First, a nod to Tracy Chapman for her powerful and moving song “Talkin Bout a Revolution,” which came immediately to mind as I thought about writing this post.
I have been so very fortunate to have the opportunity to get to know and talk with a small group of young activists in this community in Central Mexico. We’ve been talking about oppression–about how oppression has developed over the course of human history, how it hit us when we were born into this society, how it continues to affect us today, and how to work to end oppression.
The young people in this village—like young people everywhere—are hit heavily by oppressive forces in the society. Messages that tell them who they should be, what they should do, how they should behave, and what their rewards will be if they conform.
We talked (in English and in Spanish) about how as babies we arrive here expecting to land in the world of our dreams.
Babies arrive fully human, and fully formed. Sure, we don’t have much experience with the world, but we know our own minds and we know what we want and what we need. It’s confusing when those around us don’t realize that and treat us as if we don’t have our own mind and free will.
We expect to be welcomed, treated with respect, loved and held close. We expect our parents and the other adults (and young people) around us to be free of distress and to delight in our presence. We don’t realize that they already carry the scars of growing up and living in a oppressive society, filled with adultism, sexism, classism, racism and so on. If they hadn’t already been slammed by those isms, they would be much better able to “be there” for us, and to treat us as we deserve to be treated.
It was so fulfilling to me to get to speak to these young activists because I do respect the work they do and their success at conserving this community. There is a very committed group of activists in this community who continue a long legacy of maintaining community customs & traditions, as well as working to protect the villagers’ autonomy and right to self-determination.
Most recently, the local youth group, Frente Juvenile en Defensa de Tepoztlán helped organize brigades of volunteers to put out the forest fires in the mountains surrounding the town. Members of the group fought fires, built firebreaks, and solicited support for their activities by collecting food, water and tools for the volunteer firefighters.
I told these young adults that one of the first steps in fighting oppression is becoming aware of it and talking about it. Doing so is talking bout a revolution and it sounds like a whisper–but en voz alta. Out loud.
NOW OVER TO YOU:
When have you stood up for a young person against oppressive pressures from school, society, or other adults? Do you remember an adult standing up for you when you were young? If you could return to your younger self today as an adult ally, what conversation would you have with her? How do you model human liberation for the people around you—especially but not only the younger generation?
If you are a young adult, when have you stood up for yourself? And what support would you like from your adult allies?
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