January 06, 2004

YL Presentation at New Year's Party

To celebrate the turning of 2003 to 2004, I spent four days at the Oregon coast. A group of my friends has a tradition of renting a house for their New Year's celebration each year. In this, the fourth year running, 22 of us gathered to share company, good food, dancing, and playing games... It was really a lovely time.

This year we tried something new: people were offered 15 minute slots in which to present lectures. Naturally, I decided to present on Youth Liberation.

I'm pleased with how my presentation went. My material came across as overly adversarial; and in retrospect I should have spent the bulk of my time talking about power (rather than age identity). It definitely needs work. ...Nonetheless, at the end of a very heated Q and A session, I felt like I had succeeded in giving articulate and reasonable answers to all questions. And -- miracle of miracles -- by the end, the folks who had started off in opposition were voicing support.

One person in particular opened the Q and A by saying: "I feel very negative towards everything you said. I can't imagine how any parent could support this." After the Q and A was over, she came up to me and talked about how when she heard the details, she realized that what I was proposing was very much in line with what she believed already. She told a story about how her own mother would confront parents when she saw them spanking their children, saying "you have no right to do that!" Another participant found me and talked about how, when she used to work in a battered women's shelter, she would give ad hoc counseling to the kids there. So, in some sense, she's been part of the cause all along, too.

I'm fascinated by how people reframe their life stories -- how they can say: "I guess that I've always been Youth Liberationist."

...I organized my presentation around notes that I wrote on big sheets of butcher paper. Here's a transcription from those posters:


Youth and adults have conflicts of interest, therefore youth cannot depend solely upon adults for protection. They must organize for self-defense.

Adultism = The oppression of youth by adults.

  • Historically, children have been adult property. (e.g. illegal to run away, parental right to phys. discipline, "emancipation")
  • Adultism's essence: "adults should command, youth should obey."
  • This model of A-Y interaction, taken from the family, has been built into our institutions: church, school, government, courts, policing, public spaces...

Youth Liberation = activism led by youth, for youth interests, that challenges adult power.

  • This is a method of working for youth justice. What agenda to apply it to is flexible. (Though much consensus exists.)
  • Adults can and should help -- but limits are placed on participation to prevent adults from taking over the process.


Three Main Models

  • Biology
  • Legal lines **
  • Character

Legal Lines:

  • Multiple lines, but clustered around 18.
  • The logic: child / parent / senior citizen = minor / adult / senior citizen
  • Content-based definition of "child": 1) living in house of parents, and 2) economically dependent upon them.
  • Notice adults 18 - 25 ("tweens") are #2, but not #1, therefore "college kids".


Adulthood as Organization

  • members / non-members
  • membership has privileges
  • governmental structure
  • enforcement of line
  • ID cards
  • informal dress codes
  • leaders / passive members
  • internal conflicts

Childhood as Disability
A) Dependence?

  • physical survival ...3?
  • social navigation ...7?
  • economic dependence ...12?

B) Transcend biases attached to body:

1. What if minds could switch bodies?

  • No artificial age lines
  • Some bodies require caregivers

2. What if you could construct a body and summon a mind into it?

  • Creation does not grant ownership
  • Creating a person obligates you to caregive. They owe you nothing.

3. What if, upon entering a body, you had amnesia?

  • All humans need helpful peers
  • Caregivers have no right to "shape" or "mold"


Adulthood does not look like an organization because everyone is inducted. You would expect a political conversion, denouncing former membership with youth -- but most youth identify with the adult point of view from the very start.

Avoiding the Stigma of Childhood:

  • Deny that you're a child
  • Avoid being with people younger than you
  • Emphasize other identity (e.g. male)
  • Put someone down (e.g. bullying)
  • Fake ID = pass for adult

Adults' Options:

  • Take leader role with adult supremacism
  • Passive benefit from membership
  • Conscientious objector

Flavors of Personal Protest:

  • "Age traitor" = criticize political order
  • "Age bending" = break cultural separatism
  • "Ageless being" = view your life as a continuous whole

Posted by sven at January 6, 2004 12:58 PM
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