't need a book in order to do Youth Liberation activism. All you need is a sense of injustice and the courage to speak out. Still, knowledge can help you be more effective. How you understand a problem determines what actions you'll choose in trying to solve it.

I believe adultism is basically a problem of adults misusing power. Adult power is not inherently bad; but being nearly absolute, there's great potential for abuse. ...And adults *do* abuse it -- often and casually. Anti-youth prejudices contribute to the problem -- but rather than seeing them as a root cause, I view them more as convenient excuses for adults who like getting what they want and seeing themselves as better than youth.

Being a problem of power, I think it's useful to look carefully at the structure of society: What institutions govern the lives of youth?; Which specific individuals get authority to make decisions about youth?; What tools do they have for making youth obey their will? The answers to these questions dictate the solution: activist groups led by youth, for youth, against adult oppression -- specifically targeting the individuals who have decision-making power over what youth want -- mainly more ability to leave harmful / demeaning situations at will.

If the problem were primarily one of prejudice, emphasis might be put on challenging media defamation (also useful work). Instead, this book focuses on leveraging legislators, city councils, school officials, child protection agencies, and other adult authorities. Stopping these persons' abuse of power means limiting what they get to control. This can be done by making sure that youth are included in all decision-making processes that affect them, by taking away some of the adults' authority, and by giving youth more freedom to get out from under them (e.g. by lifting curfews, making public transit free, building more youth shelters / hostels). These changes will need to be pushed for by youth -- adults, even friendly ones, are unlikely to give up control voluntarily. Youth should work in groups for mutual support. Speaking together, they will be taken more seriously than they would speaking alone.

Besides teaching youth about oppression theory and the tools of activism, a fairly direct way to support Youth Liberation is by training adults to be better allies. Doing so puts more resources behind youth leadership; it also helps prevent adults from getting in the way. But this material isn't for adults alone. Having a clear idea about how allies should be expected to act makes a youth better able to confront adult takeovers within their organization. Furthermore, it prepares youth for the day when they become adults, when their role in the movement abruptly shifts.

Spreading these ideas and tools, hopefully, will be a significant help to the Youth Liberation movement -- making it more effective in its aims, and better able to defend itself against problems from within.

-- to be continued --

March 5, 2003

Posted by Sven at March 5, 2003 02:32 PM