Adam F.C. Fletcher
Founding Director of the Freechild Institute
“What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or in the holy name of liberty or democracy?” ― Mahatma Gandhi
A century ago Gandhi began a freedom movement in India intended to call everyday people to their feet and take practical action to throw off the shackles of oppression. Disgusted with the day-by-day abuse and denial of his country's humanity, Gandhi took powerful, positive, and nonviolent action to stop the United Kingdom from ruling his nation. He saw British violence everywhere, from police brutality to colonialist governance practices, and far beyond: He also saw that violence permeated British thinking, British actions, and British culture.
Almost all adults are harming almost all children right now. This happens inadvertently and directly; coincidentally and intentionally; by design and on accident. And it happens in many ways, including actions that are personal, structural, and social in their orientation. Our abuse ranges from casual personal offenses that range from slights of language to dehumanizing cultural alienation; structural bias from architectural discrimination to laws without political representation; and social harm including de-centering schooling biases and demeaning child-adult interactions.
The outcomes of these abuses are almost countless, but are blatantly obvious when we start looking. Exceptionally high degrees of social anxiety; any amount of racial, ethnic, or cultural bias; the perpetuation of misogynistic, patriarchal systems; and the hyper-exacerbation of hate-filled, anti-democratic traits can all be attributed to the abuse faced by all children everywhere when they are young, and only because they are young. Psychology has wholly proven that childhood is the bedrock where we learn the behaviors, attitudes, perspectives, and mindsets that inform us throughout our lives.
All of this said, it is essential that we change the miserable status of young people in our society today. Luckily, young people aren't waiting on adults to make those changes.
For centuries, young people have been leading efforts to make the world more peaceful, less hateful, more democratic, less hurtful, and more unifying for everyone throughout our society. We can find countless examples, including:
· Anne Frank, the 16-year-old murdered by Nazis in 1945 whose writing continues to influence peace-makers worldwide
· Iqbal Masih, a 12-year-old anti-child labor activist who was assassinated for his efforts, and;
· Zuriel Oduwole, who was 9-years-old when she made a documentary film to advocate for girls education and launched an organization to continue the effort.
However, these are just a few examples. There are literally millions of young people worldwide right now who are working to build democracy, promote education, and sustain communities.
I believe it is past time to recognize the powerful, positive potential of all young people everywhere by abolishing the voting age entirely worldwide. In democratic societies, it is essential to enfranchise the hearts, minds and hands of every person in order to secure subsequent generations of democracy, too. In the United States and beyond, we're experiencing the real cultural and economic effects of democratic disenfranchisement right now. This is because young people have been disenfranchised all of their lives; the only way to end that is to give all children and youth the right to vote regardless of their age.
A century ago, Gandhi showed us a path forward through nonviolent resistance and coalition building. Are you ready to take the next step?