Youth of the World Unite (via social networks)!

Written by Admin. Posted in All Fragilecologies, Capacity Building

Published on June 03, 2011 with No Comments

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about youth. The term “youth” really has several overlapping definitions but generally individuals between the ages of 15 and 30 can be considered youth. To be honest, to someone like me at 71, everyone under 70 is youth, illustrating the subjective nature of the term. More to the point though, I consider “youth” to encompass people from about 15 and into their mid-30s.

Until recently, youth from the earliest part of that age range and up through college-age were supposed to be seen and not heard. It was a cultural maxim, repeated often and again in movies, on TV implying immaturity and lack of experience above all else. The maxim ”Youth should be seen and not heard” was based on a belief by the elders that being young connoted a lack of maturity of opinion and wisdom of experience. For generation after generation, the understanding was that because youth had not yet been in the workforce, they lacked the experience that would one day give them the right to voice their opinions! They were expected to listen to those who were older and allegedly wiser than they were. Once they were older, they would have become wiser, from either book learning or experience or a mixture of both. Only then would they have valid and perhaps even valuable opinions, according to their elders.

There have been moments throughout history when young people have taken to the streets, led marches, and held sit-ins or teach-ins in order to have their collective voice heard by the local if not national media as well as, hopefully, policymakers. Historically, such protests are focused on correcting an unjust (or an unpopular) policy. If the government in power when one of those historical moments arises is clever enough to quickly respond and undo the particular wrong that incited the uprising (spikes in food prices, for example, or a large increase in college tuition), the protesters almost without fail return to their homes or their classrooms, placated. Such moments are civil uprisings or jacqueries but not revolutions. If, however, the authorities fail to respond quickly to the specific demands of the uprisen crowd, a jacquerie can develop into a full-blown revolution that seeks not to change a specific policy but to change the political regime. Once a threshold is crossed, such revolutionaries are not easily placated. [On this point, please see “Davies J-curve Revisited” (]

a jacquerie that turned in to a revolution. the people wanted food.

"More gruel please," said Oliver Twist to Fagan.

We are seeing this process presently being repeated in various countries in North Africa and the Middle East.

Youth, loosely defined, typically compose a large percentage of people who take to the streets (at least at first) against an unjust or unpopular policy. In recent years, they have also and often simultaneously taken to the broader cyber-streets of the digital age, sharing street-level and real-time views of the triumphs and tragedies they have experienced during various uprisings and protests on social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Hi5. With the even more recent and continued rapid spread of cellular technologies into some of the most remote areas of the world, these views are now available from every corner of the world. As a result, whenever and wherever a protest occurs today, however small it is, people around the globe have the opportunity to become instant observer-participants. The importance of this merger of social networks and new telecommunication technologies is that it provides a platform for youth to both organize and globalize their common concerns, especially about the environmental fate of the planet.

Along with these changing communication tools must come a shift in the age-old paradigm; in other words, it is time for youth to be heard. New technologies are enabling youth to express their collective voice about how current policy makers are not dealing effectively with the myriad of environmental problems facing humanity. It is time for youth to have official recognition as a group with a voice that must be heard.

Statistically, nearly half of the world’s population—almost 3 billion people—is under the age of 25. Over 1.2 billion of these people are between 10 and 19 years of age, and 85% of the world’s youth live in developing countries. That means that nearly half the world’s population and a great majority of the population that lives in developing countries does not at present have an “official” voice in policy or planning decisions for today or into their future. Youth, in essence, continues to be told to be seen and not heard by an older generation of decision makers whose worthiness of respect is becoming more and more questioned.

It is somewhat ironic that countries such as Tuvalu, which has a population of about 11,000 citizens, which is orders of magnitude fewer people than the population of youth in the world today, have relatively influential seats in the United Nations. However, youth around the globe—again, nearly 3 billion people—have no representation in that international body. This is not meant to deride such countries as Tuvalu, which is relatively poor and underrepresented itself, but is expressed to make the point that decisions in the UN are made consistently about such grave matters as war and peace that so small a population as Tuvalu’s has a say in but that so large a percentage of world population has no voice in, which is sad and ironic because it is almost always the youth, those with such potential but with no globalized voice to express consent or refusal, that are sent to fight those wars in the name of some future that they have in no way constituted for themselves.

Maybe a mock UN by young people makes more sense??

While youth will likely never have a seat in the UN, they can have a flag around which to rally. They can amplify their views on issues of the day and can develop together—using social networks—a plot to save the planet that would have them rescue the earth from older generations’ continuous and unsustainable exploitation of it.

In April 1775, while America was still a colony of the British, a shot was fired in the battle for the Concord Bridge, in what is now the state of Massachusetts, that sparked the beginning of the American Revolution, the USA’s war of independence. In American history books that shot has traditionally been called “the shot heard ‘round the world.” I think that in the beginning of the 21st century we are seeing a new phenomenon with the coming together of new communication technologies and social networking—a globalization of the voice of youth. In some decades, when people look back to this time, they may likely say that this coming together proved to be for youth everywhere “the shout heard ‘round the world.”

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