Alright, alright…… settle down! Don’t get excited/panic, Hell hath not frozeneth over (unlike my ovaries), but you might have to pull up a chair and have some smelling salts to hand. Right. I have not had a radical change of heart in any way shape or form but, I have recently found myself agreeing with the late, great soothsayer Whitney Houston that – I believe the children are indeed, our future…….
These last two years have been a real eye-opener for me, as I have quietly come to accept (with some objection) that I am indeed, a bona fide adult. And with that, I see myself observing what young people are saying and doing around the world, from the perspective of a grown-up, using words like ‘the kids’ and ‘yoof’, with no air apostrophes in sight. I also realise that I could have given birth to any one of them, and without even being a gymslip mum. I could have, like, a twenty-five year old or something! Me! *makes immediate appointment to have one of those cryotherapy session thingies*. I’ve watched in admiration as they have organised rallies, demonstrations and protests, and formed pressure groups and campaign movements across the globe – speaking out confidently, speaking up and taking charge of their own futures and destinies. And I’ve wished I could catapult myself back to that age so that I could join them. They are rabble-rousers, trouble-makers, making the kind of ‘good trouble’ Congressman John Lewis advocated in 2016. Failing the appearance of Marty and Doc to whisk me back to my childhood, I’ve also thought that it might have been pretty cool to see any child I might have had, grow up to be politically engaged and rebelling all over the bloody place. I mean, can you even begin to imagine how proud you would be if you’d helped make Malala, Emma Gonzales, the founders of Our Future Our Choice, the young people who fight for education and freedom and challenge politicians daily in the street, on their marches and in the media? They are survivors and fighters, they are mighty and I am in awe of every single one of them.
What I had was Spitting Image, a year as head girl (which I took very seriously as a student representative of my high school), student representative in my second year of university, marching against student loans, an impatience to cast my first vote and rebellious streak; that narrowly avoided taking a former employer to tribunal for unfair dismissal. Mediation solved our problem before it got out of hand. Long story short, the employer in question was an old high street stalwart. *crosses self* RIP. A friend and I gave the required six week’s notice of our finishing time on a forthcoming Christmas eve, as was laid out in the contract. Our branch manager dismissed it and told us we would work late – we left at our own time anyway when the day arrived. On leaving, the manager said, “your contract states that you will do anything I say.” Eeerrrmmm, it really didn’t and this was like a red rag to a bull. Would he speak to older employees like this? Would he speak to male employees like this? Probably not and definitely not. But a sixteen and seventeen year old girl were easy to push around, or so he thought. First thing we asked ourselves once we were outside, was, ‘Shit! Does it say that?’ And then we went to the pub. As a consequence we were summoned to the office the following week and sacked on the spot for gross insubordination. Gross insubordination? Moi? Wasn’t this for murder or theft? Not two gobby girls standing their ground, surely? We got our heads together, read the contract in detail and decided the only course of action was to write to important people, from the top down. So we started with the chairman and CEO, obvs. Then regional managers then our own branch manager to inform him that we had written to the others about him. He. Was. Not. Best. Pleased. Over a three week period, we were interviewed by various people, individually, together and with the boss. And were finally reinstated. D accepted and handed in her notice immediately and I stayed for a month more, just to see his face every day as I arrived cheerily, to stock up the soft toys and St. Valentine display. Then I went too. Ok listen, it was only a part-time shop job, but to us it was pretty big to fight for our rights. And with no legal and/or adult help, it was a bit scary.
This is in no way, shape or form a comparison to our fighters today, but illustrates a certain pig-headedness that I’m sure, would have inevitably trickled down to offspring and most definitely would have been encouraged (but only outside the home, natch). Schools, social circles, work, university, politics – hell, I’d probably be right there with them on the frontline. Much to their chagrin, I’m certain. Poor kids, all they’d probably want was a bog standard pushy, stage-school mum…… aaahhh. So, these brave young people, confident young people, socially conscious young people – they are growing in number and growing in power. They refuse to be shut down or put in the corner and I admire them so much for it. They really have been the most uplifting and positive thing to come from the horrors of the last couple of years, and the unique voice that gives me a glimmer of hope for a better future. It might have been pretty cool to raise a rabble-rouser. There are no guarantees of course and they could have grown up to be ‘horse on ladder‘ at last year’s Eurovision Song Contest – it’s the luck of the draw. But, I would like to think that my bolshy influence might have rubbed off a little and certainly my active encouragement and support.
And that is why Generation Z activists are my ‘reasons why it might have been cool to have kids’ #1.
*drink it in people, it may never happen again.