"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." – Margaret Mead
"If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a closed room with a mosquito." – African Proverb
Our generation has been overwhelmed with international conflicts perpetuated by the United States government, environmental destruction causing great devastation across the globe, and mass poverty around the world worsening and being exploited by corporations. The problems are vast and, often times, never ending. As we are entering the university and the "real world," it’s important for us to be ready to shape the world. And if there was ever a time in history to get up and take action, it is now.
Billions of dollars have gone into convincing us that there is nothing we can do about the problems of the world. The corporations which fund major media, a large portion of our goods, and our lifestyles have succeeded in making us feel little. But fortunately for us, this is not the reality of our society. As participants of the culture, we make our society. We have recognized that our current civilization is dangerous not only to ourselves but to the rest of the citizens of the world. We have recognized that we need a serious change because if we don’t do it, nobody’s going to.
The problems of our society are more serious than a government could pass a law to change. The future is a burden on our generation. It goes beyond political parties and campaigns for office. Sexism, racism, homophobia, poverty, imperialism, exploitation, and the multiple struggles of our times cannot be solved by the simple election of a new leader nor will a government work to change these. Often times, governments are the executors of such atrocities. So it is the responsibility of our generation to change our society and dramatically change the world.
WAITING ON THE WORLD TO CHANGE
There is a myth among us that we are not to act to change our world and society but simply wait for the change we need. That a different president’s empty assurances will bring about what we’ve been waiting for. That waiting for the world to change is what we need, and we are not to change the world to the way it should be.
Such illusions are not only false but are being said by the youth themselves. The reality is that we cannot wait another day to begin creating a society without war, without environmental destruction, without economic manipulation, without poverty. We cannot wait for such things to end and somehow let the milk un-sour itself. Such logic is flawed, and we must no longer let it hold us back from the potential that our generation has.
Instead, let us create the "change we wish to see in the world," to quote Gandhi. Let us create a world of sustainability, of solidarity, of cooperation, of peace, of communities, of justice. The world that we wish to see is in our heads and will soon be at our fingertips. We have every reason to work for such ends because the alternative is no longer tolerable. And we will not idly watch as our world is being run by those who do not wish to create a world which is beneficial for all.
YOUTH INVOLVEMENT IN THE PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
Youth involvement in political campaigns in the United States has been growing since 18 year olds were given the right to vote in 1971. There have been many campaigns that have engaged and excited the youth, but no campaign has created such frenzy as the Barack Obama presidential campaign. For the first time, our generation has been excited and involved in politics and campaigns at an incredible level.
It is very important for us to get engaged and involved. We need to empower one another, and that can clearly be seen with the Obama-mania. With such involvement comes the potential of having political clout with the incoming politicians, theoretically making us powerful in the White House and having a voice and a powerful, sympathetic ear listening. For the first time in our lives, we have the possibility of having the leader of our country speaking for the oppressed and exploited.
But it’s important that we do not get glossy-eyed and lost in the circus which is created around American politics and political campaigns. We must not ignore the downfalls of leaders, even if we believe what they have to say. We must also not forget that throughout US history, politicians have always lied to gain power. Or, in simplistic terms, as IF Stone blatantly put it, "governments lie."
Democracy is not simply the right to vote. Democracy is not something you do for five minutes every four years (unless you are among the 50% who don’t vote or if you’re a felon, then "democracy" is something you never do). But democracy is to be created and carried out for the 3 years, 364 days, 23 hours, and 55 minutes between presidential elections. It is our obligation to create a real democracy in the US and voting is just the tip of the iceberg.
ANOTHER WORLD IS POSSIBLE
Creating "another world" is bold, noble, and difficult, to say the least. But that is not to say that it shouldn’t be done or that it can’t be done. It is quite the opposite. It should be done, and it absolutely can be done. To quote journalist, author, and activist, Naomi Klein, "I don’t believe the problem is a lack of ideas. I think we’re swimming in ideas. Universal health care, living wages, cooperatives, participatory democracy, public services that are accountable to the people who use them, food, medicine, and shelter as a human right. These aren’t new ideas…and I think most of us still believe in them."
It is the duty of our generation to take these ideas which have been dreamed up, carried out, and expanded upon and implement them within our society. As the world burns, it is crucial that we really begin creating social justice within grassroots levels. To expect the political elite to create such justice is wishful thinking and not to be depended on. The politicians, heads of state, and heads of corporations will not voluntarily bring about justice on their own. They do so when the alternative to justice is worse.
The burden is on our generation’s shoulders to create this new society, new culture, and new world of justice, solidarity, and sustainability. When we do so and create a people power that is strong and just, then we will have a force that cannot be suppressed and can be taken seriously. When we build a society which we can agree with and have power for everyone, not just corrupt and often criminal politicians and heads of corporations, then we will see the change in the world that is not only sustainable, but necessary.
TODAY THE UNIVERSITIES, TOMORROW THE WORLD
To create such a world, it is vital that we begin right now. We must begin building the skills needed to create a movement for a better world. We need to begin creating institutions which do not exploit workers domestically and internationally. We must establish relationships with our brothers and sisters across the globe who are not only in agreement with us, but are often times the abused manifestation of our society.
To wait for such a movement or such a world, is to deny its potential for existence. It’s our obligation to create this world. We must begin now. We have no serious responsibilities within our personal lives. Few of us have full time jobs we need to worry about. Even less of us have spouses or children. We are free, so to speak, to further implement the society we are beginning to create. We have to use our privilege to assist those who are held back by their location, their economic disadvantages, and less opportunities to advance their well being. When we are together creating a new culture and society, then another world is possible.
We must begin within our university and then go from there. We enter its doors with, theoretically, an opportunity to do whatever we desire with our lives. So it’s crucial that now, while we can, we begin working for a better world. The battle cannot end when you walk out those doors. When we leave, we need to take our experience, ideas, and concepts with us and implement them on the world. We are the future.
And the future is unwritten.