Young Adults Take Charge

I started RC when I was twenty-one, and I am turning thirty next year. So far all my experiences as a Co-Counselor have been as a young adult. I started RC in Switzerland, then due to my studies moved to Germany, then England. I just recently moved to Sweden for my first job after graduation.

I was part of a successful RC young adult liberation movement in Germany and Switzerland, led by Juliane Cieslak and Vera Koppen, and backed1 by a core group. From no young adults in these Communities and not much knowledge about young adult oppression, we transformed RC. One of the results: the 2009 Wide World Change Workshop for German-Speaking Europe, led by Julian Weissglass,2 was organised by a young adult, and two thirds of the participants were young adults.

WHAT WORKED WELL

Here is some of what worked well:

  • To do it our way. The committed core group of young adults around the two main leaders took leadership themselves. No leader was left alone. We did everything in a gang. We had a strong sense of doing it together.
  • To trust our thinking, trust our thinking, trust our thinking
  • To back the leaders to trust their thinking
  • To take initiative to lead the older adults, to insist that work on young adult liberation be done. This included going up to International workshop leaders and requesting that they work on it with the whole workshop, going up to Regional3 and Area4 Reference Persons and insisting that this work be done in Community and Area classes.
  • To have monthly young adult support groups, whenever there were enough of us
  • To have annual national open young adult liberation workshops for all the young adults in Germany and Switzerland
  • For young adult leaders to go to the young adult conferences in Europe and the United States and build relationships and stay connected with young adult leaders from other countries
  • To work in Co-Counseling sessions on the young adults’ commitment5
  • To not let each other give up on visions and hopes, to have high expectations of each other but not let each other fight in isolation
  • To remind each other that young adult oppression is real. Most of the time personal struggles can be traced back to oppression. It is the oppressive system that does not work.
  • To hold out the bigger picture for each other, to know how other oppressions interlink with young adult oppression
  • To take ourselves seriously and put ourselves in the centre of the RC Communities
  • To go to workshops other than young adult liberation workshops. To take charge and make those workshops go well for young adults. To be strategic and go together with other young adults. If there was no official young adult support group at a workshop, to organise one that took place at mealtimes or as a topic group. To initiate what was needed.
  • If at (older-adult-dominated) workshops and classes there was not enough play or hanging-out6 time, to initiate it ourselves. To talk to the leaders about what would make the workshop or class go better for ourselves and other young adults.

CHALLENGES

These were some of our challenges:

  • Competition and internalised young adult oppression. (It helped that the International Liberation Reference Person for Young Adults, Anna van Heeswijk, always held out that the idea that there isn’t “enough” is a lie and a set-up; that competition is an inhuman activity; that each one of us gets to be as big as she possibly can be and have the life that she wants, while being backed by the whole group.)
  • Remembering that older adults are not the enemy; modelling working early7 in sessions; remembering that current upsets with adults in the Community are restimulated early experiences, that the hurt is in the past. (Working early is not only more efficient for re-emergence, because we are discharging the roots of the distress, it is also less restimulating for our Co-Counselors to listen to.)
  • Taking charge of relationships with older adults, training our adult Co-Counselors to be our allies, telling them what works and what doesn’t. (Waiting for them to make it right is not the most efficient or successful strategy for our re-emergence.)
  • Other oppressions. (All the young adult leaders did a great job of creating space for people of targeted groups to share their stories and be at the centre. Work was done on ending classism, racism, anti-Jewish oppression, Gay oppression, disabled people’s oppression.)

INFORMATION FOR ALLIES

You who are allies need to have sessions in a systematic way about your young adult years. Often in RC we are encouraged to go back and work on very early hurts. Not so often do we do sessions on our teen years, and probably almost never on being a young adult (twenty-one to thirty years old). Do this work predominantly with other older adults. Before working on it with young adult counselors, check to see if they are prepared to listen.

In the best case, older adults have friends of all ages and can bring their young adult friends into RC. If only the young adults are bringing in their friends, the older adults in the Communities need to have worked on their young adult years in order to be able to create space for the new young adults.

YOUNG ADULTS AS ALLIES TO YOUNG PEOPLE

Because we young adults are so close in age to young people, it can be easy for young people to relate to us and use us as a resource. But we need to have sessions on how it was when we were their age.

For those of us not raised in RC, feelings may come up if we do family work,8 as we did not have that resource when we were young. These feelings are great for sessions! We can go back in sessions to the young persons that we were and be that resource.

ENDING RACISM

Ending racism needs to be central to the young adult and young people’s liberation movements. The last annual young adult workshop in Germany had more participants than ever but fewer people targeted by racism than ever in proportion to the size of the workshop. As the only young adult targeted by racism, that was restimulating and discouraging. I think it is worth slowing down growth and putting even more attention to targeted groups, if that makes our Communities more diverse. The more dominant another group is, the harder it is for members of targeted groups to make the Community their own and find their way into the centre. If white young adult Co-Counselors bring all their white young adult friends into RC, there will be in proportion even fewer people targeted by racism.

I had the privilege to attend the last young adult conference in the United States, led by Anna van Heeswijk. The balance between people targeted by racism and white people was even. The leader was a person targeted by racism. The whole atmosphere was different. I had more space to breathe. Because racism was in a way “taken care of,” my mind had space to think about other things. I led a topic group on “artists and wide world change.”

PEOPLE IN THEIR THIRTIES AND FORTIES

As a consequence of young people’s oppression, there are not many young people in RC. There are more but still not many young adults. I recently started asking myself where all the people in their thirties and forties are. I think their lower numbers have to do with parents’ oppression. I see a lot of parents of younger children struggling to stay central to their RC Communities. They are left so alone with the responsibility for their children that it is not easy to find space for themselves. That is parents’ oppression.

OVER-THIRTY'S GROUP

Already our core young adult group has decided that we will keep going and have an “over-thirty’s” group. I’m excited about the work that Ellie Brown (former International Liberation Reference Person for Young Adults), in collaboration with Diane Balser,9 has started for “women in their thirties.” I know that “our gang” will take the initiative and lead there as well.

I’m planning to stay visible and central to RC in my thirties and my forties and my fifties and my sixties and, and, and . . . . I am not giving up my visions and dreams and big perspective. I am not giving up playfulness. As a non-parent, I am not giving up close relationships with young people. A direction in sessions is to be Area Reference Person for Katrineholm (Sweden) within the next ten years.

I would love to hear from others. Especially, I would love to hear from Co-Counselors in India and Israel, where there are strong young adult liberation movements.

Melanie Uhlmann
Katrineholm, Sweden
(and Switzerland, Germany, and England)
Reprinted from the e-mail discussion
list for RC Community members


1 Backed means supported.
2 Julian Weissglass is the International Commonality Reference Person for Wide World Change.
3 A Region is a subdivision of the International RC Community, usually consisting of several Areas.
4 An Area is a local RC Community.
5 The RC young adults’ commitment: I joyfully promise, from this moment on, to never give up my dreams and goals. I choose to remember always that the whole world is mine, and I need never be alone in figuring it out and making it just right.
6 Hanging-out means relaxed, unstructured.
7 Working early means working on early distresses.
8 Family work is the application of Re-evaluation Counseling to the particular situations of young people, and families with young children. It entails young people and adults (both parents and allies) interacting in ways that allow young people to show and be themselves, and not be dominated by the adults.
9 Diane Balser is the International Liberation Reference Person for Women.


Last modified: 2017-05-06 23:35:41-07