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The Vegetarian World Forum
No. 3 Vol. IX - Autumn 1955 pp.55-57:

THE VOICE OF VEGETARIAN YOUTH
Helios Olff

THE voice of Vegetarian Youth is announced in the programme and I am very glad that the task is mine to represent this voice. As I see it, it is a great progress that at an international vegetarian congress the voice of youth can be heard.

I am asking myself how many of the older ones see how important it is to include the younger ones. Honestly speaking, I don’t believe that many do, and still, is it not the task of the grown-ups. to include the younger ones as much as is possible and to help them in the interests of the survival of the vegetarian thought?

The grown-ups must stimulate the founding of vegetarian youth groups. We now live in a time when the younger ones live on an equal basis with the older generation.

The older generation had to change their opinion time after time in the past years, which was the result of emancipation of youth which carried really through after 1918. Then the Youth Movement was in opposition against the older ones. Now it is a support to the ideals of the older ones and when in right cooperation, growing in the movement of the older ones.

Still it is right t keep the movement of young vegetarians well separated, with its own organization and management chosen from the younger group itself.

Personally, I am strongly for a free Vegetarian Youth Movement with, as I already said, the management selected from this group. Such a vegetarian youth movement we have in Holland, which considers the advice of the older and more experienced group. I believe this form of youth movement is better than a controlled one with the management governed by all the vegetarians who only consider the voice of the youth but direct the policy. Also, organizations for youth founded by and governed by the alder ones. An example of an organization governed like that is the Boy Scout movement.

In a free movement there is more scope for spontaneous action and it covers a larger sphere. The management is there to stimulate thoughts about the ideal of vegetarianism as is recorded in the rules and regulations.

Mainly the action in the movement is too spontaneous to have a rigid structure. The self-workability is kept active specially by new members coming into the group and the older ones leaving because of the age limit; The Vegetarian Youth Movement continues to exist because of the comradeship, not so much because of the ideal.

The task which all the vegetarians set themselves, that is to propagate the vegetarian thought, does not live so much in the younger ones. Only the fact that vegetarian youth have contact with each other makes their way of living more definite and helps them to take over the task when their time comes to make their stand for vegetarianism.

In a country where there is no vegetarian youth movement, the individual is standing alone in his opposition to meat-eaters. And not only against young meat-eaters but also against alcohol drinking, smoking, yes, against the ridiculous adoration of boxing, the sport-crazy, the Miss Europe adoring, the flirt cult, etc.. It has also been an ideal of youth to foster respect between boys and girls, not because of the bands placed by parents; I am also thinking about “sticky parties.”

Comradeship is something of youth itseif, not of the older ones, and the weaker ones in the Youth Movement will be unmercifully condemned.

A youth movement is always good because youth. is being itself; one finds others there with the same thoughts, the same problems and difficulties.

Therefore, I am also against an organization such as the Scouts. It is too much organized. It remains a hateful classification as of a school and class. The Scout carries no organization responsibility. Man organizes youth. A Scout has to do a good turn every day; not spontaneous and sincere, but he is expected to do it.

Will not youth be brought into confusion with all its ideals and good intentions when it realizes that it cannot help the world with its laws and all its tracking and playing Indians? And then it is slowly taken up in life as dull citizens with broken ideals and expectations. In the Scouts there does not sound the voice of youth but of the older ones. Youth is made ripe for a patriotic mind and a hero type.

There are unfortunately only a few countries which have a vegetarian youth movement. It is not easy to attract youth into a movement as materialism is growing more and more. Youth of to-day stands open more and more for other ideals as among other things you can see it in the vegetarian youth movement in Holland.

I will be glad to tell you something about the vegetarian youth movement in Holland. In Holland we have the Nederlandse Vegetariers-bond (in English, Dutch Vegetarian Union) and the Jonge Vegetariers, or young vegetarian movement. Each has its own rules and regulations, and with the younger vegetarians all the officials are chosen from the younger ones themselves.

The working together between the two bodies is very close, which not only shows in the form of subsidies but is apparent by the fact that many of the youth are also members of the Dutch Vegetarian Union. I myself am not only President of the young vegetarians but also a member of the executive committee of the Dutch Vegetarian Union, so that working together is assured.

We have in the Young Vegetarians, besides, a secretary, a treasurer, a vice-president, and an assistant secretary. We have a camp committee which consists of four persons with a camp leader, who together organize about eight central week-end camps a year. In summer they, are organized in camps and in winter in camp houses.

On several week-ends other youth groups are invited so that we can come to a real exchange of thoughts, through which a better understanding is formed and out of which closer understanding can grow. On these week-ends are always invited several speakers with a different point of view so that those week-ends alone are worthwhile. The members come to those weekends from all parts of the country by train, by bus, but mostly by bicycle. There is much folk dancing, for which we have a beautiful sound insstallation. But more imprtant than the weekends is our magazine Nieuwe Wegen (New Roads) under the leadership of an editor and an editorial staff of four persons. We have also a financial committee and a financial advisory committee. A selection committee, a separate administration, an information bureau, and a brochure department.

The members of the young vegetarians are all enthusiastic, and it is this enthusiasm which will make it possible for them to organize the International Vegetarian Youth Camp next year. This camp, which. will be held in Holland, must be a good camp. We invite the help of you all. But, though this camp is very important, it is still more important that you interest yourselves more in youth and activate them and make them awake. It is for this reason that I have told you something about the different forms of youth movement, and please try to interest the young vegetarians in your own country to start something in the direction of a free vegetarian youth movement. It speaks for itself that we will encourage and help the young poeple who want to start such, but the older ones must be an example - do not just talk.

All expressions such as "of hope of the country,” "flowers of the nation," "builders of the future” are hollow phrases. Youth does not want to hear that; it wants to see. Youth wants to do something; but how and what. Do not we make ourselves ridiculous when we do do something? Yes, for the way we have, done it up till now is ridiculous. It does not get to the crux of the matter. Youth does not want to be sentimental, is not swayed by sentimental arguments. Youth is not fundamentally lazy, is not dull or care-free. It only has to be better informed and in such a waythat fighting for the cause seems worthwhile, and then youth will fight.

We young people are no idalists as most see an idealist. We stand with both feet on the ground, essentially with both feet on the ground. We stay sober. Perhaps the name should be soulful realists.

The older people must help; youth cannot do it alone. Youth will always take the greater part. Without youth our ideal is a dying flame. Cannot the torch be kept burning? Youth does not want to take it over smouldering.

 

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