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January 07, 2004

Ideals that motivate YL

A few entries back, I posted a first draft of the youthlib.com homepage. I proposed five broad topics for the purpose of categorizing my essays. I'm thinking now that I ought to add two new topics onto the end of that list... Thus:

  1. Age
  2. Adultism
  3. Youth Liberation
  4. Adults as Allies
  5. Adultism Compared to Other Oppressions
  6. How People "Act their Age"
  7. Differences within Youth Liberation

Today I've got a new idea that would fall under "Differences within Youth Liberation"...

Ideals that motivate YL

What motivates a particular activist to do YL work?

I imagine that many folk only really care about one issue. That issue might be, for example: access to contraception, censorship in schools, homophobia at school, unschooling, spanking, curfews, police harassment, or the vote. I want to call people like this "issue-based activists".

Everyone who does YL work surely has their own pet issues -- ones that they care most about, personally. For me, that issue is violence against minors. Most of all, I care about reworking the laws around spanking, child abuse, and child protection...

However, I would not say that I am an "issue-based activist". Rather, I am an "idealist". I see an underlying principle that unifies the YL movement's many various struggles. That principle is the idea that "no human being should be treated as if they are property". I see school issues, the vote, access to contraception, etc., all through this lens. Thus, my interest in YL transcends the single issue of violence against minors.

I think that different YL activists are motivated by different ideals. Here are the ones that I've identified thus far:

  1. No human being should be treated as if they are property.
  2. Everyone who will be effected by a decision, should be able to participate in the decision-making process.
  3. All people should be treated identically by the law.
  4. Interpersonally, all people should be treated as unique individuals.
  5. People should get to express their authentic selves.
  6. Minorities have got to look out for their own kind.

In previous writings, I've made a distinction between three varieties of YL: Youth Equality, Youth Power, and Youth Culture. Those are essentially three different ways of approaching political activism. Each one suggests a strategy for creating social change. The varieties of idealism that I'm listing here may be even more basic: they address beliefs that people hold about human beings in general. ...I suppose they tap into one's notions about humanism.

In my opinion, it's OK -- and perhaps even desirable -- for there to be multiple idealisms floating around in the YL movement. Different idealisms motivate people to tackle different issues. There are so many issues to tackle, I think we need people to spread out and deal with what they're passionate about.

[While I'm busy reducing people's world views to single sentences, it occurred to me to do so with Marxism. I think the heart of Marxism could be expressed thus: "Each person should contribute to society according to their ability; each person should take according to their needs." ...I haven't heard of anyone who has tried to apply old-school Marxism toward a YL analysis, but it stands as a logical possibility.]

Posted by Sven at January 7, 2004 07:18 PM