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January 11, 2010

Radical Youth Rights Activism: Foundations

All human beings have reason to speak out in defense of their own well-being. Young people are no different.

Toward the goal of helping youth become more effective in their efforts at self-defense, I offer the following principles… A foundation upon which future collaborative projects might be built.

1. Youth have self-interest.
Even before a human being is able to articulate spoken words, they can recognize the difference between their own body and those of people around them. They can recognize hunger, pain, desire. While it is debatable whether a person at any age necessarily knows what it "good" or "best" for them, there is no denying that youth — even at pre-verbal ages — have self-knowledge of various things that they want and/or need.

2. Sometimes youths' interests and adults' interests conflict.
A human being, at any age, has interest in making the world around them a pleasant and convenient place. Existing in the company of other human beings, however, is not always pleasant or convenient. For example, a youth might be hungry at the same time the adult they are with wants to leave the house. Or, a youth might want to run and be loud at the same time an adult wants to rest. Conflicts may arise over where these two people want to be, what they believe, who they want to see, how to use space or time or money — any number of things.

3. Some adults abuse their power.
When the things that two human beings want/need come into conflict, there is motivation for someone to try to take control of the situation. One person might try to control another by shouting (intimidation), inflicting physical pain, restricting the other's movements, taking away or destroying property, attempting to set rules or turn rules into laws. When adults use methods such as these to control young persons, we should always question whether their actions are fair and just. It is self-evident that the way in which some adults pursue a pleasant and convenient life is neither fair nor just: it is abusive.

4. Youth have reason to work against absolute adult power.
Sometimes adults harm youth. Harm may include inducing fear, causing physical pain, harassing with insults, confining, preventing outside relationships, taking away or destroying personal property, blocking access to money, or denying participation in decisions that affect the youth — all things that are equally harmful when done by one adult to another. Likelihood of an adult doing harm becomes much greater when when they have permission from society — friends, family, community, government — to use power however they see fit. Without limitation, oversight, or interruption, the adult gains absolute power over a youth. For the sake of avoiding harm, youth have an interest in seeing that no adult is able to wield absolute power.

5. Youth have reason to work together for their collective self-interest.
The practice of absolute adult power is more alive in some families, communities, and states than in others. Where absolute adult power exists, it is seldom easy to break its hold. Because being in control makes life more convenient and pleasant, adults — like any group of people would — resist demands for sharing or limiting their powers. Youth become more effective at demanding change when they work together. The struggle remains difficult — but sharing intelligence, courage, and resources gives youth a better chance of success.

Based on these principles, radical youth rights activists might organize themselves into a larger political movement: one that is led by youth themselves, for the sake of all youth, working to end absolute adult power wherever it exists.

Posted by Sven at January 11, 2010 9:50 AM


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