The kids aren’t alright — they’ve had enough
Young people have been making a lot of waves in the past few days.
First there was the joyous spectacle of tens of thousands of kids and teens marching in cities across the world to peacefully protest political inaction on climate change.
According to the organisers of the climate strike, more than a million students from 125 countries skipped school to take to the streets, making it one of the largest environmental protests in history.
Then there was the birth of a modern-day folk hero in 17-year-old Will Connolly - better known online by his moniker, Egg Boy - who cracked an egg over Senator Fraser Anning's head at a Melbourne press conference following his racist and Islamophobic comments about the Christchurch mosque massacre.
Within seconds of making his move, Connolly was struck twice in the face by the senator and crash-tackled to the ground by Anning's supporters. Connolly has since received thousands of supportive messages and tributes from across the globe.
Two very different stories, certainly, but they share a common theme.
So often young people are overlooked and underestimated simply because they can't yet vote. But they are fed up with the incompetence and cruelty of the adults who are supposed to be leading them. And now they're mobilising to protect their future. And while starting a food fight probably isn't the way to go about it, it's understandable that their frustration, having long simmered beneath the surface, would finally begin to bubble over.
This isn't the first time we've seen young people step up when it comes to an issue they feel strongly about.
In the lead-up to the same-sex marriage postal survey, around two thirds of the nearly 100,000 people newly added to the electoral roll were aged 18-24. According to the Australian Electoral Commission, 18 and 19-year-olds were "more likely to participate than any other age group under the age of 45 years," and the most supportive of removing discrimination from marriage law. Not bad for a bunch of Millennials that some predicted wouldn't even know how to use the postal service.
In the US, the tired gun control debate has been re-energised by a movement comprised of high school students and teen survivors of gun violence. Leveraging the power of social media, the students of a Florida high school formed a national coalition, organised nationwide school walkouts and marches, and lobbied legislators for stricter gun control when others had long-since given up on the possibility of change.
Contrary to popular belief, youngsters aren't the lazy, apathetic schlubs they're made out to be. Nor are they inclined to understand cowardice or compromise. The political potency of young voices, especially amplified by social media, is indisputable.
If the climate strike - which went ahead despite threats of suspensions and general panicked bleating from various elected reps and talking heads - is any indication, young people can be terrifyingly organised when they want to be. As some of the signs and memes from the recent protests show, they're also gloriously witty.
Cashmere High School in Christchurch is proof that they can be compassionate too. In the wake of Friday's shooting, more than a hundred students volunteered their time and labour to organise food drives and bake sales to support the families of three current and former students who were killed.
In a week that's been a seemingly constant stream of horror and heartache, young people have been a much-needed source of hope, leadership and untarnished idealism. And that should terrify our pollies.
Because in the words of Greta Thunberg, the solemn 16-year-old Swedish climate activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee who inspired last week's climate strike: "We fight for our future. It doesn't help if we have to fight the adults too."
No, the kids aren't alright. They've had enough.