Open Window

Freedom of Young Adults

by Jaewan Jo (Busan)

We all know that at one point during our childhood, we have dreamt of being adults. At least once. Dreamt of being free. Free of homework. Free of parents. Free of any outside authority. We have all had it. And I’m sure that children from the medieval ages has had them too. But let’s bring up the statistics and compare the two eras. When were young adults more independent? When was the better time for the children to make their fantasy a reality? I would probably say the ones from the medieval times have better odds.

We all are familiar with how modern young adults work. After graduating college, he/she needs to find a job in order to earn money. A person from a more prestigious university would have no problem undertaking that task. If lucky, they get promoted over time, and rise to a respectable position with a reliable income. If not, they get fired, and they get forced to find a new job as soon as possible. Most of their money goes to the banks, paying back for their college loans. This goes on until the end of their twenties, when they no longer are “young adults”.

However, the young adults from medieval times are slightly more different. At a young age, they are sent to a master craftsman or a tradesman to train as an apprentice. The training lasts for about five to nine years. Should the master craftsman be affiliated with any guilds, the apprentice is subjected to any regulations the guild has. Furthermore, they are set with minimum terms of service, and the guilds keep track of the apprentice in order to provide a license of sorts to continue their work on their own when they graduate. When they do so, they open up their own shop, maybe take on a few apprentices, or in rare cases, abandon their work and start something afresh. It’s a different story if a boy wants to become a knight, however. A male youth born of noble blood and residing in a lord’s castle is eligible to be a page, the first step in training. They train with huntsmen and falconers every day, learning to use weapons and doing errands for the lord of the castle. When a page reaches 14 years of age, a knight may choose them to become a squire, an apprentice of sorts. The word squire comes from the word esquier, which means shield-bearer in French. And that is what they do. They carry around armor and weapons, and again, do errands for the knight. But a squire was allowed to own armor and weapons, thus making them a knight, only with less privileges. At 21 years of age, should the knight agree, the squire can become a full-fledged knight, serving the kingdom and protecting the homeland.

“Cleric, Knight and Workman representing the three classes,” a French School illustration from Li Livres dou Santé (late 13th century, vellum), MS Sloane 2435, folio 85, British Library/Bridgeman Art Library

The differences between the two eras are vast, and so are the young adults. Putting them side by side, one can see why the young adults of medieval times are much more independent. Firstly, money isn’t a huge problem. Young adults of today are, ironically, bound by chains of financial independence. They need to pay back their college loans, they have to find jobs, and do so much more all alone. Their parents aren’t helping them. Banks aren’t going to loan some kid with zero economical experience other than lectures a thousand dollars. But young adults of old don’t have to do all that. Their masters have already taught them all they needed to know, and they don’t even have to follow the path they set. Knights are funded by the kingdom itself, so food or lodging isn’t a problem. Farmers have their crops. And belonging to a guild already guaranteed them a spot in the market. Their path is pretty much an open plain. Secondly, young adults of the old aren’t helped out by electronics. As mankind make technological advances every year, the reliance upon electronics hasn’t been greater. Money is stored in cards and changed into codes of zeros and ones. Sometimes, those cards don’t even exist. The data is in their phones, enabling them to carry a small pouch instead of a wallet. Most work is done in computers, and an entire household is basically a giant working electronic mechanism. In addition, some modes of transport is completely based on electricity. This shows that humankind has become an entirely new species, one that needs technology to survive. Again, they are bound by the chains that set them free. On the contrary, young adults of the middle ages don’t need all that. They ride horses for transport. They use candles for light. They wash their clothes with hands, and some of them don’t even need money. And the ones that do can feed themselves without much trouble. Work is done physically, not with little tablets that have all their data stored in some server five hundred miles away. Therefore, I believe that the young adults of the middle ages have more independence than those of today.

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