(U-WIRE) AUSTIN, Texas – My mid-1980s-born generation, most notable for its consumerist tendencies, is now being labeled politically apathetic. With iPods stuffed in our ears and Playstation game controllers in our hands, it’s no wonder we don’t deserve a more respectable label.
As a new Texas student, I attended orientation at the end of August. At my college-specific meeting, in a room of more than 100 students, the professor asked those of us over 18 to raise our hands. He then asked how many of us had registered to vote. Out of that 100, only about five hands were raised.
“Pathetic,” he said.
It is pathetic, that the flag- and bra-burning generation before us worked so hard to create a political climate conducive to self-expression, and we have nothing to express. So if the majority of my apathetic and politically uninformed generation can’t even be bothered to register to vote, we deserve to be labeled apathetic.
If we would rather read up on celebrity gossip than Kofi Annan’s recent visit to Tehran to prevent a worldwide crisis, we shouldn’t expect a better future, a better life or a safer world.
The first day of my English literature class, the professor stood before us and asked the 19-year-olds to raise their hands. Timidly, mine among many others went up.
“Mary Shelley,” he said, “wrote ‘Frankenstein’ at age 19.” We all laughed a little at the absurdity of the idea that any 19-year-old could possibly write a novel to be studied in classrooms hundreds of years from now.
“I blame television and the Internet,” he muttered softly but still audibly, and we chuckled again, half-ashamed this time. Are television and the Internet really the reasons for our generation’s laziness and ignorance of the world around us?
Are the Internet, television, junk magazines and pop culture in general just tools for the government elite to lure its youth into some blissful comatose state of oblivion? Oblivion is where the majority of us are right now — somewhere between last weekend’s episode of “The OC” and this week’s “Laguna Beach.”
No one should accept the status quo and resign to it, much less the educated ones. Democracy is not a right, but a privilege. As tumultuous as global politics are now, with the United States as the only remaining global superpower, America needs citizens who are informed, passionate, socially and politically active, or we will have a fate similar to those that befell ancient Rome and Greece.
Last year’s youth uprising in France captured the news media around the globe. The French prime minister’s controversial youth labor law hit a chord in the country’s poor, young population. After weeks of violent protests, the government reversed the law.
These people had a voice, and they made it heard. While their violent approach was severely criticized and their perpetrators punished, at least they were passionate about something, passionate about ending what they saw as injustice.
This is not so much a call to action as it is a call to awareness. The first step in change is identifying a problem and making people aware of it. Generations are defined by labels: The lost generation, the baby boomers, the beats.
Right now, they’re calling us Generation Y and playing with several other terms: The Internet generation, the myPod generation and Generation Google to name a few. Shouldn’t we be striving for something a little less superficial and more meaningful? Or are we far too engrossed in MTV’s “Cribs” and Paris Hilton’s “The Simple Life” to find our way back?
I certainly hope we won’t be remembered as The Apathetic Generation.