Bah, what do kids know!
So much praise for the climate-action demonstrations of the youth last week! Finally, modern kids are waking up – “the way we woke up in the Sixties”, or “fighting Free Trade in the Americas”, or “protesting globalisation.” But others dismiss the whole thing with a “Bah, humbug, what do kids know!”
Look around. These dismissals often comes from folks obviously down on their luck – maybe down for so long that up seems down. Do they have a corner on reality? A good test in our disinformation era is to put ourselves in our opponent’s shoes . . . .
Our kids are hoping to shake us from sleep-walking into a collision with massive, geological and oceanographic forces. The kids have to survive the catastrophe. Adults often say great things – but keep their wasteful lives unchanged. The kids say they are listening to the scientists, but that adults refuse. Adults are too busy; the adults’ consumerist, me-first, we-deserve-it attitude is blindness. Wilful blindness.
But why listen to kids – what do kids know? They go to school, take science courses, go to cegep and university – but where’s their degree from the School of Hard Knocks? Kids haven’t had their own families, sought jobs and livelihoods, found compatible partners, and then paid the bills and mortgages for all this. The PPC candidate in the Pontiac said it last week in Campbell’s Bay, “I’m a realist; the economy comes first, the environment later.”
How about looking at it this way: we were all kids once. What did we know?
Kids grow up on the sidelines, observing and thinking about what they see. Kids are curious, often puzzled. Teenagers watch the adult world carefully and without the clichés which we use to cover a lot of the problems we wish to sidestep, like our mistreatment of our natural environment. Most of us were pretty perceptive as kids, even if we were inarticulate about it.
I had teenage friends who watched their families break up, a parent die – or even worse – some relatives ran into dead-ends . . . kids saw a lot. Teens saw the politicians of the day, too, and if we listen to their now-embarrassing views on virtually any subject, it’s difficult to say we adults saw what was going on around us while the younger generation was pre-occupied with lesser things. Listen to what our old political leaders had to say about Indigenous peoples, about protecting the environment, about avoiding war . . . adults slurped this up, which doesn’t say much for adult-only perspectives.
Many of our core beliefs were formed then, and still hold. Kids see, and saw, a lot. The School of Hard Knocks? What did we learn that was so informative and protective? Back then, kids didn’t speak up loudly and together as they are doing in Montreal, Ottawa, and in their schools.
There’s real promise today, that’s the youth message.