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Twenty years ago,
my family introduced a system called "Friday Democracy Meetings."
Every Friday at 7pm, my family came together for an official meeting
to discuss the current family affairs.
These meetings were facilitated by one of my parents,
and we even had a notetaker.
These meetings had two rules.
First, you are allowed to speak open and freely.
Us kids were allowed to criticize our parents
without that being considered disrespectful or rude.
Second rule was the Chatham House rule,
meaning whatever is said in the meeting stays in the meeting.
The topics which were discussed in these meetings
varied from one week to another.
One week, we'd talk about what food we wanted to eat,
what time us kids should go to bed
and how to improve things as a family,
while another meeting discussed pretty much events that happened at school
and how to solve disputes between siblings,
by which I mean real fights.
At the end of each meeting, we'd reach decisions and agreements
that would last at least until the next meeting.
So you could say I was raised as a politician.
By the age of six or seven, I mastered politics.
I was negotiating, compromising,
building alliances with other political actors.
And I even once tried to jeopardize the political process.
These meetings sound very peaceful, civil and democratic, right?
But that was not always the case.
Because of this open, free space to talk, discuss and criticize,
things sometimes got really heated.
One meeting went really bad for me.
I was about 10 years old at that time,
and I'd done something really horrible at school,
which I'm not going to share today --
but my brother decided to bring it up in the meeting.
I could not defend myself,
so I decided to withdraw from the meeting and boycott the whole system.
I literally wrote an official letter and handed it to my dad,
announcing that I am boycotting.
I thought that if I stopped attending these meetings anymore,
the system would collapse,
but my family continued with the meetings,
and they often made decisions that I disliked.
But I could not challenge these decisions,
because I was not attending the meetings,
and thus had no right to go against it.
Ironically, when I turned about 13 years old,
I ended up attending one of these meetings again,
after I boycotted them for a long time.
Because there was an issue that was affecting me only,
and no other family member was bringing it up.
The problem was that after each dinner,
I was always the only one who was asked to wash the dishes,
while my brothers didn't have to do anything about it.
I felt this was unjust, unfair and discriminatory,
so I wanted to discuss it in the meeting.
As you know, the idea that it's a woman or a girl's role to do household work
is a rule that has been carried out by many societies for so long,
so in order for a 13-year-old me to challenge it, I needed a platform.
In the meeting, my brothers argued
that none of the other boys we knew were washing the dishes,
so why should our family be any different?
But my parents agreed with me and decided that my brothers should assist me.
However, they could not force them, so the problem continued.
Seeing no solution to my problem, I decided to attend another meeting
and propose a new system that would be fair to everyone.
So I suggested instead of one person
washing all the dishes used by all the family members,
each family member should wash their own dishes.
And as a gesture of good faith,
I said I'd wash the pots as well.
This way, my brothers could no longer argue
that it wasn't within their responsibility
as boys or men to wash the dishes and clean after the family,
because the system I proposed was about every member of the family
cleaning after themselves and taking care of themselves.
Everyone agreed to my proposal,
and for years, that was our washing-the-dishes system.
What I just shared with you is a family story,
but it's pure politics.
Every part of politics includes decision-making,
and ideally, the process of decision-making
should include people from different backgrounds,
interests, opinions, gender,
beliefs, race, ethnicity, age, and so on.
And they should all have an equal opportunity to contribute
to the decision-making process and influence the decisions
that will affect their lives directly or indirectly.
As such, I find it difficult to understand when I hear young people saying,
"I'm too young to engage in politics or to even hold a political opinion."
Similarly, when I hear some women saying,
"Politics is a dirty world I don't want to engage with,"
I'm worried that the idea of politics and political engagement
has become so polarized in many parts of the world
that ordinary people feel, in order for them to participate in politics,
they need to be outspoken activists,
and that is not true.
I want to ask these young people, women and ordinary people in general:
Can you really afford not to be interested or not to participate in politics?
Politics is not only activism.
It's awareness,
it's keeping ourselves informed, it's caring for the facts.
When it's possible, it's casting a vote.
Politics is the tool through which we structure ourselves
as groups and societies.
Politics governs every aspect of life,
and by not participating in it,
you're literally allowing other people to decide on what you can eat, wear,
if you can have access to health care,
free education,
how much tax you pay,
when you can retire,
what is your pension.
Other people are also deciding on whether your race and ethnicity
is enough to consider you a criminal,
or if your religion and nationality is enough to put you on a terrorist list.
And if you still think you are a strong, independent human being
unaffected by politics,
then think twice.
I am speaking to you as a young woman from Libya,
a country that is in the middle of a civil war.
After more than 40 years of authoritarian rule,
it's not a place where political engagement
by women and young people is possible, nor encouraged.
Almost all political dialogues that took place in the past few years,
even those gathered by foreign powers,
has been with only middle-aged men in the room.
But in places with a broken political system like Libya,
or in seemingly functioning places, including international organizations,
the systems we have nowadays for political decision-making
are not from the people for the people,
but they have been established by the few for the few.
And these few have been historically almost exclusively men,
and they've produced laws, policies,
mechanisms for political participation that are based on the opinions,
beliefs, worldviews, dreams,
aspirations of this one group of people,
while everyone else was kept out.
After all, we've all heard some version of this sentence:
"What does a woman, let alone a young person, who is brown,
understand about politics?"
When you're young --
and in many parts of the world, a woman --
you often hear experienced politicians say, "But you lack political experience."
And when I hear that,
I wonder what sort of experience are they referring to?
The experience of corrupted political systems?
Or of waging wars?
Or are they referring to the experience
of putting the interests of economic profits
before those of the environment?
Because if this is political experience,
then yes --
we, as women and young people, have no political experience at all.
Now, politicians might not be the only ones to blame,
because ordinary people, and many young people as well,
don't care about politics.
And even those who care don't know how to participate.
This must change, and here is my proposal.
We need to teach people at an early age
about decision-making and how to be part of it.
Every family is its own mini political system
that is usually not democratic,
because parents make decisions that affect all members of the family,
while the kids have very little to say.
Similarly, politicians make decisions that affect the whole nation,
while the people have very little say in them.
We need to change this,
and in order to achieve this change systematically,
we need to teach people
that political, national and global affairs
are as relevant to them as personal and family affairs.
So if we want to achieve this, my proposal and advice is,
try out the Family Democracy Meeting system.
Because that will enable your kids to exercise their agency
and decision-making from a very early age.
Politics is about having conversations,
including difficult conversations,
that lead to decisions.
And in order to have a conversation, you need to participate,
not sign off like I did when I was a kid
and then learn the lesson the hard way and have to go back again.
If you include your kids in family conversations,
they will grow up
and know how to participate in political conversations.
And most importantly, most importantly,
they will help others engage.
Thank you.


【TED】哈哲.沙莉芙: 如何用運家庭晚餐教孩子政治 (How to use family dinner to teach politics | Hajer Sharief)

418 分類 收藏
林宜悉 發佈於 2019 年 9 月 3 日
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