I am giving a talk in school to teenagers about social responsibility, and I have chosen to talk about using their “superpowers” responsibly. What superpowers, they will ask. We don’t have any.
My generation didn’t have any, I will tell them. But yours does. It’s the internet.
Here’s the substance of what I want to say to teenagers, who will inherit this world.
We should NEVER remain silent about the things that matter to us, be it small (e.g. stray dogs) or contentious (e.g. religion) because if we are inactive, the loud voices become the prevalent one. In the age of the internet where everyone has a voice and the power to raise emotions just by punching on keypads, what we write is indeed powerful. We all can have a say about our world, which is a positive thing.
But with power comes responsibility.
Thus, I am a strong believer in teaching teenagers to take action in a positive way, rather than blasting like an angry, mad person brandishing a shotgun.
Firstly, I will get my audience to examine their world-views. It always starts with the Self. “Why do YOU feel that way about a certain issue?”
Spend a moment thinking about this:
My daughter, who has been studying feminist literature for the past 18 months, feel strongly about women being prejudiced against. I asked her, “Do you face any prejudice being a girl?” No, but women in some parts of the world do. So how would you improve the opportunities for these women, rather than blasting men all and sundry, and shooting your mouth off in social media, getting emotional teenage girls even more hysterical about shitty men? (and what will that achieve?)…and face it, there are nice guys out there.
Instead, there’s a great movement for young people called Send My Friend to school if you are a teenage girl is eaten up with prejudice against women. There are many similar movements too where we can effect a positive change.
Georgina has been helping out a school for local refugee children, and for her Business Studies course, she is working for the same charity to help women with HIV. Unfairly, some of these women have been given HIV by their philandering husbands, and because of the stigma surrounding the disease, these women have been ostracised and thrown out of their community. Yes, enough to make any young feminist’s blood boil, but spewing anger about shit husbands is not going to change the world for these women. Doing something positive for them, on the other hand, will, and what Georgina has been doing is finding ways to make the business (a charity shop) more profitable, so that these women learn a craft, earn money, support their families and get their dignity back.
For young people who feel that their words are their most powerful weapons, then be an activist. Huffington Post has a group of passionate activists writing for them. This way, what you write is targeted and put out to an audience that wants to engage and debate, and perhaps bring about change in a coherent manner. Be brave enough (and accountable enough) to put your words up for greater scrutiny rather than getting your Facebook friends angry at the world, just to join you in your angry club.
Click here to go to the platform.
“Truth manifests through opposites” is one of the best advice I have ever received, and I try to practice it. Thus, I will challenge my audience to try it.
For example, I am passionate about the Palestinian cause, having served in refugee camps in West Bank and Gaza as an impressionable young woman. I still contribute to a Palestinian charity and read avidly about the fate of my ‘people’. I am angry about the injustices that they face.
But I make sure I educate myself in the opposite: yesterday, three Israelis were killed by a Palestinian gunman in a settlement near Jerusalem. Two wrongs never make a right, but I strongly believe that it is our responsibility to see BOTH sides of the story. That should be an interesting 15 minutes for my workshop participants; using Google to find the opposite to their beliefs!
Finally, this is what I would leave them with. It is the words of the mystic Shams of Tabriz. Shams (his name means “the sun”) was like a punk in his day. Shams had long black hair until he shaved it all off before embarking on his perilous journey to Konya. He wore a single silver earring and wasn’t a friendly guy. Shams said that the world is a huge cauldron and something big is cooking in it. We don’t know what yet. But everything we do, feel or think is an ingredient in the mixture. We need to ask ourselves what we are adding to the cauldron. Are we adding resentments, animosities, anger and violence masquerading as “truth” or “justice”? Or are we adding love and harmony?
So my question for all to ponder is, what ingredients do you think YOU are adding to the collective stew of humanity?