Taking Over from a Failed Generation
News this morning is that a trial date has been set for October 29 in Eugene, Oregon for a suit brought by a group of young people against the US government for its efforts to stop strategies to address climate change and global warming. The suit, in brief, says these efforts are going to have a disastrous impact on coming generations. The Trump administration, of course, has tried to block the court case.
Following the Parkland, Florida high school shooting that left 17 persons dead and 16 injured, surviving students launched a campaign to bring about a few measures of gun control, including a ban on public sales of the type of automatic, rapid-fire guns used in several of the recent mass shootings. The first rally by students at the Florida state capitol was followed by a nationwide day of rallies at 800 locations including nearly a million gathered in Washington DC. The students are now working toward voter registration to get new voters to elect legislators to bring the changes in the law that the current law-makers are afraid to make. Even though the National Rifle Association has apparently backed a smear campaign against the students, including an Internet challenge that certain student leaders be shot dead and the Trump administration has been utterly silent about this form of terrorist intimidation, the students are making amazing progress and getting results.
Across the Atlantic young adults are also becoming aroused at the actions of their elders. It seems that the younger generation is not as happy with Brexit as the older generation who voted for Great Britain to exit the European Union. It remains to be seen whether they will become a voting block to replace enough of those sitting on the green benches of power (i.e. in the House of Commons) to reverse some of the trends toward isolationism and protectionism if not the whole neo-liberal game plan.
In Spain, Italy, Greece, Israel and Turkey as well as in France, Switzerland, Germany and Austria it is not the oldest who are being contested by the youngest, but those in the middle age bracket. My generation, 75 and above in age, has already largely shifted out of power. World leaders are in their upper 50s and 60s on average. (Of course there’s Trump and the Pope pushing the average up.) The voters who have won battles recently are 45 to 75. These are the ones hanging onto conservative outrage at things which cost money and might change the way the world has run to their benefit.
Meanwhile, here in Thailand and South East Asia, the young adult generation is also not as docile as the power-wielders would like. There is little evidence that the generation aged 18-38 (to pick an arbitrary spread) is as enthusiastic to raise challenges as are those in Hong Kong and Taiwan, but whenever a choice target comes they are the ones to make waves. Despite threats of imprisonment and worse (far worse), it is this generation that uses graffiti, Internet, and sneakers to let the world know their elders are plundering the planet and expect to get away with it.
Two examples have drawn world attention. When a rich and powerful mogul was caught poaching in a national forest, the hunter was protected from prosecution by colleagues in the government. All over the city of Bangkok graffiti of the black cat began to call attention to this crime and the injustice that is following. Shortly afterward, pictures began to appear on-line of a posh housing development for retired judges that has encroached on the slopes of Doi Sutape, a mountain with semi-sacred resonance that overshadows the city of Chiang Mai. A young adult protest has succeeded in (temporarily) stopping the construction and has embarrassed the military and District 5 of the Judicial Department who colluded to bend the law so these houses could be built. “They are legal,” the officials insist. “They are wrong,” the young people responded, and set out on a 700 kilometer march from Chiang Mai to Bangkok to protest the housing development, and coincidentally to protest the law and those who made the law.
These timid voices here and bolder ones around the world are thinking in terms of regime change. It is hard to believe they will pull it off, and peripheral consequences are even harder to imagine, but what is inevitable is that the young generation is finding its voice and that voice is going to be heard. Those in power in this generation are not going to last, not only because getting old is inevitable, but because what they are doing is devastating and they are failures.
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.