Mari Piggott—International Liberation Reference Person for Young People

Young People

It is hard to say what issue facing the world is not a key issue for young people. Young people are part of every constituency (except the other constituencies related to age). Therefore, every major world issue affects us, or will soon. We are also in a unique position: Since we haven’t had as much time to accumulate distress, we have a clearer perspective on how the world should be. And many of the problems in the world could affect us for the larger part of our lives.

Young people and young adults are at the forefront of most (if not all) major social movements. We have the clarity to know that change needs to happen, and we haven’t gotten as discouraged as most adults have. Here are a few examples of our leadership: Young people (predominantly led by Indigenous young people and young People of the Global Majority) have taken the U.S. federal government to court for its role in perpetuating climate change and violating young people’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property. The Fees Must Fall movement in South Africa, led by university students, has fought against tuition increases and for institutional transformations to decolonize education. Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai has been leading the charge for young women throughout the world to have access to education.

Young people’s clarity and ability to take action are a threat to the oppressive society. Therefore young people’s oppression is imposed on us to make us feel small, stupid, and powerless. It tries to force us to not take big stands. It makes us act out our oppression at each other (particularly at younger young people), so we are less able to be close and united against our oppression.

Young people’s oppression is rarely talked about in the wide world. The dominant message is that it has never existed. Many elements of young people’s oppression, such as the oppressiveness of school, treating young people like they don’t know anything or are irrational, or not allowing young people to vote or have a say in major decisions are often thought of as “necessary” or “good practice.” An important step is to start making young people’s oppression visible. We can do this in large ways, like a campaign to give young people the vote, or with many seemingly small actions, like interrupting people when they make negative generalizations about teenagers.

The dominant Western education system does not support young people to learn in the way that is best for them. Young people who don’t conform are increasingly labeled by the “mental health” system and prescribed psychiatric drugs. Parents and teachers, who are overworked, under-resourced, and under-supported, are being pressured to support this.

Climate change is having a major effect on young people—particularly young people of colour and Indigenous, poor, and working-class young people—and this will continue throughout our lives. Our flexible thinking, ability to fight hard for things we care about, connection to others (including non-human living things), and sense of fun are vital to the environmental movement. We should be followed and supported and made central to environmental work. Adults must face their discouragement and hopelessness and fight beside us, rather than relying on us as the “hope for the future.”

For-profit corporations, like the beautification, technology, entertainment, alcohol and drug, pornography, and military industries, see us as consumers with the potential to buy things for a long time. Thus they are gearing advertising to us, at younger and younger ages. They are telling us that we have to do more and more activities, make more and more money, and buy more and more things in order to have a meaningful life. They are trying to distract us and make us too busy to think for ourselves and change the world! At the same time, young people are using technology for activism and maintaining connections. Adults need to oppose capitalism and how the technology industry targets us, rather than reprimanding or dismissing us for the ways we are using that industry.

IN RC

More young people, in more places, are doing RC. At the most recent International Young Leaders’ Workshop, there were more people there than we’d ever had at that workshop, and they were almost half People of the Global Majority. There were also more people than ever from outside the United States. We now have a solid group of young people who understand and use RC well and have undertaken the project of young people’s liberation. There is also a strong group of allies internationally who have a good understanding of young people’s oppression and support young people well.

However, most local RC Communities have not figured out how to support more than a couple of young people or how to have a large base of allies to young people or have young people’s work be a sustained project of their Communities. Even the Communities with ongoing young people’s work struggle to make it central. I think every RC Community should have young people’s liberation as one of its main projects.

Young people’s liberation is crucial for every person and every group’s liberation. Everyone has been a young person and experienced young people’s oppression. It can be hard for adults to look at the oppression, because it restimulates their old hurts. All of our early hurts, including isolation, discouragement, and powerlessness, came to us when we were young people and got cemented into us when we were teenagers, if not earlier. Working on young people’s liberation, and being allies to young people, leads to discharging these hurts at a faster rate. It expedites our re-emergence and our ability to take bigger and bigger stands. Making things go well for young people in RC—by having more playing, hang-out time, laughter, and so on—makes things go better for everyone.

So what does it look like to make young people’s liberation central?

  • Young people’s oppression needs to be talked about and discharged on in every fundamentals and ongoing class.
  • A discharge group on young people’s oppression and liberation should be called at every workshop, whether or not there are young people there.
  • All Community members need to build relationships with young people, inside and outside of RC.
  • Space needs to be made for young people, particularly young People of the Global Majority, working-class young people, and young people who do not easily assimilate into adult culture.
  • Leaders of every constituency and geographical group need to make young people’s liberation a major part of their Community building and liberation work. This means starting classes or support groups for teens and starting or continuing family work. It means supporting people under thirty-five to try leading, and giving them leadership and referencing positions.
  • We young people need to write a new draft liberation policy for ourselves and work on any feelings that prevent us from making young people’s liberation central in our constituencies, Communities, and lives!

Mari Piggott

International Liberation Reference Person for Young People

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

(Present Time 188, July 2017)


Last modified: 2019-05-02 14:41:35+00