Around the world, there is a growing impatience with historically disenfrachising, disempowering and anti-democratic governmental, institutional, educational, and societal structures that govern our communities. Over the last six years I have worked with friends to create Freechild and SoundOut out of my own frustrations with those realities. In conversations, workshops, and classes with hundreds of people since then, I have come to believe that there is a popular, cynical, anarchistic intrasigence that has gripped our society. Its this incredibly debilitating, destructive beast that eats hope for breakfast – and that we are fighting against everyday.
Five years ago I read Dr. King’s book, Where do we go from here: Chaos or Community?. He covered so much in this book, and made my brain leap ten steps forward. Reflecting on King’s book, examining everything that had happened in my life and looking at what I had been working for since I was fourteen, I felt a suddenly tangible urgency to get ‘the movement moving’. One of King’s passages from that book that particularly shook me was, “One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. Today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.” Fantastic and empowering, I used the energy I felt at that time to push Freechild to become an all-encompassing, urgent driver of action.
Henry Giroux writes about that urgency a lot, and as I continue my own work, analysis, and learning, I feel it so much more all the time. Paulo Freire also wrote extensively about this urgency. He also prefaced a central point of Freechild’s work, writing that, “We cannot create knowledge without acting. The focus of this action is (a) to transform the world, (b) to establish interdependent relationships with human beings, with the cosmos and with God.” Simaltaneously, Freire challenged that we can’t act without learning, and that any action devoid of critical examination was cynical.
I have come to understand that so-called “generational apathy” is really a cynicism, which in itself is a the widely misunderstood tool of resilience. After hearing my generation labelled “slackers” for a dozen years, I have began to understand that a lot of people are responding- in a complex, intricate way- to years of alienation, distrust, and other forms of social programming. The numbing effects of years of violence that have raped our emotional connection to our communities have led to a decline in traditional forms of civic engagement, true. However, the upshot is that I have met literally hundreds of young people who are working in other ways, less tangible, more creative, less glaring, and more responsive to the real dilemmas our society faces.
All this is to say that Freechild has roots that grow in personal, pedagogical, social, and theoretical directions. I would love to hear what you think of them.