China Martens started her pioneering mamazine The Future Generation in 1990. She was a young anarchist punk rock mother who didn't feel that the mamas in her community had enough support, so she began publishing articles on radical parenting in an age before the internet. This anthology of her zine was first distributed in 2007 and has been out of print. Covering 16 years, The Future Generation uses individual issues as chapters, focusing on personal writing, and retaining the character of a zine that changed over the years—from her daughter’s birth to teenagehood and beyond. Though first published in the 1990s, many of the essays and observations—about parenting, children, and surviving in a hostile political climate—still ring true today. PM Press is proud to present a 10th-anniversary edition including a new afterword by China's grown daughter.
|Edition description:||Second edition|
|Product dimensions:||6.90(w) x 10.40(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
China Martens is a zinestress extraordinaire based in Baltimore, MD. Her first book, The Future Generation, is a compilation of sixteen years of her first zine. She is also the coeditor of Don't Leave Your Friends Behind: Concrete Ways to Support Families in Social Justice Movements and Communities and Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines.
Read an Excerpt
Long before I became a mother, I noticed children. Waiting at the doctor's office, I noticed a child's intricate dance of walk-skip singsong flip-flop on the chair upside-down. Doing unselfconsciously, and with great pleasure, the things that adults don't do. And I noticed its mother scolding, "Sit still or you will get a spanking." The impossible task of stilling a bubbly child. Why must the child sit still? Is it because an adult might trip over it, or an adult might be annoyed? Why?
On the metro, in the car, in the welfare waiting room, at the grocery store — look at all the squirming children being scolded by tired and worn caretakers. Look at the cramped quarters of many children: with small or no backyards, crowded streets, and any place they go to (besides a playground) their parents will be asked to control them and are shot dirty looks if they don't.
Look at our physical space — the space we live in, humanly-designed space — crowded space that denies freedom of movement and causes us to retreat into the imagination for the freedom to conceive of what we can not "really" do. We can go to the movies, but small theatrics in life get police attention. We can dress to express ourselves, deviate in our looks but we are legally enforced from more active alterations. Even just claiming the physical space around you — to sit or sleep on part of the earth that you have not purchased — could get you in trouble.
Babies are initiated into this world of "don't touch," especially if their parents don't have the buying power. This is the message we send to our young — don't make eye contact with strangers and don't disturb others with your noises. Expect to be picked up and put down with no respect for your own wishes. The body itself is dirty and certain contact makes it dirtier.
Scattered city plans and schedules often find children not near a suitable resting spot during naptime and parents unable to respond directly to their children's physical requirements. Our commuter society is supposed to be able to tune out time spent on the road and tune back in again when reaching the destination. Children, however, can't zone out that way.
So the infant — who is getting acquainted with this world in the rudimentary ways of smell, touch, taste, feel; learning how to coordinate its legs and arms; prone to intimate exploration and stimuli — is taught by modern society how to be unresponsive.
They are trained to fit into a compartmentalized power structure that is better suited for making money for the few on top than in fulfilling the human needs of the masses. We are taught to go hungry while the supermarkets are full. To suppress the body's needs under a theology of the mind — a reason, when the reason is often one developed to exploit us. (You can see how the lack of respect for the physical has reached its limit in the way we are destroying our home planet.) We are taught — and teach — that submission to authority will lessen as one climbs the ladder, "grows up," robbing our children of the years to learn about themselves (self-realization?), autonomy, and the inherent value of being no matter what transitional stage you are in.
But "dog eat dog" hierarchy is often a false condition. You can't control others as easily as you think. No matter how small a disrespect done to another is, it does effect the global conditions we all live in. You can't kill the tiniest insect without a reverberation on the food chain. Which in turn can lead to environmental disruptions.
And what is the reverberation on our souls? It is plain to see what poverty and overcrowding produce, to see some of the results of pure physical environment upon the spirit. What mental problems and alienation, what really are all the symptoms of denying so much of our body's natural needs?
I know that we must look at the communication while it is there — to forbid or manipulate it will lead you that much further in the dark and render it that much more dangerous. Suppressing behavior doesn't make it go away — just drives it underground. The mice will play when the cats are away.
When my little cousin confided in me, because I am no threat to her, that she cheated on pin the tail on the donkey to win the game — did I tell her that's bad? No — I just listened. Personally, I wonder about the kind of things that go on to make her act so sneaky, it seems she has a whole secret life hidden from adults. But really, don't most children?
I'm young enough to be almost be part of her social strata, confided in, and yet old enough to be privileged — out of school, free to move and choose for myself. She is in awe of my privilege like I belong to an upper class and I can advocate some slack for her sometimes.
Once she told me: "I don't know why they call America a free country, children aren't free. I am not allowed to drive; I hate school and my teacher put my name on the board for talking when I wasn't, and I can't eat what I want or go to sleep when I want. What's worse is my mother always orders me around. I'll make up a time of when to clean my room because it makes more sense to me and she tells me that I must do it right away or my friend will not be allowed to come over at all." And this is a seven-year-old talking! Growing up in a patriotic and semi-rural environment. I go "yeah," and talk back and forth with her. I don't think she can see that adulthood isn't really what it's cracked up to be.
Children are naturally bound to learn, expand, experiment, follow a healthy design, and to crave what they need — but when we introduce them right in the beginning to addictive compulsive things like candy, rewards, and punishment: we cloud their judgement and lessen their chances of living without submission to authority.
So, I am on the playground — and I hear two little boys telling my child (who is younger than them) "No little girls allowed on the slide — if you come up here we will hit you!" I don't know what to do, they seem so vehement, so I take my toddler away from the slide. Well, actually first I said "Yes, little girls are allowed anywhere on the playground." And that is when they said the thing about hitting her.
Another mother on the playground goes "If those were my sons, I would not allow it, I would give them no supper," like she is such a feminist or something. But the children are playing honestly (the way we learned to suppress for public — yet manipulate, fantasize, and cement into an unspoken code). I see all kinds of things on the playground.
And these little boys are absolutely products of their society, daycare and of TV watchers. They're expressing what's been expressed to them. Let's think about this — let's not break a mirror because it reflects the truth. I've seen one of those boys around and his mom goes "be nice" but she doesn't show him how. And it's not that this incident is so terrible, we all do mean things. But it affected my daughter a lot, just like it always does when she plays with kids, the good and the bad.
How am I to act, to break these cycles and those it is about to affect? What if I know some things make people pretty unhappy and while they may be a possibility of "human nature," they are surely not an inevitability of it. For I see how this behavior is transmitted from one to another, and I see how it doesn't exist at all around some very happy children. You can't shelter a child from reality they say, granted, but how much is too much, with no point but just to make you more of the same?
Children are such little imitators, we must show them by attending to ourselves. I was reading about traditional Eskimo tribes. In their culture children are allowed to run free and are fed in any house they wander in — to be watched out for by anyone who is around. And if they do something bad, something childish, the people go "It's just being a child that's all, when it grows up it will learn." And indeed it does grow into the nurturing, co-operative, and peaceful people that had gone before — socially acceptable. Of course there are always a few oddballs. But look at the numbers of the unhappy in our country, the violent, the mentally ill. Look at our Victorian heritage where children were not "childish" but "bad."
I want my child to be free to blossom into who she is, but what if she is too free for this world? Will society break her faster than those who can secret and control their desires better? Will she have problems controlling herself? Will she fight like a boy? Will she become a "brat" like some hippie kids I've seen and heard about?
I don't know. These are real fears, I'm departing from the known path and from how I was raised. But I'm not an unreasonable person, I must give her the respect and freedom I would want for myself. So society doesn't quite understand why I'm still nursing her, or this or that. All I can do is give my best and have faith in her to figure out her own solutions for her own times. I want to give that good support to her and I do believe those wild hippie children, well maybe they had unstable homes or fighting parents. I mean just because they didn't go to school doesn't mean that's the reason they got so obnoxious. I'm not a hippie anyway.
And as I respond to the physicalness of this child, reflecting back her needs as valid, real, letting her be herself, and trying not to let it worry me — for it just might be her need to be crying, taking chances, doing things I wouldn't (she'll learn her lessons: nature is not without discipline) — while playing the role of protector, nurturer, and trying to exist in this relationship, to have some of me and my stuff too — I see how very physical this all is. And physical is the dangerous and ultimate object of revolution. Of course it's mental, spiritual too, but we need the Bread and Butter — The Land.
Physical change is the hardest to make real. I can sit here and write about it. Imagine it. But physicality is what my child speaks of, forms with — physical love, physical survival, physical wisdom — and that means that I want to do more for her than imagine a better world, every day-today and nitty gritty thing has to be part of doing the right thing.
All Or Nothing?
"The period of a child's total dependency is really very short. By age 3, my daughter was in nursery school all morning; at 6 she was more thrilled about sleeping at a friend's house than staying home; by 14 she found it difficult to live with us at all — and at 18 she was gone. It's been many years since I was 'not free', and I often think about how much miss being around little children!" — Eda J. Leshan, When Your Child Drives you Crazy
Leshan says this after talking about when her daughter was a little baby and had colic, and she was in the corner "crying and feeling if she went near the baby — she might shake, beat, or maybe even kill." She talked about the difference between thinking these thoughts and acting on them — it was a very helpful article.
But she leaves out big realities, like maybe it isn't natural to be raising a baby all alone and isolated in your house while your husband is at work, maybe it is way stressful. I think mothers need support, we need to share mothering, we need society to include the child in it more, and we need to be around each other.
So instead of saying, "Oh get through it, in 3 years it will be better" — man, three years is a long time — let's try to make things better for the parents and children now.
I was in the post office the other day, listening to an older mom talk in line. She said how she had been a working mother of 6 children and how at times she thought she was simply going to die, that she couldn't do it. Older mothers would say to her then, how the time goes by so quickly. She didn't believe them, but sure enough its true. Now she is 50 and says she's free. She has her whole life ahead of her. Those kids survived. Sure, they come to her sometimes with their little problems complaining how she raised them.
The other mothers in the line all smiled and laughed, it was friendly mother talk, but it scared the shit out of me. I would be free when my skin got baggy? And why was it impossible to keep your identity and raise/love children? I "sacrifice" (as they call it) a lot for my child, it's the gift of motherhood, and that's cool. I can give out this high intensity for her young years. But there is no reason under this blue sky why a mom can't go places, do things, have some independence, fulfill her self as an individual, and have a lot more to give her child. I want me and Clover to be free now — and from what I have learned, that calls for some sharing of the children. That is what she needs to be talking about. Not how you never get to see children and wish you could, or that you are drowning under the weight of their constant presence.
Is It A Cultural thing?
As I experience a life where ages rarely mingle — I look through National Geographic and see images of how people of all ages work together in other cultures. The child watching spear fishing, holding a fish, sleeping on the sides of fields, balancing a Frisbee on its head as its mother works in a factory, sitting in the marketplace, or walking nomads beside a camel. Visions of other countries, the past, and the future. I've always loved to read National Geographic, you know?
Children definitely seem to be included more in other cultures and learn through experiencing as a natural process. In the picture of the boy watching the man spear fish, I am sure the man is not thinking, "let me teach you a lesson now." But that is what is happening.
I wonder about what kinds of things we do in our culture, small, unexamined things that teach our children our values. Or maybe not even the values that we believe in, but the values of our dominant mainstream society that are normal for us.
As I strolled my baby in her stroller, I would always pick flowers for her to examine as we went along — she liked this very much. I showered her with rose petals. I played by ripping up leaves. One day when she grew into being a toddler, I saw a beautiful rose and brought her over to smell it. Without hesitation she tore the rose up, threw it on the ground, and went after another.
I was taken aback — yet I had taught her this. Later when I read in Colin Ward's book (Eskimos, Chicanos, Indians: Volume IV of Children in Crisis) — how Hopi Native Americans acted with the plants they treated as living beings; teaching their children to honor the land even in their play, to be thankful; that even trees can cry; and to show spiritual and psychological meaning/connection from signs in nature — I saw what a very "white" thing I had taught her.
I had been teaching her that this world is given to us for our use, to dominate, and plants don't have a life like we do. Our daily actions are unconsciously communicating many lessons, what a sensitive thing it is.
Strength is not brute yelling or pulling. That makes everything worse. When your strength gives out you act that way. Strength is like the saying "a stitch in time saves nine." You've got to be strong or you'll suffer.
This morning I learned something from my daughter as I tried to snap one last snap on her overalls so we could be ready to go, as she kept rolling away from me. My mind was set on that last snap and getting out to keep my appointments. She kept rolling away and I kept pulling her back. You have no idea how frustrated I became because I could not finish getting her dressed. Clover kept trying to climb up, falling over, and crying. And it was time to go.
I was using all my strength against all the strength of an 8-month-old — and I was losing. She tried to roll away three times before I could pull her back and get the button snapped. She kept crying and it made me feel bad.
So I thought to myself: instead of having my mind so set on the goal and using brute strength, I should have just let her roll over and button it a few minutes later. She had been good for all her clothes changing up to that moment. Sometimes with babies, you just have to roll with it. Be flexible and forget about the bus lines and deadlines.
In fighting against her will (to be in control of her body after a time of compliance) I lost even though I was an adult and she was but 20 pounds. I could not win over a baby. I thought about adults who fight each other, nations who fight against each other. If an adult can't even win over a baby wouldn't it be even harder the bigger they get?
Now if you think getting the button snapped was the goal and that I succeeded in that, you are missing the point. Not only would I have gotten it done in less time if I let her roll over before I did it (and less anxiety for both of us) but I wanted Clover to be dressed to keep her warm because I care about her. Not the abstract button (abstract dollars etc.).
Excerpted from "The Future Generation"
Copyright © 2017 China Martens.
Excerpted by permission of PM Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Ariel Gore,
Introduction by Clover,
Issue 1 April 1990,
Issue 2 November 1990 THE CHILD,
Issue 3 December 1990 ANARCHIST CHILD RAISING,
Issue 4 January 1991 GETTING TOGETHER,
Issue 5 PART 1 April 1991 VIOLENCE,
Issue 5 PART 2 July 1991 DISCIPLINE,
Issue 5 PART 3 Unreleased SEX & VIOLENCE,
Issue 6 April 1994 FOR HOMES LIKE YOURS, WITH LITTLE FOLKS,
Issue 7 February 1997 INDUSTRIAL MARY,
Issue 8 August 1997 RESISTANCE,
Issue 9 August 1998 WELFARE MOTHERS MAKE BETTER LOVERS,
Issue 10 November 1999 HOME SWEET HOME,
Issue 11 May 2002 SELF-EXPRESSION,
Issue 12 April 2003 THE OCEAN,
Issue 13 September 2003 HAPPY FATHER'S DAY,
Issue 14 March 2005 WORK,
THE SEA OF LIFE,