I do not believe that a student of human reality may be ethically neutral. The
sole choice we face is one between loyalty to the humiliated and to beauty, and
indifference to both. It is like any other choice a moral being confronts:
between taking and refusing to take responsibility for one’s responsibility. –
Bauman alludes to the inherent reason why the people who kick my butt do, and that is this: they actually care – and not in a simple way, either. They throw their hearts and minds into their work, making and manufacturing and connecting and engaging in ways that are authentic and powerful, and they don’t hesitate to do those things. They are not ethically neutral, and they make that known on a consistent and committed basis.
Now, I know that when you’re surrounded by caring and passionate people who “get it” it can become easy to think a lot of people get it. Its easy to believe the world is actively choosing who is “in” and who isn’t. When I worked in youth centers, on ropes challenge courses, at the YWCA and Planned Parenthood, in those afterschool programs, I always interacted with people who got it. They got the struggle against adultism, ageism, classism, genderism, homophobia… they got it. That’s one of the ways working three jobs at a time for minimum wage didn’t suck – I was surrounded by authentically good people. It was much easier for me to see that folks weren’t apathetic about their roles in society and abilities to create change. But I was wrong on more than one level.
The simple fact of the matter is that there are a lot of people who don’t get it and who are ambiguous or indifferent to the realities young people face. A lot – maybe 90% of any given population. Those people are who we need to reach, who we need to target. Parents and teachers and youth workers and city council members and principals and activists and store owners and voters and lots of people who should be in the mix, but can’t be, or aren’t, just because they don’t get it. They haven’t taken a stance and declared a position. For a long time I made the mistake of assuming that because they didn’t get it they couldn’t get it. Aside from being patently dismissive and more than a little arrogant, now I realize that’s a completely false assumption.
So now I’m going out. Not sure how yet, but I’m going. I’m going to critically engage with the masses who haven’t had the ability, opportunity or desire thus far to become fighters and advocates for transformed roles for young people throughout society. Forgive the allusion, but I’m going to preach to the unconverted instead of the choir. I’m going to challenge them to take a stand and make known their intentions. I have to get out of the pews of youth work and into the fields of society, and starting today I’m committed to that journey. Join me?