On a diametrically opposite staircase another youth badgered a friend. ‘Is your leg still broken?’ as if it were a personal affront to speedy conveyance. These young folks have places to go and don’t want to be delayed by other peoples’ limitations. Adolescence gets you like that: idealism and impatience, get out of my light, why wasn’t this fixed yesterday?
Which are reasonable concerns. Why are we still facing racism, misogyny, poverty and climate disaster? Have these disasters not been well-trailed?
We spent last Friday’s Community Day talking about gender and violence, following up on the righteous anger of the Everyone’s Invited movement, of which I heartily approve. Outrage is an interesting emotion to share with the young, especially as outrage is now funnelled through social media whereas when I was a lad you had to join a political party or stand in the street and shout.
We planned an inclusive day, some sessions separated by gender, with options for those who identify differently. The sessions required thought and skilled direction of discussion. We tackled the whole range of the debate and why counter-groups set up with a ‘yes, but’ agenda once an injustice is uncovered. The way that we conducted debate was, necessarily, a compromise. All our children start from different places and have been exposed to different ranges of opinions and ways of living. Understanding the world and changing it for the better can’t just be done on the surface: you have to get under the skin, so there have been many, many further conversations about gender this week.
I may be too phlegmatic about human life. I try to tackle injustice where I can make a difference. I’m worried about the climate. I know a bit about misogyny but I’ve never experienced racism. I’m angry when young people are commodified or categorised and sloppy thinking makes me bang my head on the table. I think that shared humanity requires us to try to make the world a better place and I’m not sure that the echo chamber of peoples’ phones necessarily facilitates global improvement.
But I’m committed to the idea of young outrage and I won’t crush spirits. My grandfather used to say that there’s nothing sadder than a young conservative, meaning that the young should want revolution of some kind, change, and fast. I’ve found myself compromised at every turn this week by a world that’s in a bit of a state and young people who want to overturn every structure and declare a better world tomorrow. As they should.
I turned sixty this week (pause for the cries of ‘surely not?’) and realise that I am beyond decrepit to a seventeen-year-old who’s blood’s up. All I can do it to try to maintain the secure structure through which adolescent anger may be channelled so that when they leave us, to change the world, their views are tested, founded, informed and of material use to the service of the common good.
You remember Joe Biden’s inauguration, and the wonderful poem by Amanda Gorman? That was followed by controversy that a white writer had been commissioned to translate Gorman into Dutch. Rijneveld stepped away from that work with another poem, the end of which reads:
……you actively need to feel the hope that
you are doing something to improve the world, though you mustn’t
forget this: stand up again after kneeling and straighten together our backs.
All I can do is all I can do. In this context? Make sure that Tallis faces injustices and tries both to resolve them where we can and equip our young with the tools to make a bigger difference than any preceding generation. To them, my efforts may be crass but, for me, I hope they’re not misguided.
The best view from the window this week has been skipping. Some genius procured a sack full of ropes and we’ve used them with all year groups at lunchtimes. They’re skipping singly and in doubles but most of all, in groups in long rainbow ropes. A visitor asked ‘Are these Pride skipping ropes?’
I don’t know. They may be part of the unicorn-rainbow vibe that appears to have taken over the world and which in former days I’d be itching to set as an A-level General Studies question ‘Do unicorns like rainbows? How might we know? Discuss.’
Let’s say that they are Pride symbols. Let’s say that all rainbows are thresholds to a better world. Let’s say that every jumping child and every outraged young person is a door to a better future. Let’s do something to improve the world.