Generation Y. Millenials. iGeneration. Apathetic. All of these terms have been used to describe people my age. We have survived Y2K, observed the changes of our post-9/11 world, used technology in ways that older generations only dreamed of and have achieved the reputation of being politically disengaged.
To a certain extent, I agree with that final statement. In learning about the political participation of previous generations, people my age appear feeble in comparison. Where is the outrage?
Overwhelmed and overstimulated, we hide behind our busywork and computer screens, easily distracted and misinformed.
I will be the first to admit to hiding. On my social networking sites, I busy myself with informative articles and promoting social-change organizations I believe in. But this virtual world cannot replace good-old-fashioned political participation.
On April 11 and 12, a strike was held on the Indiana University Bloomington campus. Students, faculty, and staff members marched through campus demanding answers to increased tuition and a lack of on-campus diversity, among other issues. University buildings were occupied, streets were picketed, alternative courses were taught, free food served, and more. Studying abroad in Peru, I followed the news from my computer screen, wanting nothing more than to participate myself.
Here are people who took their thoughts and words and turned them into actions. What a radical idea!
I think there are many plenty of people my age who worry about the state of affairs here in the U.S. as well as abroad. We have reason to be concerned about student debt, failing political processes, increasingly powerful financial institutions, foreign policy issues, etc. We also have the right and responsibility to do something about it.
The IU on Strike movement has been met with resistance and criticism, which is to be expected. Not everyone is going to agree. But at least a conversation has been started – one that extends beyond snarky Internet comments and finds its way into conference rooms where the decisions are made.
For me, the IU on Strike movement is a source of inspiration and a counter-example to the apathy that seems to plague my generation.
I am not saying my generation doesn't care. I know many people my age who are passionate about changing the world. Time and time again, I am astounded by the optimistic visions of my peers. But I think it's time more of us try to make these aspirations reality by connecting face to face with other people. Organizing events, debates and discussions. Getting our hands dirty to improve our schools, community, nation and planet.
There are many ways to enact social change. Using a screen to distract or shield yourself from the outside world, isn't one of them.