The Legitimacy Of The Youth

A letter to adults and a tribute to my fellow sweet teens.

First of all, I am talking about teenagers, still in high school kind of youth, because I feel like we need acknowledgement for who we are, and not how we are wrongly depicted.

I am seventeen years old.

I am in the equivalent of senior year of high school in France. And no, I am not obsessed with futile things, and exhausted by the only idea of acquiring some knowledge.

Yes, I am legitimate. I can take part in so called “adult” conversations, whether it is politics, society, literature, media, philosophy, or whatever we consider as out of hand for young citizens. I can have an opinion, and yes, it can be as valid as yours, because experience has never been about years, and the interest I have in this subject can be genuine, and not only the reflect of my desire to grow fast into an adult.

The fact that I have only lived for 17 years, and therefore, that I just got out of childhood -which is the step of life where we learn so much, yet we are still seen as the embodiment of innocence and ignorance- has the following consequence: my knowledge of the world must be deniable, light enough to be considered irrelevant.

Adults don’t choose to act this way towards me. They just act the way they were treated when they were younger, and had so much stuff to say. Society taught them to stay silent, until they get older, and when they finally enter this subjective concept that is adulthood, they just repeat the pattern.

But you should listen to us.

Not only we have something to say, an opinion to share, an advice to give, but those could actually be interesting and most certainly refreshingly new and innovative.

We are not gifted with half a brain and we do not all have shallow, self-centered and twisted outlooks on the world we actually live in, with as much awareness as you do. We understand life even if we haven’t figured out exactly what we are supposed to do yet. We understand the stakes of world issues and we feel the impact of them, as much as you do. As a natural consequence, it is in our rights, and maybe even part of our duty, to share unabashedly our opinions.

Everyone is saying to us that we are the future of this world, still no one wants to pass us the mic.

I have been confronted with a lot of adult conversations, where they would just turn to me and say that I was the kind of teenager they want for the future of our beloved planet, and I would answer them with a bright smile, hoping to finally obtain my seat at the restricted council. And then, they would just turn around and go on with their conversation, ignoring the youth because it has no legitimacy whatsoever, and it is the result of the practice of arbitrarily putting labels on things without ever questioning the fairness of the decision.

I have never felt welcome to participate in talks in which I should have been involved as much as they were, because, ironically, they were talking about the future without paying attention to the person in the room that was directly and intimately concerned with it.

They want us to be so much things, and the main thing they demand from teenagers is for us to be mature and to feel concerned. When we answer to this requirement, we are praised, congratulated, but, just as the dog, who even if he is incredibly obedient and disciplined, will never be allowed to eat at his master’s table, I will never be allowed to eat at the adults table. I am not saying we are treated like dogs, but we surely are treated as inferior, less legitimate, with a less valuably opinion and thus a less heard voice. When I was trapped in one of those adult conversations, I was nothing more than a spectator. Even if I actually have a major leading role in the future, just as every young person.

And I was actually afraid of raising my voice and say what I wanted to say. I was scared because I thought that what I was about to say was irrelevant. I was doubting the value of my knowledge and opinion. I was not sure if I needed to earn the seat I was already taking, before I could consider it as mine. But it is mine. I earned it by the simple fact that I am directly concerned, interested in the talks and debates, and that I have been listening silently and submissively for too long.

Maybe if I raise my voice, some adults may be surprised and even some of them upset by losing their exclusive power of deciding who is worthy of attention and what needs to be discussed. But others will probably be encouraging, because they remember that time when they were politely told to shut up, because their ideas were not valid and their opinion insignificant.

Listen to us.

Sometimes, we have things to say, because society issues do not only concern us, but they matter to us.

Teenagers are not just a bunch of disinterested and uninteresting humans.

We are learning slowly how to live. But we are not taking all our time getting to responsible and cautious behaviour because we are spending all this time on not reading books and not acquiring erudition.

We can and we do learn, and as much as we can be pupils we can be teachers. Teaching something to someone is universal and does not know any age restrictions. School is a place where older people teach to younger people. But school is not representing faithfully what society is about. Keep in mind that from the tiniest child to the most wrinkled old man (or woman), you can learn from everyone. I understand that if the society works this way, it is because we need some kind of hierarchy, and older people do actually have, potentially, more knowledge and a most complete life experience; but I also think that listening to people, giving them equal opportunities to say what they want to say, can only make the society improve in terms of balance, equality, innovation, strength, and energy.

So, dear adults, give youngsters a chance to open their hearts, share their mindsets and communicate their opinions.

We want to be part of it.

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