Thursday, April 18, 2024

Valuing the youth’s perspective


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Mohammed Iqbal Degia


I WAS SKYPING with a nephew and niece recently and remarked that I had been to the coffee shop to do some work. This started their usual jesting.

According to them, these trips to the coffee shop to sit in front of a laptop and “work”, while sipping fancy coffee drinks, is a reinforcement of my “hipster” status. They contend that my beard and my big square glasses, which incidentally I no longer wear, convey the physical impression of “hipsterism”.

My concern about social justice aligns with the hipster condition, as does my turn towards consuming more vegetarian food, which was met at the time with remarks about “you is a real hipster”.

I dare not mention “avocado toast” because that will be the icing on the cake for them. My pleas about them being fully aware that eating “pear” with Eclipse biscuits or bread is normal in Barbados, and not something I have started lately, would fall on deaf ears. After all, they disregard that I don’t drink fancy coffee drinks, am past the age of a hipster and was interested in justice issues from young!

These two are 17 and 15. They are typical teenagers but maintain a healthy dose of scepticism about what is in vogue. They care deeply about what is happening in the world but also think that many of the “social justice warriors”, as they label them, are insincere bandwagoners seeking to boost their egos and gain publicity. I agree wholeheartedly and find the light-hearted banter they engage in about these sorts hilarious.

Respect for adults is an ethos of numerous cultures, including the two that I straddle. Unfortunately, it’s often misused to control and abuse. I hated as a youngster that the grown-ups in my life – family members, teachers, religious folk and community members – sought to suppress my views, which conflicted frequently with theirs.

I always make an effort, therefore, to allow young people to voice their opinions. I place myself in their shoes and recall my experiences at that age so that even if I disagree vehemently with what they are articulating, I will not silence them.

Scrutinise the adults

Let me be clear. I don’t condone disrespectful behaviour at all. However, most children know where to draw the line or can be steered away from what is unacceptable. When children are repeatedly rude and “disgusting”, scrutinise the adults around them.

I find conversing with young people to be refreshing. They will challenge you and ask hard questions. They can sense drivel, so you are forced to make valid arguments in support of whatever you are vocalising. They bring perspectives infused with energy and optimism that are devoid of the cynicism of older people. All of this makes plenty of adults feel insecure so they resort to the hackneyed mantra about children and respect.

A few days ago, a video was circulated in which elderly United States Senator Dianne Feinstein is captured rebuffing some children in an arrogant and condescending manner.

They had visited her office to advocate for the Green New Deal and request her support for it. Feinstein is an establishment Democrat who is completely in the pockets of corporations and the Zionist lobby. Naturally, she opposes anything that threatens her sponsors. Notwithstanding that, it was sickening to see her mistreating a group of enthusiastic children, one as young as seven.

Yet, there was a silver lining. These are young people who at their age possess enough consciousness about an existential matter that it led them to approach a lawmaker. Feinstein, on the other hand, is a dinosaur. She won’t be around for much longer. They have a lifetime ahead of them.

Mohammed Iqbal Degia is a former Barbadian diplomat navigating life after the Foreign Service.


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