Have you noticed how much more passionate, idealistic and engaged the young today are? Much more so than I ever was at their age or so I remember. Did the Brexit referendum wake them up to the fact that their vote counts and can change the course of history. I cannot remember voting in an election until I was about 30 years old. I don’t think I was irresponsible but the world when I was in my 20’s, in the 1980’s, was a much more settled place. Jobs were easy to find, mortgages easy to apply for and get, working hours shorter and playing hours longer probably because we had more spendable income.
I learn so much from my children and I respect their views and opinions. Actually I would go so far as to admit that I often ask for their opinion and advice. I don’t think my parents ever regarded me as a grown up until I was about 50 years old. My children are much more informed about what is going on the world and they are more travelled than I was at their age. We can thank Google, Apple, and wifi for all of that.
This morning I listened to the grieving father of the 26 year old woman, Anna Campbell, who died fighting for the Kurds. Anna Campbell, from Lewes, East Sussex, was volunteering with the US-backed Kurdish Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) – the all-female affiliate army of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) – in the besieged city of Afrin when the convoy she was travelling in was struck by a Turkish missile on 16 March.
She was brave, passionate, idealistic and she knew what she was doing but she still felt strongly enough to embark on this mission. Her father is heart-broken but proud of what his daughter did. He said she knew it was a risk but she could not remain at home and look at the pictures of this brave race of people being attacked. She had to go and help. This was the ultimate ‘crossing the road to lend a hand’ sacrifice. Did she make a difference? Yes I believe she did even though it was a drop in the ocean with this never-ending battle. Nevertheless her story is now being read by millions around the world and is hopefully making them stop and think. It certainly did that to me when I heard her father on the radio on Monday morning. Should her father have made more of an effort to stop her? He says he wishes he had but clearly he tried or at least he made her think very hard before setting off. She was 26 years old, an adult, with independent thoughts and beliefs. I have a 27 year old daughter and I wonder what my husband and I would do if she came to tell us that she was going to Syria to help the Kurds.
Men and women have signed up over the centuries to fight for crown and country but in Anna’s case it was fighting for someone else’s country and their right to live their life as they wished, in this case the Kurds.
The Kurds are a disparate group with an unhappy history. In the early 20th Century, many Kurds began to consider the creation of a homeland – generally referred to as “Kurdistan”. After World War One and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, the victorious Western allies made provision for a Kurdish state in the 1920 Treaty of Sevres. Such hopes were dashed three years later, however, when the Treaty of Lausanne, which set the boundaries of modern Turkey, made no provision for a Kurdish state and left Kurds with minority status in their respective countries. Over the next 80 years, any move by Kurds to set up an independent state was brutally quashed. Once again they are being brutally attacked by stronger armies, the Turks, and their plight clearly caused Anna to consider what she could do to help.
Back to our own country. Brexit continues to be a topic at dinner parties particularly amongst the chattering classes. Friends are often heard to say “I voted Remain but now I just want them to get on with it.” Some have even been honest enough to admit that they voted for Brexit but now, because they are better informed, they would prefer to remain. Armchair critics we have all become or is that just age? Quick to criticise but slow to act. When did we stop being idealistic and passionate? When did we lose our get up and go? I have talked to a friend about going to volunteer in a refugee camp, just to lend a hand but have we actually done anything about it……sadly no. There should be a warning that we are entering the age of pontificating but not acting or simply a sign that we are leaving the age of being passionate and idealistic. I wonder is our lack of action due to our age, our feeling of what is the point i.e. if governments can’t solve the world problems then how can anything that we do make a difference? We just want a quiet life. I am not sure that is realistic in this day and age as there is so much we need to change and the young need our help and support.
Something my own children are idealistic and passionate about is saving the planet. The TV programme Blue Planet did so much to educate us about the plastic in our oceans. The plight of the fish has certainly captured the attention of all ages. However again, whilst at a Sunday lunch party, I said I no longer buy plastic bottles of water and no matter how thirsty I am I would not succumb. I have learnt to always take shopping bags when going to the supermarket and I even keep one reusable bag in my handbag for all other shopping. Now I need to make sure I have filled my reusable bottle with water before I leave home. It is only a matter of training ourselves to remember. Someone else then said but what is the point when countries such as India are doing nothing to help ban plastic. That cannot be our attitude – we all need to do our bit and gradually more people will change. We must vote with our wallet and adopt the pester power that my children use. They will tell me off if I am not recycling efficiently; “Mum, wash out that Ketchup bottle before you throw it in the recycling bin” was my most recent telling-off.
We can learn from our children whether on the homefront with our recycling and not using plastic or further afield as Anna Campbell has shown us.
I would like to finish with a quote from Anna’s father, Dirk Campbell, who described her as a “beautiful and loving daughter” who “would go to any lengths to create the world that she believed in”.
Dirk Campbell said his daughter had dedicated her life to the fight against “unjust power and privilege”. He said she was a committed human rights and environmental campaigner who would “put herself on the line for what she believed in”.
“It seems a small thing, but I remember when she was 11, she protected a bumblebee from being tormented by other kids at school,” he recalled. “She did it with such strength of will that they ridiculed her. But she didn’t care. She was absolutely single-minded when it came to what she believed in, and she believed what Turkey is doing is wrong.”
We can learn a lot from both Anna and her father. I hope that he can find comfort that his daughter’s ultimate sacrifice has galvanised many of us into thinking what we do can have an impact on the world we live in and taught us not to stop being idealistic and passionate.
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