Mari-Claire Kay: We Owe It To Our Children The Most To Keep Fighting

When I was a child, life was lived fighting imaginary villains, playing Picasso with a paint brush, turning trees into castles, sofas into dens and countryside into the land of fairies. Wonder existed in every speck of dust that glistened in the sun light as I bounced on our tatty couch making dust clouds. Nothing was worthless, everything had meaning. I was lucky.

When I was a child I was fighting real villains, such as those of hunger, trauma or neglect. Nightmares turned into realities, sofas not dens but hiding places. Fear existed in every ash cloud that raced in the sun light as another stress was taken out on another cigarette, I shrunk, watching and wishing. Everything was worthless, nothing had meaning. I wasn’t lucky.

Two worlds, the same community. When you are like me, young and training to become a teacher you get to learn that your enthusiasm and love of learning and life is not what everyone else experienced growing up. Every child has their own unique needs, passions, differences and eccentricities. The one thing they all have in common is a need to be loved and cared for.

Scotland, a country of parallels is a prime exemplar of this, where for every four children who skip happily along in awe of everything and anything, one child is left cowering in a corner of hell. The politicians patronisingly gaze down the television screen reassuring adults they have their children’s needs at heart. So that must be why it’s estimated that 100,000 more children will enter poverty by 2020 then? Children who are introduced to this world only ever knowing instability and raw emotion can tell you a whole lot more about what they need than a politician can.

During the referendum, we rallied together with gusto to discuss independence, both sides of the coin, fervently opinionated on what kind of powers and opportunities hopes and dreams Scotland should have had, but did anyone in any position of power ever stop to ask the kid in the corner what they thought? The media didn’t, the large corporations didn’t, and the politicians didn’t. The hierarchies of society speaking on behalf of people, because that’s their job… Well you know what, they suck at their job and people aren’t putting up with it any longer. The dehumanising hamster wheel we’re all turning on is about to fall from its bearings and those who can’t see it have completely missed the point of the Scottish independence referendum. It isn’t over ’til the fat lady sings… we don’t have a fat lady, but we have a kid in the corner who deserves a voice and that trumps David Cameron any time.

So let’s put it into context. Media, corporate and political bias would have lead you to believe that the Yes campaign was about enabling more economic wealth, glorifying our status in the world, becoming introspective and selfish in deciding to look after ourselves before others. To back independence was to back a nationalistic, collective ideal to rid our bonny land of ‘evil’. Yet to me and lots of Yes voters, the hunger for independence was not an egocentric, insensitive ‘grab our powers and run’ manoeuvre, it was a cry out for what truly matters in humanity.

As the politicians and their campaigns churned out their polished, charmless arguments for staying or fleeing the union, there was a cup of tea brewing. Oh no, the UK machinery actually had a heart! It had a fire that was about to get rekindled, a soul and feelings too. People actually cared about things like community and spirit and hope. And that’s the significant difference. Whilst ‘No Thanks’ epitomised the snootiness of ‘no darling, I couldn’t possibly’, ‘if you love your kids vote no’ and while ‘if you don’t know, vote no’ got people feeling as passionate as a wet sponge, the Yes voters were having a party, and children were welcome.

At present UK society is functioning as a capitalistic, dog eat dog machine, churning out whatever it needs to get ahead of other capitalistic, dog eat dog machines the world over. Big business and politicians work the ‘common yins’ into the ground so they can go home and eat their steak and peppercorn sauce at night thinking they’ve done someone some good somewhere in this lovely interconnected world. And on and on it goes, satisfy the plebs and make some dough in the process. Everyone wins, hurrah! Crap imagery I know but really, it fits the whole mess we’re in. Crucially, nowhere in this whole establishment are children represented fairly.

For example, schools force a curriculum on pupils and looked after children have to attend panels where they have to sum their situation up eloquently in front of powerful, scary adults. Streets are no longer played on and ideas, games and dreams no longer created, because big companies have hooked little minds on video games, technology and social networking. What’s more the media have reinforced the ‘dangers’ of society, to the point that the outside world is scary, unsafe and not as comfortable as a couch and a chocolate bar. Not to mention that ‘skittles’ are low in fat with no unnatural colours or flavourings.

I’m training to be a PE teacher at university, and despite my naïve youthfulness, it isn’t rocket science. The teacher at the whiteboard; rows of desks; sit in chairs; don’t talk; we’ll fill you up with knowledge so you can pass exams regardless of whether you care about pythagoras theorem or whether you realise that sprinting 100 metres is going to increase your power output. Yes it’s changing, particularly in Scotland because they seem to realise that a child is more than what is taught. If you want to teach a subject then go to university, but try telling some people that.

Yet still the educational system, the hierarchies and rigid curriculum demands up and down the UK exist as a discreet form of social control. So instead of nurturing we are almost neglecting children who really cannot relate to the subjects and services we offer in many schools. Political policy, legislation and ideals dictate our educational practices, instead of the needs and voice of the kids who experience it. Sound familiar? Schools are microcosms of society, fancy that!?

However there is hope and it lies in the fact that the Yes campaign started to put more than ‘man’ and their dominant, masculine ideals at the core of society. It started to place values, spirituality, feelings, morals, and for some even the environment at its very, very passionate and optimistic core. So where extensive corporations and politicians rely on the masses to shut up and do their job for cheap so they can make money, selling us the empty idea that having and consuming cool ‘stuff’ and working hard to succeed at all costs is right, the Yes campaign chucked these conformist ideals in the bin and sought something better.

The Yes campaign embraced community as diversity. Short, tall, young, old, poor, wealthy, Scottish, Zambian, musician, teacher, pink, yellow, dandelion, sunflower… The vision was a fairer society for ALL. It wasn’t just a community of shared passion but a community with a joyously upbeat purpose and vision. It was a campaign created and driven by the people, those who have experienced poverty, experienced discrimination, cuts in welfare, bullying, neglect, or indeed, experienced the good things Scotland has to offer. It wasn’t run for the people, on the people, to the people. It was a campaign run for and then soon after entirely with and within the people. It was always in the people. They just had to find their voice. It sought to understand what human beings actually are, spiritually and socially. Tired of the big boys and girls treating us all as passive, disengaged, ignorant plain folks, the people of the Yes movement decided they’d had enough.

And it continues. Nearly three weeks on from the referendum and there is no sign of this hope dismantling. It’s here we return to the children outlined at the beginning of this article. I have only just started my teaching career but I’ve already got to know so many hopeful, talented kids who need listened to. We are responsible for building a country that they can all flourish in. They aren’t separate from the political decisions we make no matter how alien the politicians’ gaze may seem. Do you really think our under sixteen population would like us to go to war? Would like their houses drilled under, their water contaminated with methane? Their planet destroyed? Their friends and family hurting because of Westminster cuts?

So here’s to the neverendum, the never giving up, the never settling, the never pretending that every child has access to love and care because they don’t. We might be framed as the dreamers and idealists but we are dreamers and idealists who do, we take action for the common good and if anything the referendum is only the beginning. We owe it to our children, they need us to keep fighting the most.

Mari-Claire Kay
National Collective