Friday, April 25, 2014

Inspiration from youth

Just like everything else around us, we can view those young minds through a prism of curiosity, creativity and excitement, or through a prism of nihilism, decadence and self-destruction. Both these two extreme views, with all their shades of orange and grey between, are integral parts of our lives. The young are no exception. However, this article aims to express respect and admiration for the activities of our (modern) youth. I feel enriched by their global involvement and active connectedness, their emotional attachment to nature, animals and their criticism of the promulgated "official" truth.  The Web is their platform for self-expression, but also their door to their first business experiences. These young women are responsible guides and commissioners of the scout organisation where they transfer their enthusiasm to those younger than themselves. They are among the best in Europe in ability, other scout activities and sports. Their friendships are strengthening and help them grow. They are not disillusioned by the frustrations facing adults; they accept the falling of masks and the cries of crisis as a normal response; yet as something they want to go beyond to create a world of their own. They accuse us of nothing. Actually, they don't bother themselves with our world and don't mourn how things used to be at all. Anja Troha and Pina Maja Bulc have summarised the mentality and activities of their generation in the interview that follows. This is their story, but it also represents the vibrations that give wings to the youth in the 21st century.

V: Anja and Pina Maja - who are you?
We're 3rd year students at the Gimnazija Moste secondary school. We dedicate most of our spare time to our scout activities, agility, video, photography and nature walks. We are interested in modern society, interpersonal relationships and life here and now. We critically observe our lives and the lives of our generation that are often entrapped by media, high or low standards, modern technology and the struggle of seeking one's own identity.

Photo: Pina Maja and Anja
 Source: personal archive
 "Our international ties are very important to us: we've participated in student exchange in primary and secondary school (Comenius) and are looking forward to the Erasmus programme for university students."
V: So what are our youth like? What are you like?
We often hear remarks based on stereotypes that are predominantly unfounded or untrue. Is  modern youth really so problematic and different from that which our parents' generation  when they were young? Seemingly lacking life and values?
Obviously, we're greatly dependant on gadgets, but what most people forget that the youth of the 21st century is also the first generation that has been familiar with the virtual world practically since birth. This is probably why we're able to accept it, adapt to it and incorporate it in our daily lives so quickly and effortlessly.

Photo: out and around
Source: personal archive

V: What do you mean? How do you incorporate technology in your everyday lives?
Quick transfer of information and infinite databases that include everything: from global news to historical facts. Daily weather forecasts, bus departures and sudden changes in our schedules are just a click away. And don't forget mass learning material, such as Wikipedia, websites with school transcripts, home reading reports and author information. Limitless browsing through the web allows us access to geographical, historical, geological, biological, psychological and socially beneficial information. Finally, there are also global photography, and video sites that allow us access to what is happening across the planet. Authors of photographs and videos communicate and exchange experiences, knowledge and adventures, without us having to leave our homes. Such contacts can eventual lead to deeper friendships, and consequently travel and first hand discovery of the beauty of the world.
Take the example of a student who picks a project of researching the traditional culture of Uganda - since students at our school had the opportunity to meet young people from Uganda when they visited us within an international project, we are now able to stay in touch through social networks and get first-hand information and images from their country.

V: International projects have special significance in your lives. What is it?International exchange and projects are amazing. For the past two years, our school, Gimnazija Moste, has been participating in the EU-funded Comenius project, which allows us to meet other EU nations. Due to this project we have first-hand experiences of Portugal, Poland, Italy and Spain, as well as their cultures, languages, habits, way of life and thinking of our peers. This is a wealth of experience you can't buy and the mutual satisfaction of all participants stimulates us to maintain and grow the established relationships.

Photo: out and around
Source: personal archive
V: So, young people can actually find school interesting?
Ha-ha. The Project Week at our school is great. Classes are conducted quite differently then. No sitting behind desks and monotonous delivery of study subject - something both students and teachers are quite fed up with. This is a week when you can freely choose your school activities. You can travel, attend a photography course, visit various institutions, explore environmental protection, sports, dance and creativity or solve maths and physics problems. It's a week when you can have fun getting your study credits and everybody looks forward to it every year. What can't we learn like that all year!?
Anja, Eva, Melanija and Pina Maja first astonished me with their team's creativity when they put together a film about their school's Project Week in their second year. Their this year's contribution is a step up the ladder in colourfulness and dynamics, and reflects how the girls have grown personally in a year. Even the most inexpert viewer can understand the multi-layered structure in their earnest representation of the boldness of youth, sharp eye, social sensitivity and clarity of their message. Since then I have been following their growth with admiration, listening to their reasoning and looking forward to their hikes across the borders  of the prevailing thought patterns and stereotypes about the Slovenian society.

Project week at the Gimnazije Moste 2013 - video
Project week at the Gimnazije Moste 2014 - video
Summerland 2013 - video

Photo: group of  scouts
 Source: personal archive
V: The Internet, gadgets, school and international ties are obviously things characteristic for your generation. Is this all?

Far from it. We also make our afternoons much more fun with various sports activities and musical creativity. Let me, for example, just stress the necessity of having a guitar at every scout activity. Then there's also modern music we can share via our phones, iPads and iPods to make the best of the time we spend together. We're particularly glad that we as creators of video content are able to cooperate with musicians who allow us to use their music as background for our videos, thus making them pleasant not only to the eye but to the ear as well.
We often organise trips to nature, to which we all increasingly return, as well as cohabitation with and learning from animals, not to mention cultural learning and spending time with our friends. We should also mention our voluntary and charitable work, such as helping the elderly, fund-raising for families in need and working with animal shelters. The last is evident from how many adopted animals we have at home. We also daily follow what goes on at shelters, such as Mačja Hiša (Cat House) and others, as well as various associations for animal protection across Slovenia.

V: Nevertheless, we can't overlook the fact that the occurrence of various addictions among the youth is growing. Why?!
True, young people are often addicted to drugs and other illegal substances as well as alcohol, cigarettes and electronic gadgets.
We are teens and we all know how difficult growing up is because we are facing our inner problems and obstacles. Also, we are strongly influenced by the media. They dictate standards for our lives that are often contrary to what we truly are and that's why we often seem heartless, careless and distant.
My friends and I try our best to maintain our connectedness with other people and with nature. While walking through the woods and spending time with friends one can forget for a moment we are living in the 21st century since the time spent there resembles how our ancestors lived before all this modernisation. Nobody says this is easy. Many people get lost on the way or are overpowered by negative influences. We try to help them and show them that our inadequacies are what makes us perfect and that one can find other standards to achieve. Standards that allow us to be ourselves. And knowing that others will accept us better when we've dropped our masks and released the ballast of the rules of the society, current and past.

This is also the reason why it is wrong to see the modern society as gone awry. There is a lot of progress, ideas, innovation and positive change. The problem is all of this is often overshadowed by negative stereotypes. Regardless of all, we're not abusing this progress. We're simply living with it.

V: One final question - what sort of a future do you think about? Clearly, we want progress and technological progress offers many interesting possibilities. But we also want a society that would make use of this progress to make a better world. A world where we appreciate what Mother Earth gives us and where everyone, young and old appreciates it and lives in harmony with it. We try to keep in mind the Cree Prophecy: "When all the trees have been cut down, when all the animals have been hunted, when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money."

Photo: The joy of life
 Source: personal archive
Thank you Anja, thank you Pina Maja. We should not fear for our future. This only makes me sincerely wish we can establish an effective intergenerational dialogue that will enrich us and connect the good in us and around us. 

Take care, Violeta

How can we cooperate
Where can we meet globally?
Interesting links

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