I have recently encountered, in various different areas of my life, an argument being thrown around by the older generation towards my own age group, that says we are ‘too young’ to be getting involved in serious political or social issues. Perhaps it has been one of those things where, once you notice it happening once or twice, you start to see it all over the place. Regardless, I find so much at fault with this mentality, so many important messages to be taken from it, that it sparked a blog post within me, so here we go!
To give some context, I thought I would talk about a couple of examples of when I have directly faced an argument like this. The first happened a couple of weeks ago. I have been planning a concert in London for a while now, with my newly formed, diverse and ‘cutting edge’ ensemble, Hauptstimmen. The goal of this group of classical chamber musicians is to bring our music to a wider audience, to break down boundaries that we have experienced in our world of classical music and make it an all-inclusive art form, something that everyone can share in and take something away from. We have organised a concert ourselves in London next week (see all the details here, please come!!), and the theme of our programme is ‘war, time and death’. I know it sounds a little dark and depressing, but actually it is really fascinating; we are going to be performing unique music that is very rarely heard, including Gideon Klein’s string trio, which was the last piece he ever wrote, just two weeks before being deported to Auschwitz. It isn’t just going to be a concert – it is going to be a real experience, with cool lighting, sound effects and stage design, where the audience will be encouraged to feel completely at ease with drinks and snacks and also totally engaged with our performance. In short, this is an event that we have put a lot of thought and work into and one which we think will really create huge impact.
Now, in organising this concert, finding the right venue has obviously been extremely important – the space is paramount to the whole experience, and so it was something we knew we had to get right. We were overjoyed to find The Red Hedgehog, a cool and intimate venue with easy access in London. When our group leader met with the venue director, she seemed totally on board and supportive of all of our ideas, so everything looked bright for us. Two weeks ago, we received an email from this same director and let’s just say that it completely contradicted everything that had been agreed on previously and everything we are striving to achieve. Her overarching message to us was that we were far too young to be presenting a concert that placed war as its central theme.
My initial response to the email was anger, of course, followed by a real sense of sadness. I felt so sad because, here is a group of young musicians who are trying to do something different and creative and combine their art with important world issues, only to be shot down by someone older and with more ‘power’. Today, after having dwelled on it for a while, I feel so strongly the error in her way of thinking! The fact is that war and death are very much part of our world, and unfortunately this is something that is becoming more of a scary reality everyday. To think that only people of a certain age should be talking about it is naive; I am in my twenties and part of a generation that will have to deal with the remnants of what is left post-Trump, or with whatever the future holds for North Korea, Syria, ISIS etc. We are exactly the ones who need to be talking about it and understanding what is happening and why – we are the ones who can help the future. As musicians, we have such a special way of sharing these ideas. Through music, we can reach out to people and bring people together, we can talk about fears of war and death through our playing and use music to make it relevant to everyone, no matter their age.
The second example I wanted to mention was something that I saw on a social platform a few days ago. A friend of mine had posted an article about veganism – a topic sure to fire anyone up, I know, and of course it did. But the most offensive response to the article, in my opinion, was from someone from a slightly older generation who advised my friend that she was too young and shouldn’t be concerned with issues like veganism, rather she should just live her life and spend her time ‘dreaming’. I am just so confused how anyone could suggest that talking about veganism is only for people of a certain age! What is this age, exactly? Because I am definitely not looking forward to turning this mysterious age when suddenly the weight of the world will be on my shoulders. And, as my friend pointed out in her reply, isn’t bringing up issues such as veganism on social media exactly what ‘dreaming’ is? Dreaming of a better world, dreaming of what the future could be. I am not purporting to be an advocate of veganism or not – that is not the point here – only that I certainly think that anyone who wants to talk about veganism, or war, or death or any other huge political or social issue absolutely can and even that we, as young people, should!
And this ‘young’ thing… I mean, I’m 26! I am not exactly a spring chicken. I have been old enough to vote for a long time, and I have definitely held strong political views for pretty much my whole life. I am lucky enough to live in a society where I can freely express my views, so who is to tell me, or anyone else in my generation, that I shouldn’t because I am too young?! In fact, in recent elections, basically all the ones where shit really started to go down, it has been shown that young people really do have a voice and really do know what they are voting for and the consequences of what they are voting for – it’s the older generations that have really screwed things up for us all.
Basically, I want to make it clear that, yes, I am young and yes, that absolutely means I will continue to use my voice and my art to share ideas and fears and issues that I believe in or that I believe are important. I hope that if young people like me are also facing this ridiculous argument from our elders – that we are too young to be concerned with these important topics – that we can feel inspired to rise above and speak even more loudly. Age doesn’t equal power, and with our youth comes a responsibility for the future, so let’s engage with each other NOW and make the world a better place.