I’ve never bought the complaint heard so often that our generation is so much more inactive on the political and social protest fronts than our predecessors. While there are, of course, exceptions, not many of us can fairly be described as apathetic, over-privileged or uncaring.
And yet I’ve certainly felt pangs of guilt about the fact that I haven’t yet camped out in front of the White House or organized a flag-burning rally on Beinecke Plaza. There are still plenty of things to be pissed off about. Does my lack of shouting about issues that I care about mean that I am inherently lazy, able to rationalize my inaction and deny my selfishness along with the best of ’em? Perhaps, and maybe this column is merely an attempt on my part to assuage my conscience and continue on my merry way. However, I think that, if I may speak on behalf of our generation for a moment, the relative absence of loud, angry, absolutist protest is actually a sign of progress.
The watering down of complex issues into clear black-and-white dichotomies and simplistic slogans has been the root cause of countless conflicts. This problem goes way back into the history of human society. As an easy example, there was the idea that black people are not human, and therefore they can be used as tools of labor. Genocides, religious wars, discriminatory systems — oversimplified ideas were the starting point.
It hasn’t only been bad ideas, moreover, that have enabled misguided policies. The most obvious example pertains to the current situation in Iraq. The underlying ideology of the Bush administration seems to be that democracy is good. The consequent leap in logic which has been taken is that America must therefore spread American democracy in its unaltered version. The result, obviously, has been lots of resentment and bloodshed. The frustrating thing is that democracy is good, but proponents of the forcible spread of democracy try to defend the tactic by refusing to separate outcomes from the original idea. On the flip side, to be fair, the belief that this war is bad leads many to call for the immediate end of all U.S. involvement, which is just another dangerous knee-jerk reaction stemming from an oversimplified idea.
Instead of reducing our thoughts to a slogan, I’m proud to observe that my peers have decided to take a more thoughtful approach to enacting change in the world. Some of us have become quite savvy in working within the system to bring about revolution. Others have decided to try entirely new approaches, whether through volunteer or humanitarian organizations, business, or new media. I think that rather than yelling at one another, we understand that the other is here to stay and is someone with whom we will eventually have to work. Our worldview is more filled with nuance than that of past generations; granted, this makes it more difficult to decide which actions to take, raising the potential that we become paralyzed by relativity. As far as I can see, though, this has not been the case.
So, if you’re not already, get pissed off about something. Once you’ve done that, follow the example of your cohorts and find a creative way to fix it. Maybe we’ve learned enough this time around to finally bring some positive, lasting changes to our world.
Morgan Robinson is a senior in Trumbull College.