“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. And when I ask why they have no food, they call me a Communist.” – Brazilian bishop Helder Camara
I am a default questioner. I think that starting at a young age I took it upon myself to question and examine and critique and analyze life, situations, assumptions, even other questions, not as a defense mechanism or routine, but as a default, a way of being, a practice that acknowledges the corners of my soul that are always asking, “Why?” It’s a childlike part of me that continues to sustain me.
This is the situation in Washington, DC, where the nation’s hierarchy of youth organizations and government agencies that work with children and youth have routinely excluded me from their reindeer games in which they call meetings, determine agendas, set conferences, host forums, and write papers, all outside of my realm of contact. Oh, they’re influenced by me, as many of my colleagues back east readily acknowledge. I have contacts in large organizations and influential posts who cite me, note me, and drop my name in order to demonstrate their connection to critical thinking within our shared realms. As is our habit, we follow each other on twitter and friend one another on facebook, like we’re all old friends forming a club, a clique, a cabal that informs, decides, and maintains a social order determined to change the social order that disengages young people throughout society.
This reality echoes across the country as countless youth organizations, community groups, and activista institutions have adapted and plagiarized my materials without so much as mentioning my name in relationship to them. Academics in ivory towers freely liberate my theoretical frameworks, and authors in lonely rooms repeal my information to fill their fetid minds with incense, all the while incensing me.
Thus I am a rebel to the system, and an informant to the cause. For more than a decade I have sought nothing other than to influence, and now I’m seeing the fruits of those labors. More than ever my advocacy of radical democracy is informing and motivating this movement for change, this transformative re-imagining of the roles of young people throughout society… And for this, I am fully grateful.
So to those who have borrowed and left, and those who have taken and laughed, and those who snickered while they critiqued and snarked while they pursued, I thank you all. I am merely abetting an enemy whose name is “Children” and “Youth”. Occasionally, I’m helping you, too.