How do you know you belong in a space?
As a student of urban networks, I’m bumping up against this question again and again. The City of Vancouver is home to a diverse group of citizens but how many would actually consider themselves full citizens? Do planners build cities for everyone or do they build cities for council’s delegates/ voters?
How often do planners look at context when it comes to a planning process? And if not, how does this perpetuate systemic inequality in urban spaces?
To me real citizenship starts and stops with this idea: we need a fundamental recognition of rights, beginning with the First Peoples of this land.
There is absolutely no other way. So how do we get there?
Hey, remember when your parents used to tell you about how difficult they use to have it? Remember when they told you that getting to school required some Herculean feat usually involving snow, one boot, and a large hill? And upon arriving at school, they would tell you how they were constantly under threat of getting strapped for the slightest infraction? Remember those speeches? Parents love to acknowledged that ‘back in the day’ they weren’t chauffeured around in big SUV’s like kids are today, that they had it hard. That in the summers they mowed lawns in the blistering heat for 10 hours a day, for one dollar!! Unlike kids today, with their ipods, ipads, and iphones, who don’t know the meaning of hard work and real adversity.
I’ve been rolling my eyes at these speeches for a long time (yeah teenage angst!) but for the last six years, I’ve been rolling them for a different reason. Since 2007, I’ve had the privilege of working with youth in a variety of capacities and have heard first hand what it is like to be young today. And easy is the last word that comes to mind.
Youth today may be driven to school in SUV’s, but once they are at school, they face a world that is so remarkably different from their parents, it is hard to articulate. The internet has put a magnifying glass up to every youth, so heaven forbid they screw up (which is a right of passage when you are young), that one moment is collected, showcased and archived for everyone to see now and for years to come. The stupid thing you did on Friday night doesn’t fall off your friends’ (and enemies) radar a week later. Rather, it is documented and built on time and time again. Why is this a problem? It is a problem because when that stupid thing you did that one time is played over and over again in a public sphere (ie. Facebook), it becomes a marker of your character. That stupid thing you did becomes ‘you are a stupid person who does stupid things all the time’.
And the most disempowering part for youth is that they have zero control over it. That racy picture you sent to your boyfriend, who then sent it to his friends, who then sent it to their friends and then suddenly you are being called a slut by your classmates.
I could not imagine being a young person today. I am thrilled beyond belief I am not in high school. I am so thankful that the many mistakes I’ve made have not been documented as they are now. I think any adult who tried being a youth today would be begging for their one boot climbing through eight feet of snow experience.
This whole post was inspired by this amazing movie that was shown at the Toronto International Film Festival. A great use of 17 minutes if you ask me but note that it is NSFW.
I’m having trouble embedding the video so click here to see it.
My parents never gave us those stupid things and we all turned out great….
I have seen the Dave Matthews Band 10 times. Every Labour day weekend, DMB (as fans call them) play three shows at the Gorge Amphitheater in Washington, which is possibly the most beautiful outdoor music venue in North America. So on this weekend, I strap on my nine (kidding), and head down to Americuh with about 20 of my friends to celebrate the end of summer in spectacular fashion (keeping it PG). It is a time to dance, relax in the Columbia River and to enjoy amazing music.
Like, really amazing music.
Whatever your musical taste is, I think most people would agree that the Dave Matthews Band is composed of fantastically talented musicians. Dave may be the lead singer, but each member of the group plays a primary role in making the music sound so fucking good (so much for the PG).
One of my favourite songs is ‘Don’t Drink the Water’. There is a lot discussion about the meaning of the song, is it about apartheid in South Africa, colonization in the US? Regardless of the subject, I have always connected with it. This is because that despite my background in anti-oppression work and my efforts to decolonize my thinking, I know I am an oppressor. The anger with which Dave sing this song hits me so strongly because I know that I benefit from oppression everyday.
He played it on the Saturday night this year and I got chills.