Kaitlyn McQuin knows that politeness is a distinctly female quality
Young People Are Remaking the World in Our Image
And it’s fucking inspiring, Alya Mooro says
In the midst of impassioned calls for a better world, one in which all lives do actually matter, where everyone is free – and safe – to be themselves, and where the structures in place are not destroying the planet, a plastic bottle at a time, young people are often told by the older generation to stop being so ‘naïve.’ But if naivety is having the ability to imagine a better world, and the energy to fight for it, then perhaps being naïve is a gift.
We are living in a vastly different world than that of our parents; the advent of social media and its capacity for amplifying messages, the increasing understanding that we are all connected and the optimistic, or ‘naïve’, nature of youth, means that young people the world over are calling for change across the board. More and more are loudly questioning the world we’re inheriting and demanding that things change. And while the slogans may differ slightly from country to country, the message is the same: the system is broken.
Over the last few years, the most vocal of those campaigning for action in the face of a global climate catastrophe have been young. Young enough to make me feel old. 17-year-old Greta Thunberg has inspired over a million young people around the world to stage school walkouts in protest. Addressing the UN Climate Change summit in 2018, she said: “Since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago.”
Of course, young people have long been at the forefront of social progress, mobilising on a number of issues. To name just a few, the Black Lives Matter movement was started by young black women Patrisse Khan-Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi; Malala Yousafzai is a household name for advocating for the right to an education; and Emma González co-founded a gun-control advocacy group and mobilised March for Our Lives, following yet another school shooting.
But in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and the brand of visible white supremacy aided by Donald Trump, as well as the Coronavirus pandemic and subsequent botched lockdown, this urgency is all the more amplified. There is an overwhelming feeling that the people in power are doing little more than failing us. In some cases, they’re actually even reversing hard-won positive changes, such as the rolling back of abortion rights in the US and beyond.
When the state of the world is as dire as it currently feels, and when technology means we can see and feel everything acutely, when we have lost faith in the people in charge, we cannot afford to stay out of it.
This shift in consciousness is evident in the content being shared on social media, where the majority of users are made up of young people. While social media has long been used to mobilise, and is often attributed to igniting and aiding the so-called Arab Spring, over the last few months, Instagram has gone from a place to post pretty selfies and photos of avocado on toast, to becoming an increasingly political platform.
Tiktok too is increasingly becoming a political force. While its predominantly teen userbase may be too young to vote, many are forming online coalitions to campaign for their chosen candidates, post news updates and fact check opponents.
In the UK, ahead of the general election in December, Tiktok became a platform for users to voice their opinions on Brexit, using viral formats such as lip syncs and dances. In the US, it was recently mobilised to usurp Trump’s Tulsa rally, with teenagers and K-pop fans claiming responsibility for the low turn out by block-booking tickets, and then not showing up.
In truth? It’s fucking inspiring. As Anne Frank wrote in her diary, written in hiding when she was 13 years old and later published to become one of the world’s most famous books, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
More and more young people are realising their power, and that the only action that is too small, is inaction. We are right to be angry. We are right to unapologetically demand and create the kind of world we want, and deserve to live in. We are right to believe that we can make things better. This is how the world moves forward.
Indeed, we are each standing on the shoulders of the people who came before us, and it’s understandable if some of those shoulders get tired out. It’s understandable if they wish to call us naïve, as long as we “call BS”, as Emma Gonzalez put it at a speech she gave at an anti-gun rally. By daring to dream of a better future, we can alter the course of history. The alternative is unfathomable.