Babies against war
March 26, 2003 5:30 PM   Subscribe

In anti-war protests in Australia yesterday, children as young as 12 were shown on TV coverage participating not only in protests, but in the violence that followed when the protesters attacked police. There has, in the past, been condemnation of those who bring their children along to protests, but this is the first time I have seen large numbers of children protesting on their own behalf - most of whom would have been truant from school and, judging by the way many hid from cameras, without the permission of their parents. Should we take them seriously, or are they too young to really understand what it is they are protesting against? [more inside]
posted by dg (28 comments total)

 
It was clear from interviews with some of the youth that they have no idea what is going on in Iraq - most of those interviewed could not identify the leader of Iraq or even where Iraq was. Of course, TV stations have an agenda as well, so we most likely did not see the whole story, but I find this behaviour quite disturbing and feel that it is simply teenagers jumping into something for the sake of rebelling against authority with no real idea of what they are rebelling against.
posted by dg at 5:31 PM on March 26, 2003


At a protest here before the war began, I was travelling on a bus downtown and there were a few women taking their children to the protest. One was about 7, the other 10. What really bugged me was that one of the women was lecturing a little girl, about 5, about why should go to the protest instead of her piano lesson.
posted by synecdoche at 5:40 PM on March 26, 2003


but, you know, i'm waiting for conservative parents to decry pushing beliefs such as these on children so young as to not be able to "fully understand it," who then talk to their children over a dinner table about how bush is right, or what have you. i don't see a real difference in this, its all just sad to me that children feel the need to act based solely on what their parents tell them. it seems to me a bit of life must be lived before the urge to protest for either side hits. is this a reflection on the way we raise children, or is it a reflection on the way these darned kids are growing up so fast? maybe both, but i just don't know.
posted by oog at 5:42 PM on March 26, 2003


I find this behaviour quite disturbing and feel that it is simply teenagers jumping into something for the sake of rebelling against authority with no real idea of what they are rebelling against.

The same could be said for much of the US anti-war activist population, teenaged or not.
posted by KiloHeavy at 5:42 PM on March 26, 2003


I find this behaviour quite disturbing and feel that it is simply teenagers jumping into something for the sake of rebelling against authority with no real idea of what they are rebelling against.

The same could be said for much of the population, teenaged or not.

Yeah Yeah I wanna smash it up!

Thanks to elijah for his fantastic MefiSwap CD
posted by asok at 5:51 PM on March 26, 2003


teenagers jumping into something for the sake of rebelling against authority with no real idea of what they are rebelling against
Some things never change, thankfully.
posted by mischief at 5:56 PM on March 26, 2003


One shouldn't drag children to protests, especially when it may involve confrontations with police (and especially not if everyone is going to be soaking themselves in gasoline for a group suicide, the Falun Gong have been guilty of this).

That being said, I'd be suspicious of interviews portraying anti-war protestors as ignorant, perhaps they were being selective in which interviews they were running? I'm sure some teenagers knew where Iraq is and some didn't. You'd probably could get the same dumb answers from teenagers at one of those ClearChannel sponsored "support our troops" rallies.
posted by bobo123 at 5:59 PM on March 26, 2003


It's not only war protests. In the 90s I saw many children that age and younger at Abortion Clinic protests.

As a child in the 60s I attended many a rally and march. It taught me much more than another field trip to a museum. Only once did real "violence" break out. It was brought on by the National Guard shooting tear gas around quiet, but unmoving, protestors. My parents were very aware of their surroundings at every rally and we were able to effect a quick retreat at that one.

Of course parents should teach children to think for themselves. Also, I do believe children should be taught what you hold dear. It's your duty as a parent. If that means activism, then they belong at the rally. I think it should be age appropriate though. Five is too young to really take away anything other than "It's hot and why are all these people shouting?"
posted by ?! at 6:10 PM on March 26, 2003


> feel that it is simply teenagers jumping into something for
> the sake of rebelling against authority

Well, I mean, protests are fun. Everybody knows that. Back in the paleolithic period which I alone remember, we were like "Down with the Amerikkkan running dog fascist warmongers, long live the valiant NLF patriots, let's fuck." Or, in a slightly diffferent setting. "Down with the commie totalitarian puppets, support the President and Our Boys in SE Asia, I bleed red white 'n' blue, let's fuck." So what exactly is new, other than 14 instead if 18?
posted by jfuller at 6:51 PM on March 26, 2003


It doesn't take too many braincells to work out the Australian people had this war foistered upon them without any choice in the matter. A lot of people are angry and disappointed.

I can't speak for the protesters motives or actions as I didn't attend the protests. Depending on what Australian news network coverage you caught, the trouble-making protesters were labelled as 'truants', 'naive' or simply racially-profiled as 'muslims'.
posted by skinsuit at 6:56 PM on March 26, 2003


The articles you link actually say the "children" in question are 13 and up.

When I was 13, I was drinking, smoking, fucking, and protesting, and I knew what I was doing, though I didn't have the firmest grasp on foreign policy (me, I saved my firmest grasps for Night Train).

Mostly, they just look really young now that we're old.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 7:16 PM on March 26, 2003


skinsuit, I do not know where you are located, but the TV coverage that I saw certainly did not racially profile anyone, although they obviously did not show interviews with any 13 year-olds who had a firm grasp on the intricacies of foreign policy (if there is such an animal, considering most adults do not have this).

As far as Australian support for the war effort, my reading is that, while most here do no support war as such, it is generally understood that this particular war was probably inevitable and most simply hope that it is as short as possible.
posted by dg at 7:58 PM on March 26, 2003


Last weekend I spent some time at the ML King Center in Atlanta Georgia. I learned that during the civil rights movement in the late 50's and early 60's, there was very significant participation by children. Part of the motivation was that if parents got arrested for acts of civil disobedience, they would lose their jobs and the family would lose its income.

There was one particular protest, I believe it was in Alabama, that took place over several days. Every day more children were arrested, and by the end the jails and hallways and every other place they could think of were filled with black kids who had participated in the CD.

At one point ML King tried to convince the children of the community to end their participation because of the danger, but apparently the kids, in this particular case, refused to go home.

Sorry there's no link. It's too late and I'm too tired. I'm sure google will turn this up if you're interested. I had no idea before this weekend, and was astonished.
posted by alms at 8:02 PM on March 26, 2003


In the UK there's been a lot of debate about the many schoolchildren who attended anti-war demos the week war broke out. Personally I think this is a good thing. I've been worried that "kids today" are even more politically apathetic than my generation were in the 80s. Even if these kids are a minority, even if they've been coerced into doing so by the SWP, even if they're doing it for a laugh and to rebel against authority, the fact is they're doing something political. When they grow up and have a chance to reflect they'll be a force to reckon with.
posted by peteash10 at 8:04 PM on March 26, 2003


Should we take them seriously, or are they too young to really understand what it is they are protesting against?

Is this a serious question? Is there a doubt in your mind that these kids are out there because either their parents dragged them along, or because it seemed like a cool, rowdy, rebellious fun thing to do?
posted by Karl at 9:48 PM on March 26, 2003


correction: "Is there a doubt in your mind that these kids aren't out there..."

Damn that last beer.
posted by Karl at 10:01 PM on March 26, 2003


Today Tonight on Channel 7 network said muslim youths caused the trouble in Sydney. Check out http://todaytonight.com.au/ and view the video.
posted by skinsuit at 10:40 PM on March 26, 2003


When I was 13, I was drinking, smoking, fucking, and protesting, and I knew what I was doing, though I didn't have the firmest grasp on foreign policy (me, I saved my firmest grasps for Night Train).

Did you grow up in my (Takoma Park MD/ DC) neck of the woods? When I tell most people my similar story of youth they think my friends and I were some sort of anomalous fluke, and not representative of the rest of eighties teens.

I remember going to Rock Against Reagan ( a fourth of july celebration that coincided with the annual marijuana smoke in) from age twelve, ('82) until the old fucker was gone. I was not as political savvy as most of the older kids, but I certainly knew who the contras were, and where Iran was located on the map. Remember "ketchup is a vegetable", and Ed Meese's attack on "obscenity" (free speech)? This was the environment in which I spent my early teen years, and I felt an obligation to speak out, even though it made my group (punks and hippie types) unpopular with the, so called "normal Kids".

Recent events regarding speech concerning the war and the current Bush/Chaney "regime", make me feel very uncomfortable. Most notably, the Dixie Chicks debacle and the negative response to Michael Moore's comments at the Oscars. I fear we are entering a new, albeit more subtle, McCarthy/J. Edgar Hoover era, where speaking out against the status quo is "un-patriotic". We, of course, know that the opposite is true. It is everyones duty as an American, or a citizen of the world for that matter, to speak out when they feel something is unjust,unfair, or even illegal. Just b/c we are being asked in a "kind and gentle" way to keep our opinions to our selves does not change the fact that people are being censored; or in the case of the Dixie Chix, censured (Wallmarts, in parts of Texas, removed their albums from shelves and burned them in a ceremony reminiscent of the Nazi burning of intellectual/ "subversive" lit. and art. all this b/c the the three country musicians expressed their disappointment that W was from their home state. Our civil liberties are at stake, but if we just keep shopping everything will be fine....
posted by buz46 at 12:55 AM on March 27, 2003


I, of course, had trouble spelling Cheney.....oops....
posted by buz46 at 1:02 AM on March 27, 2003


The mainstream media reports I saw last night did lay the blame for the violence in Sydney on "muslim youths". And, from what I could tell, it did look like the majority of troublemakers were of ethnic descent... but whether they were muslims, how the heck do they know?

Whatever, it was a pretty sad affair and reminded me of the last protest held by schoolkids in Sydney a few weeks ago - all the protestors *ran* the length of the march, whooping and hollering and generally being idiots. In contrast, several protests by schoolkids in Melbourne have all taken place peacefully, without any reported disturbances AFAIK. Therefore, I blame Sydney.
posted by Onanist at 1:13 AM on March 27, 2003


RUSH
A Farewell to Kings

When they turn the pages of history
When these days have passed long ago
Will they read of us with sadness
For the seeds that we let grow?
We turned our gaze
From the castles in the distance
Eyes cast down
On the path of least resistance

Cities full of hatred, fear and lies
Withered hearts and cruel, tormented eyes
Scheming demons dressed in kingly guise
Beating down the multitude and
Scoffing at the wise

The hypocrites are slandering
The sacred halls of Truth
Ancient nobles showering
Their bitterness on youth
Can't we find the minds that made us strong?
Can't we learn to feel what's right
And what's wrong?
What's wrong?

Cities full of hatred, fear and lies
Withered hearts and cruel, tormented eyes
Scheming demons dressed in kingly guise
Beating down the multitude and
Scoffing at the wise
Can't we raise our eyes and make a start?
Can't we find the minds to lead us
Closer to the Heart?
posted by crasspastor at 1:26 AM on March 27, 2003


I have to admit when I saw the TV News, I wondered if some of the kids were taking revenge for the campaign against them over the last couple of years. Muslim youth was demonised in Sydney.

You're not the only dinosaur, jfuller.
posted by emf at 1:37 AM on March 27, 2003


I have heard it recently and I shall repeat it here. "It's not the reality, it's the perception." No matter which side you take on this issue. Look past yourself and look at whats going on in the world. Repeat as often as necessary..."It's not the reality.....It's the perception."
posted by SweetIceT at 1:50 AM on March 27, 2003


I thought the same thing emf. As well, I believe that police relations aren't too good with minority youths in Sydney? I don't think it would have taken too much provocation, on either side, to set things off. The talkback jocks must have had a field day today, as if all their christmases had come at once.
posted by Onanist at 1:55 AM on March 27, 2003


were they peace protestors, or just people who wanted to bitch?

because I was going to throw in a 'pro-lifers killing abortion doctors' related bit of irony.
posted by angry modem at 5:13 AM on March 27, 2003


Therefore, I blame Sydney.

Which, of course, is a statement that can quite rightly be made about almost any situation ;-)

The coverage that I saw made no mention of religion or ethnic background, but there are certainly strained relations between police and moslem youth in Sydney, which could have led to assumptions by the media that the protestors were moslem. Those that I saw (Brisbane network coverage) were clearly there for a good time, rather than as a well-informed political protest. I certainly have no problem with 13 year-olds having and voicing a political opinion, but I have no doubt that these were almost exclusively either expressing their parent's opinions or just there to party.
posted by dg at 1:58 PM on March 27, 2003


DG: So you're making an assumption about the points of views of protesters you've never met or heard, but instead seen on the TV - which, in itself, broadcasts subjectivity via shots, editing and story angle?

You have no doubt?

I have doubt about your 'no doubt'. Prove why you have no doubt these kids were 'almost exclusively either expressing their parent's opinions or just there to party'?

And what does 'almost exclusively' exactly mean?
posted by skinsuit at 6:48 PM on March 27, 2003


skinsuit - yes, I am making a basic assumption about a particular group of people that I have spent a lot of time working with over the years. The assumption that I make is that almost all 13 year-olds in Australia (and those in the few years around that age) have little concern for politics and even less for international politics. Most of those that express political opinions are merely parroting what their parents have said either to them, or in their presence. They do, however, have concern for having fun and doing something they can brag to their friends about.

Your doubt is fine by me and, if you have any real information to add, let's hear it. I would love to be proven wrong in my assessment and to find that almost all teenagers are well-versed in international politics and the diplomatic process.

My apologies for the poor English - 'almost exclusively' is, of course, incorrect. What I should have said was 'with very few exceptions'.
posted by dg at 7:22 PM on March 27, 2003


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