24 Views

Protest is education not indoctrination

At the Women’s March in London it was a single child who stuck in my mind: a little boy who could have been hardly older than eight. He saw the group of women I was marching with and made a beeline towards us, joining in our chants and making up his own. He asked for our megaphone to lead our chant: “When they say no choice, we say pro choice!” and then, emboldened, started to speak in his high-pitched, breathless child voice that Trump was a bully and must be kicked off a cliff.

I felt a heady awareness that this was a formative experience for him. A memory of marching through central London with his mother and thousands of other women will be embedded in his childhood. A memory of the strength and power of the voices around him to speak up against political authority. A memory of the signs he saw and the slogans he joined in shouting, and with them a reminder of the importance of gender equality, sexual equality and racial equality.

I have similar deep-rooted memories. I was a child on the Million March Against War in Iraq. Although I was only six years old, the sense of power which I picked up from the crowds around me has stayed with me ever since. I clearly remember the throngs of people surging through central Glasgow, and around a stationary open top bus where a speaker waved a Palestinian flag and led a rendition of “Give peace a chance”. It is fragmented images and emotions like these which remain with children for years after the event.

Speaking to my childhood best friend, Elise, it was striking how the same things had stayed with us both. Over the shining screen of Facebook from distant ends of the country, she told me “I think I was about seven when we went so it’s more of an overall impression that I remember, it was pretty exciting”. She told me that “the chants and slogans really stayed with me and I still remember them thirteen years later: who let the bombs out? Bush, Bush and Blair and also one, two, three, four, we don’t want your bloody war”.

These same chants are central to my memories of the Glasgow march, and were powerful articulations of injustice expressed in language easy enough for a six-year-old to understand. I remember being excited after the march and spending the journey home chanting “we don’t want your bloody war”.

On that bus, I spoke to Iraqi women, Quakers and a South Korean friend who told us of her surprise that protests in this country didn’t carry with them the violent government backlash she had experienced in Korea. These early encounters with different types of people united by a common goal opened up my understanding of the world around me.

Much as the little boy on the London Women’s March talked of Trump as a bully, I saw Britain and America acting as bullies in the Middle East. I remember being given the choice to join in when my parents decided to go on the different demonstrations they attended against the war.

Speaking to my mother, she told me: “we took you along without speaking about issues more than in terms of bullying…. that there were countries with more power and they were bullying smaller ones”.  For me and other children this sense of injustice burgeoned into a broader understanding as I grew older, not just of the ongoing upheaval in Iraq and the wider Middle East but of fraught political tensions in general. My early feeling of empowerment shaped my political education: politics was never thought of as removed from my own life. Rather it was something I and others could influence through our own actions. I realised young that we all have the power to question and oppose governments when they do not go along with the people’s views. There is something about early idealism, and fostering it in children, which opens up the path for them to retain the belief that they matter as citizens, and are strong. 

We must not forget that the longest strike in UK  history was instigated by children: the Burston Strike School which ran after children walked out of their classroom in 1914, and lasted until 1939.

Children are the politicians of the future – but they are also its citizens. To narrow the gap between politics as the preserve of politicians, and the politics manifest in everyday lives it is vitally important to have a mass movement of citizens who are empowered to stand up and make their voices heard when they see politicians going astray. They must truly believe that they can change things. In the context of President Trump, there will be children reaching their teenage years soon who shall only vaguely remember a time before the climate of fear and isolation promoted by his rhetoric.

The xenophobia, the sexism, the transphobia, the homophobia, the ableism: the grinding disrespect for citizen’s rights. It is worryingly possible to foresee people maturing afraid to speak out, fearing hatred or apathy wherever they turn in mainstream politics. To combat apathy, the next generation needs to be involved in democracy and feel that they can hold a government accountable.

For the Women’s March, five million people worldwide marched and one million people descended on Washington DC: a surge condemning the government’s actions and attitudes. Those marches and the following cycle of marches against the “Muslim Ban” act as powerful reminders to those attacked by Trump’s administration that they are not alone, and that they can speak out. We have seen an intersectional mass movement form – and on every march I’ve seen babies, children and teenagers.

Talking about early political involvement, Annie – who was 7 at the time of the Iraq march – told me: “I made banners with friends and went to Fairford RAF airfield as part of an anti-Iraq war demo, I remember tying string to the airfield fences and some people next to us cutting the wire and entering the Base; that was exciting!” She feels it was her parents’ political involvement which led her to first care about politics.

Patronising children has been combined with political disagreements to levy criticism against parents who take their children on marches. In 2003 my photograph appeared in the local paper, a little child carrying a placard. Days later a librarian whose husband was in the Royal Air Force berated my mother for opposing Blair and “indoctrinating” me, while I looked on. She never spared a thought for my own reaction. Her attitude only galvanised my resolve that, when there are people defending an unjust status quo, it is more important than ever to join forces with others who also disagree.

This wasn’t the only time my parents and I met opposition: at a vigil held for the civilians dead in Iraq, Tory students came and told us all to stop. I remember a demonstration at the local RAF base, where we were met by a counter-demonstration of RAF families. Mothers were banging pots and yelling while their children joined in on the opposite side.

My mother remembers: “when we met dissension we told you that it was ok, people disagreed, but free speech was a right for everyone: we had the right to march and they had the right to oppose our point of view. But we weren’t to shout or fight, just like ordinary childhood life… We just talked about the general theme of freedom of speech (demos), and standing up for justice (no bullying) and being authentic with what you believed and respectful and brave… And showing solidarity for those around you.”

Childhood in our society is seen as vastly removed from adulthood. To allow children to develop into conscientious citizens, it is important that those of us who are older re-frame childhood in the popular psyche. We must start to see children as complex humans with sufficient intelligence and agency to make up their own minds. Then we will see adults who are more invested in politics and feel greater power as both citizens and politicians to bring about change.

Get the best viral stories straight into your inbox!

Don't worry, we don't spam

Leave a Reply

Join the Badger Team

Apply today!

Latest Posts

The Russian State Ballet of Siberia’s Cinderella review
Arts, Film & Theatre
16 views
Arts, Film & Theatre
16 views

The Russian State Ballet of Siberia’s Cinderella review

Georgia Grace - February 23, 2018

The Russian State Ballet of Siberia came to the Theatre Royal Brighton this week with a trio of classic ballet performances to impress a range of audiences.…

Billionaire builds colossal 10,000 year clock
Science, Science & Technology
30 views
Science, Science & Technology
30 views

Billionaire builds colossal 10,000 year clock

Luke Richards - February 23, 2018

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has gone ahead with a plan to build a giant clock to promote long term thinking. The clock's design should allow it to…

Neuroscience: it must be love on the brain
Science, Science & Technology
79 views
Science, Science & Technology
79 views

Neuroscience: it must be love on the brain

Luke Richards - February 23, 2018

If you're madly in love, I'd like to ask you to take a moment to consider what exactly is happening inside your brain. Love is a many-chemical…

Rockets and technopoltics: SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy
Science, Science & Technology
48 views
Science, Science & Technology
48 views

Rockets and technopoltics: SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy

Luke Richards - February 23, 2018

The launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy could become a defining feature in humanity's exploration of space, but this impressive technical feat opens up a new frontier of…

Should the monarchy be abolished?
News
23 views
News
23 views

Should the monarchy be abolished?

Will Cronk - February 23, 2018

YES William Cronk Since the time of Alfred the Great, this country has had a monarch of some form or another. The monarchy has provided stability and…

News, Podcast
28 views

News Round Up: UCU strike updates, tuition fees and more

William Singh - February 23, 2018

In this news round up of the week, Will and Deniz catch you up on everything going on around campus. Thanks for listening and tune in next…

Academic Armchair- iObjectify: self- and other-objectification on Grindr
Features, Top Stories
23 views
Features, Top Stories
23 views

Academic Armchair- iObjectify: self- and other-objectification on Grindr

Devin Thomas - February 23, 2018

The Badger Features Team interviewed Sussex’s Yasin Koc about his work on the psychological factors behind Grindr. He posits that use of the app is associated with…

The Badger Reviews: Derry Girls
Arts, Film & Theatre
26 views
Arts, Film & Theatre
26 views

The Badger Reviews: Derry Girls

Sophie Coppenhall - February 22, 2018

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-MwnpSEzprQ[/embedyt] This week, Sophie our film editor, reviews season one of Derry Girls. Have you seen it? What did you think? Leave us a comment on…

Arts, Film & Theatre
40 views

Krater’s Valentine’s Day Special review

Daniel Green - February 21, 2018

Love was in the air at a Valentine’s special of Krater Comedy Club last Wednesday and, despite the pouring rain outside, Komedia was packed full of people…

‘Paws for Pensions’ among strike event schedule
Campus News, News
42 views
Campus News, News
42 views

‘Paws for Pensions’ among strike event schedule

William Singh - February 21, 2018

University of Sussex staff are hosting a full slate of events on strike days, including talks, teach-ins, and even a day to bring along your puppers. Members…

Exploring Mumbai Street Food
Lifestyle
41 views
Lifestyle
41 views

Exploring Mumbai Street Food

Louisa Streeting - February 21, 2018

Mumbai is a place that assaults the senses; an array of smells you’ve never smelt before, vibrant colours, and constant noises from the surge of tourists and…

Comment, Opinion
44 views

Comment Cast: Misogyny In Hollywood

Will Cronk - February 21, 2018

In the is episode, Will and Sophie discuss misogyny in film and tv. For more, pick up a badger around campus or read it online. Tune in…

Students need to support the UCU strike
Comment, Opinion
52 views
Comment, Opinion
52 views

Students need to support the UCU strike

Johnbosco Nwogbo - February 20, 2018

The question of whether or not the current UCU strike is justified is an easily settled one, if one took a broad view. According to the Joseph…

Women’s suffrage 100 years on: what’s changed?
Features, Top Stories
50 views
Features, Top Stories
50 views

Women’s suffrage 100 years on: what’s changed?

Roisin McCormack - February 20, 2018

As it reaches a century since the defining moments of women’s suffrage, Roisin McCormack looks into how much things have really changed. Is a celebration of the…

Retrospective: Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘Punch Drunk Love’ (2002)
Arts, Film & Theatre
31 views
Arts, Film & Theatre
31 views

Retrospective: Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘Punch Drunk Love’ (2002)

Gabriel Ross - February 20, 2018

During a 2002 interview with Charlie Rose, when asked whether he is going to take some time off, Adam Sandler promptly replies, “I don’t really wanna have…

News
53 views

Live: Students’ Union decides on UCU strike backing

William Singh - February 19, 2018

U.S.S.U-Turn: 54 students decide stance for 17,000
Campus News, News
69 views
Campus News, News
69 views

U.S.S.U-Turn: 54 students decide stance for 17,000

Jordan Wright - February 19, 2018

On Monday 19th February, the Students’ Union Council will vote on whether or not to support the national Univerity  and College Union (UCU) strike action that is…

The Wombats: ‘Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life’ review
Arts, Music
38 views
Arts, Music
38 views

The Wombats: ‘Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life’ review

Matthew Nicholls - February 19, 2018

Three years after their last release, The Wombats are back with their long awaited fourth album ‘Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life’. Since 'Glitterbug' reached number 5…

Artist Focus: Ella Barkhouse
Artist Focus, Arts
51 views
Artist Focus, Arts
51 views

Artist Focus: Ella Barkhouse

Louisa Hunt - February 19, 2018

Ella Barkhouse is a second-year Brighton student, studying Fine Art: Critical Practice course. Her work ranges across all sorts of media, from some more traditional writing, drawing…

The ultimate LGBTQ+ books guide this February
Books
77 views
Books
77 views

The ultimate LGBTQ+ books guide this February

Shiri Reuben - February 19, 2018

  Throughout the month of February, LGBT History Month aims to promote tolerance and spread awareness of the historical and present-day prejudices faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual…