Adults can get very hostile and vicious with anyone “underage” who breaks type and challenges the very strict ageist paradigms that our society imposes on children and younger teens. They will claim they are out to “protect” these kids and look out for their “best interests,” but the extremely vitriolic behavior they exhibit if a youth refuses to adhere to the artificial limitations and restrictions society places on them suggests something else entirely. That type of behavior sounds a lot more like waves of harassment, condescending insults, hate-mongering, and sheer venting than anything resembling “protection” or well-intentioned advice.
In fact, this type of horrendously mean-spirited behavior, which has recently become an online trend described as “call-out culture,” regularly goes beyond anything that anyone could call “helpful” or “protective,” or anything that a rational person could possibly perceive as having any type of positive emotional effect on the younger person it’s directed at.
Call-out culture is certainly not aimed at younger people alone, and it’s part of a wider problem in the way politics plays out on social media that I will doubtless address in a future blog. This particular blog, however, is dedicated to a major recent example of the type of behavior that adults can exhibit towards underagers who “rock the boat” and do something great and positive that threatens the framework of our adult-dominated society and the “proper place” that younger people are expected to keep themselves quietly tucked away in. And as noted above, these cruel attacks are clearly anger, resentment, and venting masquerading as “concern” for the well-being of younger people.
The particular case in point is a brilliant and motivated American nine-year-old reporter and digital newspaper publisher named Hilde Kate Lysiak, founder of the Orange Street News (it has a community Facebook page and YouTube channel, so I ask all of my readers to look up both and give her your support, whether you’re fellow youth liberationists and anti-adultists or simply mainstream thinkers who happen to be greatly impressed by Hilde’s hard work and gumption!).
How Hilde’s interest in reporting came to pass is interesting to note. Her father, Matthew Lysiak, is himself a reporter who worked for the New York Daily News, and he got his daughter interested in the vocation during the course of his work with the paper, which included sometimes bringing her to the office with him. This leads to a segue that I believe is important to mention, as this aspect of Hilde’s story has some important relevance to the youth liberation platform in regards to education.
I believe that the origin of Hilde’s career in reporting proves that our current autocratic schooling system isn’t the only way a young person can acquire an education, and in fact, its strict standardized methodology is not actually designed to identify a student’s individual talents and interests and then nurture them. However, Hilde got the equivalent of the apprenticeships younger people used to routinely receive prior to youths losing all of their rights and being all but excluded from the job market once the Industrial Revolution came of age. Unfortunately, modern progressives continue to shamefully brag about how their predecessors helped establish child labor laws as we know them today, citing the sweatshop conditions of America’s early factory environment as being the justification — as opposed to making the more humane and conscientious choice of fighting and ending sweatshop conditions for all laborers instead.
So I ask all of my readers to please note that nothing about the conditions under which Hilde works is remotely indicative of a sweatshop, or inhumane in any way. She is in charge of her own work conditions, and she finds it both enjoyable and intellectually stimulating, not to mention very educational on many levels. Most people’s hobbies can be turned into a marketable job skill (for as long as we’re stuck with capitalism), and provide a job that is personally meaningful. This builds skill and individual drive in a positive way that no classroom in the current system can possibly teach.
Modern apprenticeships for younger people can easily take such a form in a youth liberated society. Hilde is undoubtedly very bright and talented, but I’d wager she is not a prodigy. Many younger people her age could likely use modern technology to do useful and important forms of work for the community, and they fully deserve to earn both monetary and academic credit for doing so. More on this in future blogs (yup, brace yourselves! Mwah-hah-hah!).
Back to the main topic, and the point of all of the above. After Hilde found that she shared her father’s talent for reporting, the Orange Street News was born. Hilde proved that an eight-year-old (her age at the time) with a knack and dedication for this work is fully capable of handling all of the writing and interviews. She has help from her dad with editing (all writers need an editor) and (presumably) transportation to and from places that are too far for her to go via bicycle; and from her 12-year-old sister Isabella Rose, who helps via her own talent for video and photography.
All went well for the first six months, as long as Hilde only covered local news that the paper’s adult readers considered “cute.” But as soon as she decided to cover serious stories, beginning with a local suspected murder which she beat all of her competition in breaking the story on, Hilde evidently committed a cardinal sin in the mind of many of her adult readers/viewers: she did something that society feels a “mere” child of nine shouldn’t be doing. To their horror and abject disapproval, she was becoming a real reporter instead of “just a kid doing something ‘safe’ and cute.” Or, to use late 19th century and early 20th century Southern pejorative parlance, she became the modern socio-political equivalent of an “uppity nigger.”
After she broke that important story is when all the hostility and condescending remarks began. One commenter said, “You are nine fucking years old. Seriously, what the fuck is going on?” Others said: “I am disgusted that this cute little girl thinks she is a real journalist. What happened to tea parties?”; and “Nine-year-old girls should be playing with dolls, not trying to be reporters.”
Yanno, because that’s what society expects (or insists) that girls her age should be doing, even if they want to make more out of their lives and start on the path before they turn 18, as if their life doesn’t truly begin until that arbitrarily designated age. Even the former mayor of the town of Selinsgrove, where the murder took place, added to the deluge of hostility by calling Hilde’s story “sensationalist trash.”
Anyone who seriously tries to argue with me that these are well-intentioned words of genuine concern for the girl’s well-being that simply went a little “off-color” or a trite overboard needs a serious wake-up call. This is not the lingo of rational, thoughtful people, but a bunch of angry adults who are spewing venomous ad hominems at Hilde for being a mere “child” who stepped out of line from what adult-dominated society considers to be her proper place. As long as she confines all of her activities to tea parties, or playing with the latest Barbie doll, or sequestered away in the heavily state-controlled mandatory classroom learning only what the adult staff wants to teach her, she and her fellow youths are not in any position to make waves or prove what they are truly capable of.
In other words, to use another Southern American analogy, she is the modern equivalent of a person of color who dared enter an establishment with a “whites only” sign attached to the front door. If you seriously try to argue that these reactions do not parallel those used against other minority groups in the past for similarly stepping out of line, then you need to read them again and make honest comparisons to the similar statements made in the past. You simply have to replace words like “child” with terms like “nigger.” In either case, the dominant group in society feels threatened and offended by a member of a minority group overstepping their perceived place in the societal hierarchy, and the identical type of behavior predictably ensues. It’s simply directed at a different group in today’s world.
The face of an uppity rabble rouser and target of derision by many “concerned” adults, who fail to believe that the message on her lapel button applies to people of all ages.
Of course, Hilde didn’t take the attacks sitting down, or allow herself to be backed into a corner sobbing in compliance, like these “haters” probably counted on her doing. She instead proved what she is made of — which is certainly something far stronger than “sugar and spice, and everything nice” — by responding to these comments on video, and strongly refuted them. With the tenacity of a knightress in glittering armor, she stood up for her right to be recognized for her proven merits and talents regardless of being “too young” in society’s eyes, and for breaking type and daring to challenge the paradigm (by proving it wrong).
She said, “It kind of gets me angry because, just because I’m nine doesn’t mean I can’t do a great story. It doesn’t mean I can’t be a reporter.” Then she said, “I know this makes some of you uncomfortable, and I know some of you just want me to sit down and be quiet because I’m nine. But if you want me to stop covering news, then you get off your computer and do something about the news. There, is that cute enough for you?”
“OMG, who did you just say is horning in on my privileged territory here? I’ll have to send histrionic, expletive-filled attacks to the comments section of her newspaper! Yup, once she sees all of that she’ll probably start crying like a baby and go back to spending her time having tea parties or breaking in her newest Dora the Explorer jungle play set! And I’ll look like a good guy for showing ‘concern’ over her well-being! Ha ha yup, that’s exactly how it’ll go down…”
You go, girl! It’s nice to see that Hilde is not bowing before relentless adult hostility and pressure to only be what they want her to be, on their terms and on their pre-determined, standardized time table (i.e., not until she turns 18). And kudos to her father for being unlike these other adults who feel so threatened and outraged by a nine-year-old girl proving she is capable of doing something so awesome. Mr. Lysiak took all the usual flack for this as well, as one might expect of a member of the dominant group acting much more enlightened than a typical member of his demographic for this particular time period. Nevertheless, he represents hope for the future in his own way as well, and offers further proof that adults in general, and parents in particular, are not destined to be at odds with showing youth proper respect and personhood.
Hilde’s brave and determined stance was eventually rewarded by other commenters supporting her, one of them calling her a “hero” and one of her YouTube followers telling her, “You go tiny newsperson, don’t let them get you down.” Hope for a better world in the future was offered by some of the more thoughtful and enlightened adults who were themselves able to break type, and they showed this youth reporter all the respect she had rightfully earned.
Warning to all ageist people: if you get in this girl’s way, she will ride straight over you! And you won’t be the first opponent she’s crushed. Hah!
Of course, Hilde is far from alone in dealing with something like this when an “underager” dares to go against the expectations of an adult-dominated system. And once again, any attempt by these adults to say they are genuinely concerned is negated by the obvious degree of anger and resentment in their voices, and the clear intent to inflict emotional pain. I urge all who reacted this way to Hilde’s career, as well as those who may be reading this who find themselves tempted to react that way, to please take a step back, consider your actions, and ask yourselves some very difficult questions about your own state of thinking.
One final segue of relevance I’d like to bring up before closing this blog.
I believe this situation neatly answers the following oft-heard question from detractors of youth liberation: “If younger people really wanted their ‘freedom’, why aren’t more of them standing up for it?” Well, they are! They are simply not doing it by running around with picket signs in front of City Hall or Capitol Hill. They know they would be dragged home by squads of police if they did that, and then likely grounded by their parents (except for those who may have cool and more enlightened parents, like Hilde does). Others rebel in an anti-social manner by “acting out” in various ways similar to how pre-Civil War chattel slaves would do on the Southern plantations (e.g., by secretly destroying equipment, injuring livestock, quietly talking resentfully about the more privileged house slaves, etc.).
I will quickly note that one of the great things about this particular case is how it proves that children, as well as younger teens, are capable of accomplishing great things and handling responsibility if given the opportunities and support. The youth liberation movement currently and understandably focuses much of its energy on emancipating adolescents, but it’s clear that children below the “teen” prefix are also quite worthy of the movement’s support.
But still others are doing what Hilde is doing, i.e., showing what they are capable of against all of the hateful barbs projected at them by adults. This is similar to what 17-year-old Elijah D. Manley is doing by running for President of the United States, with the similar degree of vicious harassment he has endured from mostly adult detractors, and why I’m proud to chair his campaign team much as I’m extremely proud of Hilde and the growing number of other youths are working so hard to break type and prove their mettle in an adult-dominated world.
This story was picked up by The Guardian, and is linked here as my source. Here is a link to the Columbia Journalism review of Hilde’s paper, soon after she started it at the age of eight.
Hilde Lysiak responds to critics in a YouTube video. The young warrior smites the opposition!