Not meaning to lecture

June 10, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Recently, at separate and different times I found myself – only possibly – lecturing two young men about diverse subjects. The more important, at this general moment, was about the environment. This can happen pretty easily if I am part of the conversation. Especially when speaking to a member of a younger generation – this mess is in their hands, even now, and they are the ones who must push ahead with immediate plans for rescuing this planet from the perils older people have created.

Problem was, I missed hearing any conviction, any passion in this young man’s voice and I wondered about it. Actually, he specifically holds a position which opens the door for him to show passion; to comment – as he sees it – on whatever pandering politicians are offering to industries, still indifferent to the needs of the planet, in favour of the wealth their industries are providing.

Politicians are caught in the middle – ‘twas ever thus – between doing the obviously right thing – with the teenager Greta to remind them – and suffering the storm of lobbying from myopic (maybe “not in my lifetime” approach?) businesses that refuse to admit to the damage they do; they spew the economy versus the environment argument, when no such conflict is necessarily true but for the very short term.

Too often, the pressure of wealthy, suited men, reeling off numbers, outweighs the numbers scientists bring. Scientists don’t arrive in private jets, in thousand-dollar suits. They only bring the dire truths to a meeting, with proof enough to affirm the evidence and, yet, politicians look to the money – a scam, if ever there was one.

It is a little hard to tell the numbers of young people who are passionate about the environment, although thousands of them marched every Friday with Greta Thunberg, wherever she was. They marched with her in their midst or with the idea of her being amongst them. Thousands of them – and their parents and friends of all ages marched on Fridays, to say that oil must stay in the ground, that coal mines must stay shut or never open for the first time; that the world can and must be run without fossil fuel – all of it, kids never backing off – young men enthusiastic.

Until mass marches were halted, when the businessmen went back to the houses of power to assure that matters continued as before.

We need and we had hundreds of thousands – young and old – marching and calling and now their public voices are not as loud as they need to be and I risk “lecturing “ a young man, who must join the march, as must we all…

Somewhat “on the other hand,” I found myself sounding very avuncular with another young man, who expressed the wish to do something extraordinary, by way of travelling.

“Don’t wish it, do it,” I told him, not meaning to sound like Rocky in his “Horror Show,” but inescapably encouraging any young person to have that adventure before the ties of a regular life/income/Saturday nights get a hold that never lets go.

“Now in your twenties,” I told him, “we’re all crazy in our twenties – we’re invincible and can do anything – so, don’t miss that chance.”

One day, there would be the house and responsibilities but that first decade of “adult” life deserves the passion of youth and the bravery of inexperience. The adventures of your young years can never be taken from you; they live in your head, as a concrete part of your brain and are a type of investment for your old age. Something passionate to remember and think, “Thank goodness I did some of that…”

Look: it is unbelievable what we, as a nation, a species, as commanders of all we survey are doing. As I drive, I truly wonder at the obscene waste of land and resources we squander on sprawling parking lots and one-storey, mindless buildings, not an original thought or a moment’s care to any of it and I yearn for young people to object. I long for their passion about this once-perfect world and their own experiences in these early days of their lives.

A lady teacher, a friend of mine, talks about moments of opportunity for “conversations” with her students about attitudes of the past that come up in literature of all vintages. When I was living in the U.K., we were a publishing company that, in part, published a monthly magazine for young people (sort-of six years old and up, depending – you know), called Kids’ Own World. In our second edition, published in 1988, we did a travel piece to Canada and referred to the indigenous people of this country as “Indians.” At that time, that was how they were referred to. We plan to put an apology and explanation in each of those copies. Well and good, but she referred more constructively to the conversation that could come of it. 

In the end, she is a teacher of passion.

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