We are the change we need
January 24, 2011 —
It is hard to think of a good set of words to describe our generation right now. Some optimistic folks might say we are inspired, we are able or we are unique thinkers. But I am feeling more of the realistic description: It might be more accurate to say that we are superficial or self-centered.
Being in college is a huge confidence booster for us. As college students, we are often applauded for our dedication of higher education. Our choice to attend college is supposed to reflect our willingness to take on the world outside of these educational walls. But I would argue that society also romanticizes our motives. Are we in college to eventually change the world, or simply get a job with a steady income?
Although the second choice is not a bad reason to seek out an education, we should still ponder this question because the answer is confusing. As a whole, I think our generation has a common spirit of acceptance and a drive for diversity that hasnít really been known to any previous generations. This is apparent in different campus clubs and organizations and all the peace sign tattoos, necklaces, bumper stickers and clothing logos. We understand that our interactions, both personally and professionally, are becoming more global. We are, in general, open to new ways of thinking and we appear willing to put forth an effort to learn.
On the flip side of that, when it comes down to action, we tell a very different story. We seem to concern ourselves more with physical appearance and accumulating wealth than focusing on things that might better represent our mores. Weíll help fix the worldís problems after we take care of our own.
I think that often times, our elders look to us with hope and this is why our choice to seek higher education is so highly regarded. We are bombarded with messages from them that we have the power to conquer the world. They look with hope because the truth, is we are the future, and I mean that in the least poetic way possible. The choices we make now are intrinsically linked to everyone around us. The careers we choose will affect society, the kind of person we choose to be will affect society and, most importantly, the injustices we choose to act out against or ignore will affect society.
I labeled the last as most important because in that list, social injustices have the broadest impact. Changes we make in this category will surely have a profound effect on current and future society.
I think itís unfortunate that we are told we can make change only by simply being radical young adults who change the world one radical breath at a time. We do not seem willing to go too far out of our way to help solve some of the major injustices. We may buy a shirt that has ďloveĒ written on it, but we donít really consider that it was probably made by an exploited worker.
This piece of clothing is not inspiring any sort of revolution. This is why I would use superficial and incredibly selfcentered to describe our generation. It is so hard nowadays to distinguish how much a person actually wants to change an injustice and how much is for show. This is especially because so many demonstrations against injustice consist of purchasing something that will alert others to pay attention to you.
I think itís safe to say that we realize there are things in the world that just arenít right. But between classes, work, families, friends and thinking about future plans, it is hard to find time to start a social movement, let alone be involved in one. I purchase the cheapest items at the store not only because it seems financially responsibly but it is way more convenient to buy Meijer brand instead of searching for anything with a Fair Trade logo.
I have to admit, though, Iím worried. I understand that at the other end of my purchase, someone is being exploited. How much more will a person have to be exploited before I bother to search for alternative options? Is that answer actually blowing in the wind like Bob Dylan suggested?
We are given the message that we can change the world because it is true. The typical college student demographic is most able to insist change because we believe that we have plenty of years ahead of us to make those changes. I donít think elders use empowering messages simply to fill our heads with empty compliments, but rather to help us realize that we are the ones that will make the change.
As college students, we should interpret othersí comments on our capacity to enforce change not as a compliment, but rather as a responsibility. Since we are the ones who will make the change, members of society should not be suggesting we make a change, but insist it because if we remain stagnant everyone will suffer. Similarly, we should not take suggestion of change as merely an idea, but more like a job.
We need to embrace our current position. We are at a very powerful stage of our lives, and if we expect change, we are going to have to be the ones to implement it.