We Get The Picture: Cai Burton’s Message To Owen Jones
Owen Jones talks a lot about being a young person, and as a young person, Cai felt the need to respond to it.
When I hear the phrase ‘life isn’t fair’ I nod my head furiously in agreement.
As a young person living in the UK, life can be tough. I get that. That is the all too real experience of being a 19 year-old who has been looking for a job, looking for a home and looking for a whole variety of services that aren’t always there. So when I hear the phrase ‘life isn’t fair’ I nod my head furiously in agreement.
Owen Jones is a huge inspiration to me. From the first day I saw him speak live, I’ve listened closely to what he has to say. I was reading his recent article on the Guardian where he explains that ‘it feels like it’s one set of rules for young people, and another for powerful people’. He writes that young people don’t need to be content with these obstacles, that they are not something to be met with a ‘shrug of your shoulders’ but are to be challenged. Owen ends with a rallying call saying that fighting individually ‘doesn’t get very far’, but if we group together we can achieve greatness. His hope is that ‘young people will follow the example of our ancestors and take a stand for their futures’. When I had finished reading it, I sat back and thought to myself ‘Yes. This is exactly what we need. Young people need to group together and work to make a difference. We have a voice that deserves to be heard’.
Then I took a minute and realised that we had been doing exactly that already.
Thank you Owen Jones for your message, but I wonder if you’re preaching to the choir?
It’s as though we’re big enough to develop our own thoughts and opinions, but not big enough to be taken seriously for them.
Young people have always faced the challenge of standing up to ‘grown-ups’. It’s as though we’re big enough to develop our own thoughts and opinions, but not big enough to be taken seriously for them. Whether that’s through lack of experience, education or skills, I’m not entirely sure, but it feels as though being a young person can be an uphill battle.
Whilst it’s good advice, we’re already grouping together and we’re already standing up for what we believe in, in the same way that Adele keeps pumping out music gold. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with his message, but it just feels a little misguided, vague and directionless. Perhaps it’s good for his book sales, but then perhaps a better message would be to start by acknowledging the work young people have already done.I understand where he’s coming from though – the young people of the UK and across the world do face a lot of challenges. Young people do need to group together. It is easy for individual voices to get drowned out. And it does feel as though there is one set of rules for the people in power and one set of rules for young people. Owen Jones’ message is to stand up, challenge the system and fight for what we believe in which is a brilliant message in the same way that telling Adele that to get a hit record she has to sing.
Within Bristol, young people are already making a huge difference. We’ve launched our own online magazines, campaigned in Parliament and created innovative technology, but there are so many more young people doing amazing things. Last year, a young woman from Integrate Bristol named Fahma Mohamed launched a campaign to persuade Michael Gove to contact every school about female genital mutilation and succeeded in collecting almost 250,000 signatures. After meeting him, he agreed to send out guidance to all schools.
He underestimates the power young people have in this day and age and misjudges the strength of individuals.
It is absurd for him to say that his ‘hope is that young people will follow the example of our ancestors and take a stand for their futures’ when young people are already working tirelessly for exactly that. I mean, one of the Nobel Prize winners from last year was Malala Yousafzai at only 17. He underestimates the power young people have in this day and age and misjudges the strength of individuals. We’ve shown countless times that we can stand for something in groups, and we’ve also shown that we can stand by ourselves.
Owen Jones talks about there being one set of rules for young people and another for people in power, and that they are ‘interested in what’s good for them, not what is in the interests of all of us’ – which I believe is the case. We are working so hard to break down those rules and give young people the platform they deserve. However it can be tricky to do that without those in positions of power acknowledging the work young people do. Whilst your message as a 31 year-old may be good for your popularity, book sales and reputation, perhaps it’s not in the best interests for young people.
What do you think? Are young people doing enough to stand up for what they believe in? I’d love to hear your opinions about what he’s said.
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