So here’s what I believe. Poverty is caused by powerlessness. If you work through what this seemingly simple statement means, I think there’s some pretty compelling evidence to back this up. If this is true:
- Young people will be especially at risk of poverty, because they have less power because of ageism.
- Young women will be likely to be poorer still, because of patriarchy.
- Young people from ethnic minority backgrounds will be even more poor, because of racism.
- Young disabled people are more likely to be poor, because of abilism. (And god help you if you’re a young, black, disabled woman).
And there’s kind of a lot of numbers that back this up and we’ve known about these links for ages. Why I am bringing this up as a ‘timely note’?
It seems in the last few weeks in the UK a couple of events have made people scratch their heads and think about this, and I want to urge youth practitioners to do the same.
The recent election in the UK, according to some counts, had the highest youth turn out in a decade, and is largely credited at preventing a Conservative landslide. Politicians are suddenly realising that young people are perhaps more politically powerful than they had previously thought. They are a generation to be reckoned with.
In the court of public opinion, many people are suggesting that the recent tragic Grenfell fire was caused not by technical building faults. Instead, a narrative is emerging that those residents died because they were poor and no one listened to them when they repeatedly warned about the precariousness of their building. Shocking stuff to think about in 2017.
And in reaction, the public mood is now starting to demand that ‘power’ speaks to those it has ignored for too long. The days of elitists politicians who can afford not to listen to the public appear to be numbered. (Even conservative councillors are saying this in the FT, if you don’t believe me!)
So try be a part of this zeitgeist. Has your youth group been ranting for ages about an issue you just didn’t think you could change? Do you know young people whose truths need to be told to those in power? Demand a meeting with your MP. Write to the national charity that works on this issue. Chalk bomb the council until they listen. Support your crew to go to every public event you can and organise for them to speak. Write to your local papers. Tell your funders why you need to do this. Now is the time for the young people you work with to be heard, and slowly but surely, maybe it’s now time for power to listen.