I had a great conversation with a fellow organizer that I truly respect and this topic came up. I'd like it to be part of a continuing dialogue on activist burnout. But why...you say. So many times, we spend so much time building the dream that we have envisioned that more often then not it takes folks wresting it from our clenched hands to get much more to happen outside of our own ideologies and methods.
This was and is one of the biggest problems with the Civil Rights Movement that sits stagnant or ...at least has plateaued. There are so many elders who have burnt out, become frustrated, lost their lives, disappeared from organizing, or who are not invested in the youth or who think the dream has been deferred. I know that there are a myriad of reasons for this but there are no excuses whatsoever to give up on not one man's dream...but a whole world's right to equality....no...not equality- humanity.
Yea, we youth don't appreciate the path that was forged before us a lot of the times. However, it's not entirely our fault. We are handed limited information about our roots and forced to assimilate and acculturate as soon as we are walking and talking and not just by "the man"- by our own communities...by our own families, even.
It's hard to appreciate what you don't know happened...or a struggle that you can't identify with. It's hard to reject images that are thrown at you right and left and expectations that are placed on you from a young age by the "dominant" culture- and your own culture. We are a generation that has reaped both the privilege and the disparities of the previous generation. We have an abundance and yet a dirth due to choices that were not ours- and seemingly were never meant to be ours.
Yea...everyone on this planet is dealing with something. I realize this. But we're talking about my particular generation right now.
So what do we do?
The youth need guidance. Mentors. People who are not too jaded and burnt out to show us what works and doesn't. To be supportive. To tell us about what they've overcome and how they've been able to do it. To tell us we get on their nerves. To tell us we're disrespectful. To tell us we're privileged...disenfranchised..naive...brilliant...strong...weak...
To tell us SOMETHING.
Yea...some of us don't want to listen. But a lot of us aren't ready...and a lot of us are. Just like a lot of elders can't be mentors and some can. We've got to bridge this gap so we can advance. Who's we? We queers. We brown/black folks. We [name region here]. We Americans. We on this planet.
And elders have got to pass that torch. I know your cause is near and dear...but you've got to do it or else the movement will stagnate. People will go off and do their own thing and we will be divided. There will be a cause and no effect. Some of us are ready to hear your knowledge...please don't keep it to yourself. Please don't think we won't appreciate it. Please don't say we have to learn it the hard way...just like you did. This is about moving forward together. This is about acknowledging our differences but respecting them all the same so we can get ourselves out of this mess. This milieu.
So pass that torch...but don't just throw it and hope we catch it. Teach us how to hold it and light the way for everyone...so that we can continue doing the same for the next leaders. Share your wisdom. We might not have the same strategies but I'm sure we have a common vision.