For many people, a new year brings with it a resolution: a promise to ourselves that weâ€™ll stop smoking, get in shape, earn a higher GPA, steal a monkey, learn to play the accordion ÂÂâ€“â€“ that weâ€™ll better our lives in general somehow.
Iâ€™ve never been one to make these resolutions, knowing deep down inside I wouldnâ€™t keep them. However, I realized this view is defeatist and pessimistic, and so my resolution for 2010 is just that: Iâ€™m going to stop being defeatist, pessimistic and cynical, and I invite you to join me.
Everyone knows someone with exactly the attitude Iâ€™m talking about. Weâ€™re the ones who ruin Christmas for everyone in kindergarten by telling our peers that Santa isnâ€™t real. Weâ€™re the ones who discourage voters by telling them their vote doesnâ€™t count. We see Murphyâ€™s Law as a universal constant, expecting everything that can go wrong to do just that.
Maybe you donâ€™t have this attitude toward everything in life, but it seems many people have this kind of defeatist attitude about one thing or another. You may think the American political system is a joke of a democracy, and the average citizen can do nothing to influence it, so why bother?
You may think religious fundamentalists will never change; eventually theyâ€™ll nuke the entire planet one way or another, so rational discussion and diplomacy with them is pointless. You may believe the federal government can never do anything right, all politicians are selfishly motivated, so we should always distrust and reject any government intervention.
As legitimate as these laments may be, a defeatist attitude ultimately gets us nowhere; to hang our heads and resign from action out of pessimism is ultimately an act of cowardice. And while sitting around and complaining can be beneficial (to a point) by fleshing out issues that need to be resolved, it is imperative we donâ€™t stop there.
After identifying the problems, we need to offer solutions or alternatives, not throw up our hands and give up.
Defeatists and pessimists didnâ€™t end slavery, activists did. Had the abolitionists of the time hung their heads and given up, thinking their efforts would ultimately do no good in face of The Establishment, we may well still have slavery today.
The same could be said about womenâ€™s suffrage. Had its supporters cowered down in fear of the status quo, women may still be entirely shut out of the political sphere.
Regarding Civil Rights, if its advocates had thought Jim Crow was invincible, there would have been nobody to march on Washington in 1963, no one to hear about Martin Luther Kingâ€™s dream.
And so it goes for all landmark social movements in our nationâ€™s history. Real social progress takes a generation with the guts to stand up and do something, not just sit around and complain. The simple fact remains: A lack of action gets nothing done.
So letâ€™s take the lessons of history and apply them today. If you think itâ€™s time for a federal law in the United States guaranteeing gays the right to get married, stand up and do something about it.
If you think all U.S. citizens should be entitled to Medicare, the war in the Middle East should end now, marijuana should be legalized or that the drinking age should be 18, do whatever is in your power to make those things happen.
Whatever issues you care about and whatever your stance on those issues, the last thing you should be doing is nothing.
This is a call to arms, to myself and anyone who reads this. Enough sitting around campus, pointing out the problems around us without offering solutions or alternatives. Enough defeatist resignation in the face of a tough issue. My fellow cynics, we have been the ones halting the change we want by refusing to act, so I say itâ€™s time to stand up, get pissed off and make some noise.