It was only a matter of time until I transitioned into being Mr. Wilson.
I have a lot of time to think while I am cleaning the sheep shed and paddock. Today, I spent the time pondering my experience with a teenager earlier this year. It was not a particularly positive experience, and kind of left me feeling grim about the fate of the world.
We have a program in NC where high school seniors do a year long written and activity based project. I was contacted by a young woman who had done her written paper on the evils of factory farming, and wanted to do her practical session on a “cruelty free” farm. Was I interested in hosting her? Hell yeah!! I was stoked – I love what I do, and will always jump at the chance to show other people that it can be done!!
After a delay caused by her going on a vacation trip, we scheduled her first 2 hour session on the farm. We are a small, working farm – and by work, I mean something other than a keyboard. She arrived at the appointed time, and I tried to hide my immediate concerns. She got out of the car, dressed in perfectly pressed, designer jeans and a frilly white shirt. She was wearing open toed, wedge sandals, with beautifully pedicured and painted toenails. Her fingernails were long, and painted with designs. Her hair was long and loose, and she had a full face of make-up. As she got out of the car, she immediately lifted her hand, to which her phone was attached, and began texting (Still hoping, I assumed she was texting her mom to let her know she had arrived safely – spoiler: she wasn’t….).
You remember we are a working farm, right? Open toed, heeled shoes = bad, bad idea. Loose hair = bad idea. Beautiful (and white) clothes = bad idea. Makeup = questionable idea, but excusable, I guess. But put the damned phone down!!
I realized immediately that my plans for a working introduction were not going to happen, and I shifted into a farm tour introduction.
We walked the paddocks and fields, while I explained how we managed the animals. I stressed my belief that there was a way to raise plant and animal food that involved respect and care. And by the time we got to cleaning the sheep pens, I shared that doing things the “right” way involved much more work, but that the result was worth it.
I knew that I had lost her when the discussion turned to why we did so much work. It became distressingly apparently that she believed in cruelty free, as long as she did not have to do the work herself, or pay someone else to do it. And as I have become more familiar with the rhetoric from today’s activist youth, I am hearing and seeing the same pattern. As long as someone else pays for it (either in money or work), and their “lifestyle” is not negatively impacted, they will fight for change.
I WAS an activist – I understand the drive, the passion, the need to effect meaningful change. But now? I see why my parents just shook their heads and ignore me to a large extent.
You want to cut school and sit in at city hall in support of climate change?? Get off your ass and actually DO something. Take care of your own home, and your dog (sorry – that’s a personal dig at a youth I know who is too busy protesting to take care of her dog and wants to give the dog away). Volunteer on a farm to take care of plants and animals so they can be produced in a sustainable way; volunteer at day care centers so parents can help; work at senior centers so we can “harvest” the wisdom of our crones. But for the love of God, shut up and get something done other than running your mouths.
I received a polite email from the girl several weeks later letting me know she had opted to pursue something else for her project.
Post Script: living in the country, I am lucky enough to know a lot of youth who are not described in the above diatribe. In fact, most of the people I know under the age of 30, are living exactly the kind of life I do – they work hard, they take care of the people around them,they are ACTIVE stewards of the earth, and they embrace the concept of “Be The Change”. I think that’s why my experience this summer, and my reaction to the Greta Thornbergs of the world is so strong – I assumed most young people were the same way as the ones I know and see every day. I am so very afraid that I am wrong.