Sunday, May 29, 2011

Why aren’t we revolutionaries?

David—a boomer who lived through the 60’s—recently posted an entry noting the curious absence of revolutionary discourse among today’s twenty-somethings. It's an interesting topic of discussion. While my generation has hardly dabbled with civil disobedience, his generation protested the Vietnam War, took part in civil, women’s, and environmental rights crusades, and caused havoc on college campuses and city streets everywhere.

In my 27 years, I don’t think I’ve once heard even a murmuring of revolution. Yet, things are hardly peachy keen. In addition to global warming, suburban sprawl, and a mind-boggling disparity of wealth between the mega-rich and everyone else, my generation must deal with record-breaking loads of student debt and an alarming scarcity of jobs. In July 2010, 51.1% of 16-to-24 year olds didn’t have jobs. (The official unemployment rate—which takes the desire to have a job into account—was still an unreasonably high 19.1 percent.) We are jobless, indebted, and disenchanted with politics.

The unemployment numbers are almost as bad as several of the Middle Eastern nations that recently experienced youth-led rebellions. Twenty-five percent of Egypt’s youth were unemployed, similar to Tunisia’s 30%. Young people coping with poor job markets have led protests in European countries like Spain, which has a 45% youth unemployment rate, and the UK, which has a 20%.

So the question begs to be asked: Why isn’t my generation rebellious? Why aren’t Americans protesting? Why aren’t we causing hell like the disenchanted 60’s generation?

1. Things may be bad, but I guess they aren’t bad enough. While we have a similar unemployment rate, Egyptian youth—at the time of the revolution—were much worse off. Not only did 40% of Egyptians live on $2 a day, but their rights were severely curbed by an authoritative regime. Things may be bad here, but even the most desperate college grad could get a job at McDonald’s for $6 an hour. And even though we have the Patriot Act, it’s not nearly as egregious as some of Mubarak’s measures.

2. There is no clear enemy. We have no Nixon, no Mubarak, not even a W. Bush to fight. So just what wall needs to be torn down and just who needs to be brought to justice? The problem is that our enemies are amorphous; they’re not even human, really. It’s not the CEO who lays off his employees and outsources jobs to third-world countries who’s to blame; it’s the economic system in which he’s immured that forces him to resort to such callous measures. It’s more than just some crusty elite; it’s the system, free-market capitalism, globalization; it’s things we can neither tar and feather nor burn in effigy.

Let’s say that we do take down the ruling elite, storm the Capitol, and lay down a list of demands. We get universal health care, universal education, and we end pointless wars. Then what? It’s not like we can just create jobs out of thin air. (Even the youth in socialist Scandinavian countries face tough job markets. Among 15-to-24 year olds, 29% of Swedes are unemployed, as are 27 % of Fins, 16% of Icelanders, 13% of Danes, and—to a much lesser degree—9% of Norwegians.) Currently in America—as I pointed out in a previous post—there are 365,000 cashiers and 317,000 waiters and waitresses who have bachelor’s degrees, as do one-fourth of those working in the retail industry. More than 100,000 college graduates are brushing toilets as janitors and 18,000 are pushing carts. Is it a good thing if we lower the unemployment rate by creating more shitty, soul-less, cubicled jobs flipping burgers, answering phones, or selling useless crap? Over 1.5 million college students graduate each year. Do we really think that there should exist 1.5 million well-paying, fulfilling jobs for every graduating class? If those jobs were necessary, wouldn't they already exist?

3. The truth has yet to set in. We young people are still hopeful. When we go to college, we imagine getting a good job right after we’re handed our diplomas. We imagine our debts vanishing into thin air. Yet this hasn’t been the case for a long-time, so it’s beyond me why these fantasies are still so prevalent. For a revolution to happen, reality must set in and hope must be crushed.

Concluding thoughts

Frankly, I’d love to see my generation become rebellious and get angry about student debt, college profiteers, and everything else that ails us. A lot of good would come of it, but I think we’d be merely treating side-effects than killing the disease that causes them.

The unemployment rate is a good indication of a country’s political, social, and economic stability. When we have jobs, we have purpose; we can move up, improve ourselves; we have the freedom to do what we wish with the money we earn. But I’m not comfortable saying things are satisfactory if the unemployment rate is 0% and 100% of us are employed at places like Wal-Mart, McDonalds, and offices raising our blood pressure and filing TPS reports. I think such a society is far from ideal, and in no way, shape or form attends to the needs of the human body, mind and soul.

Perhaps a violent or non-violent revolution would spur the powers that be to make substantial changes, but I can’t see a solution to my generation’s malaise without completely reimagining society, a society in which the idea of a “job”—which, as we know, is a manmade invention—doesn’t even exist.

Radical thought: Perhaps the solution is simplicity. What if we create our own economy, sort of like the Amish have? (There is, after all, no such thing as an unemployed Amishman.) With a local, agrarian-based economy, we’d have an endless supply of fulfilling labor—the sort of work that makes families tight and communities thrive; the sort that would wean us off the government and make corporations crumble.

I suppose this thought is nothing new. Hippie communes popped up in the 60’s and 70’s, and it’s evident that they didn’t last long. Why would ours be any less fleeting? And how feasible is this for a world that’s overpopulated—one where open space isn’t exactly abundant?

The question remains: What’s to be done with millions of jobless young people who seem to have no cause, no purpose whatsoever? Any thoughts? (Por favor: All I ask is that we keep the discussion sane and civil.)


Ken said...

Another telling stat: When you factor in "underemployment," 37% of 18-29 year-olds are underemployed or unemployed.

Scott Wardle said...

How can you say the enemy is faceless? Are you serious? The enemy IS THE DEBT!! It is an enemy that is both personal, national and global all at the same time.

And for you to do what you did was the most revolutionary thing possible! Check out the Survival Podcast and go listen to Jack Spirko's rants on debt slavery and how paying off your debts is the revolution of our age.

Andrea said...

You have beautifully articulated everything I've been struggling with, growing up (at least since my teenage years). I thought when I got to college I would meet more like-minded people, but instead all I have encountered is overwhelming apathy. It's as if students either don't care, or feel helpless -- and I can certainly relate to the helplessness.

It is extremely difficult to combat an "enemy" that is ill-defined and multifaceted. In order to get above the debt and the joblessness, one must work one's way up the corporate ladder, which in turn perpetuates the problem. I could go on and on, but to keep it short, I just want to say that I agree with you -- simplifying our lives is the answer, in my opinion. What's that old quote? "Live simply so that others may simply live?" I think what is in order is some sort of cultural revolution, a revision of our values and needs, but I suppose for that to happen we would have to convince a great number people to organize themselves. I believe it is possible (or perhaps I'm simply a hopeless idealist), but will take a lot of effort on everyone's part.

Tesaje said...

Great essay and I agree with almost everything you said. One really big driver behind the baby boomer protests that you missed was the draft. The draft meant every young man in high school and every one who cared about him was afraid he might get killed in a war that increasingly looked pointless and was based on a pack of lies (which gradually got revealed as lies). That personalized the war and the politician's lies. That got everyone on one side or the other - suck it up and face the fear or do something risky to oppose it.

Be getting rid of the draft, that personalized fear has been removed and idealogical opinions based on little but propaganda (like the national debt) are the dividing lines.

One needs to look further back for parallels: The 1930s when economic times were dire. The rise in unions fought to create a middle class with laws that decreased the robber baron's hold and leveled the economic playing field. We do not yet have a bad enough and unfair enough economy for large numbers of people to realize what they are losing as we dismantle the middle class. It is at present, an esoteric situation that large numbers of people do not see as a personal problem.

What I see is that between the corporate ideology and religious ideology supporting it, there is a tremendous amount of double-speak as chillingly described in the novel "1984." Because the success of the brain washing came from the far right instead of the defunct far left, people don't see the parallels. But we have a large number of people angrily against those very structures of our society that created the best economy for the greatest number of people that the world had ever seen - and doing so against their own personal interests. We are truly seeing the triumph of ideology over sense.

It is also evident now that "free trade" is a disastrous concept. It is the big driver that moved jobs out of our society to 3rd world countries, including high skill level jobs, where they can be paid a lot less. It helps other countries at the cost to our own population. Without a strong middle class, our economic situation continues to deteriorate. CEOs running our oligarchy fail to see beyond their own mega greed and are choking the golden goose while they line their own personal pockets with tons more wealth than they ever know what to do with. The high taxes of the 1950s and 60s actually gave strong incentives to the top dogs to keep the money in the company and create jobs. The whole "trickle-down" theory has now been proven to be false but the far right ideologues will never consider the actual evidence (it is like a religion).

I could go on and on. The attacks on science are part of this victory of ideology over sense and evidence. The personal situation apparently needs to get a lot worse for large numbers of people to revolt. Unfortunately, a desperate population is easily convinced to give up liberty and follow a strongman dictator.

Ben said...

As long as people are getting what they want on a daily basis they will have no reason to revolt. Sounds obvious, but as things become more abundant (nearly everything is a commodity these days) people and youth especially are perfectly content not working and not having a 'purpose' as long as they have these materials to keep them occupied. Personally, I've found that nature and physical activities keep me occupied and I no longer want nor need much 'stuff'. Whether being and nature and learning new activities is a 'purpose' is debatable, but it feels right at the moment.

There are revolutionaries in our current day its just that you don't hear about them...they have learned that a silent revolution is more effective and less prone to attack and questioning by the mainstream. You get all the benefits of modern society (if you want them) without the leash of debt or a job. I think you Ken are a good example. Like Scott said, you were revolutionary in your vandwelling experiment. (It is interesting to note that Duke has instituted policies to prevent others from following in your footsteps, further evidence that a silent revolution may be more effective). That being said, it is through learning and sharing of experiences that others will work up the courage to blaze their own revolutionary trail (whatever that may be). For these revolutionaries they have massive freedom. Granted they may still work, but they don't have to. It's the freedom and choice that they desire. And, for me, freedom of choice is a happy and simple way to live.

In conclusion, until something begins to invade the day to day lives of people they will be content. Some people may feel trapped but they still have a choice and they are choosing their current lifestyle.

Unknown said...

After being unemployed for nine months after I graduated, I am really glad I have a job now. It may not be anything ground-breaking or contributing to the betterment of society, it's just another office job, but I'd rather be doing this than be unemployed again. The economy can't stay the way it is forever, and when it does fall apart--like really fall apart--people will not sit back and take it.
Unless we've just become so lazy in America that even a complete failure of the economy isn't enough to get us off the couch to say something about it.

Jason said...

A powerful and potentially positive transformation without historic precident is afoot, in my opinion: robotics, outsourcing, and massive efficiency improvements (e.g., advances in software, industrial processes, automation)are making most traditional forms of work obsolete. This is why blue collar jobs are in a permanent down trend.

The non-obsolete "white collar" workers (those most insolated from automation or cheap outsourcing) get paid a disproprotionately high wage.

The totally obsolete yet currently not replacable workers (eg burger flippers) get paid a subsistence wage or less.

Food and shelter can be, technologically speaking (not real estate price wise), obtained for cheaper prices than ever before.

We have freed a massive portion of our people from the drudgery of the forbears: to toil in a factory for 35 years and then die of complications from same.

These young people face a crisis of meaning in a world where one is still defined by "what you do." Yet they mostly do not need, in a rich economy like ours, to "do" anything to have the basics to stay alive.

This is the utopia we had always dreamed of, if the benefits of the automation can be diffused to the masses. Therein lies the rub, and what would be fairly characterized as the socialist leanings of this post. Just some random musings.

Ken said...

Scott—I listened to the podcast you recommended and really enjoyed it (except for a political rant or two). I’d say debt is AN enemy among other enemies: suburban sprawl, which makes us rely on vehicles, politicians who are in the pockets of billionaires and big business, under-regulated corporate nature-killers who blacken oceans and steal mountaintops.

Again, thanks for the recommendation. Here’s the exact link:

Andrea—Organize and live simply, definitely. I think to turn one’s choice to rebel via simplictity into a movement, some sort of publicizing or documentation would also be necessary to stir up a larger following. Come to think of it, I think it would make a fascinating documentary or blog to chronicle the formation of a commune.

Also, if I could add a “fourth reason” to why we’re not rebelling, it would be that there’s no “culture of revolution.” People like Aristotle and Emerson played a huge part in creating “cultures of curiosity” in ancient Greece and 19th century Concord. Sometimes individual men and women can shape and create a culture out of almost nothing. “Almost nothing” is probably exaggeration, but I think special people can change, enhance, and elevate a culture, whether the culture is basketball team or a nation’s youth. It takes more than just oppression and desperation to start a revolution—there must be a person or a group of individuals to infuse a sort of rebellious spirit into a people. While powerful external circumstances (injustice, oppression, hunger) may form the tinder, perhaps an individual must strike the match.

Tesaje—Wow, amazing comment. Right on about everything. Firstly, yes, the draft must have been a huge impetus to revolt. To put it into perspective, 58,000 Americans died in the Vietnam War versus the 5,900 American deaths in our ridiculous ten-year “War on Terror.” Without a huge death count or the threat of being sent overseas, we don’t have as much cause to rebel.

I’m baffled with the amount of people who don’t vote in favor of their economic self-interest. I understand why rich people are Republicans, but the fact that poor people make up a solid portion of their base is beyond me. I suppose it’s a testament of the power of propaganda. For some reason, it’s cool nowadays to hate the government and think “taxes are bad.” Of course no one likes paying taxes, but we don’t seem to get that billionaires and corporations are mind-bogglingly under-taxed, if taxed at all.

I identify with a lot of what libertarians believe, but their reverence for an unregulated free market seems to be an enormous “blind spot” in their ideologies. I share their view of an ideal world in which a large federal government is not needed, but c’mon, government is absolutely critical to regulate out of control corporations, to ensure a healthy environment, for an FDA, consumer protection agency, etc. etc. If there any libertarians reading I ask—with complete sincerity—to enlighten me on this issue if you feel I’ve gotten it wrong.

Ken said...

Ben—Interesting thoughts about the “silent revolution.” But is it a revolution if only a handful of people are doing it? Just what will it take to get youth in large numbers to turn off their Xbox’s and demand more? You’re right—until things get terrible (starvation, disease, etc), people will always be distracted with and made comfortably numb by sports, religion and videogames.

Constant—I think it’s easy to call us lazy, and I’m sure there’s more than a little bit of truth to the claim, but all our troubles are of the slow and steady kind: a little bit more global warming, a little bit more debt, a little bit more unemployment. When what ails is so slow and so gradual it’s almost unnoticeable. We’re getting slowly cooked versus getting a pot of boiling water thrown into our face. If the shit were to really hit the fan, I suspect we’d finally get up off the couch and into the streets.

Jason—Very interesting stuff. Though I don’t think a world of convenience and machines is my utopia. I believe that work—good work—is the epitome of existence. And to invent machines to escape it is to preclude ourselves from tapping into life’s sweetest joys. Here’s a nice Wendell Berry quote from “The Unsettling of America” that sums up my thoughts:

“But is work something that we have a right to escape? And can we escape it with impunity? We are probably the first entire people ever to think so. All the ancient wisdom that has come down to us counsels otherwise. It tells us that work is necessary to us, as much a part of our condition as mortality; that good work is our salvation and our joy; that shoddy or dishonest or self-serving work is our curse and our doom. We have tried to escape the sweat and sorrow promised in Genesis—only to find that, in order to do so, we must forswear love and excellence, health and joy.”

Scott Wardle said...

Thanks for the kind words Ken. I brought up The Survival Podcast because I thought there was something there that might be of value to you.

I have my own views on what's happening in the global economy, but it would take up way too much time to get into all of it. There are plenty of great resources to check out on the topic.

Anonymous said...

"government is absolutely critical to regulate out of control corporations, to ensure a healthy environment, for an FDA, consumer protection agency, etc. etc. If there any libertarians reading I ask—with complete sincerity—to enlighten me on this issue if you feel I’ve gotten it wrong."

I think anybody that sees libertarians as necessarily opposed to some of the government interventions you mention takes an excessively dim view of the ideology. Governments are absolutely necessary to ensure property rights and often to create some mechanism to internalize externalities, and even a doctrinaire libertarian can recognize that.

Too often the free market ideology is confused with the interests of big business. Big businesses generally hate pure capitalism because it endangers their dominance, and are hence often the biggest opponents of real free market solutions. Currently, the government can affect many aspects of business because of its increasing regulatory power. What does this do? Not always make things better, instead we have seen an explosion in lobbying (I read some studies once, it's incredibly profitable - like 2000% by some estimates). Therefore we have the revolving door between the USDA and agribusiness for example. It's pro-corporate interests, but certainly not free market. The regulations are good intentioned, but alas men are not angels and they often produce results worse than nongovernment alternatives.

Ken said...

Scott—I’ll be sure to tune into more of his podcasts. While many survivalists/doomers seem to be borderline insane, this guy was very reasonable. David and I joke about preparing for doomsday sometimes, too. Whether or not it’s coming (and I really don’t have reason to believe it is), becoming more self-sufficient and independent are always good things.

Anon—Nice comment. I certainly don’t want to come across as anti-competition. You don’t need me to tell you that free market principles can really improve the quality of a product or service, and that sometimes gov’t intervention may unintentionally stymie progress. Yet sometimes I think libertarians almost deify the free market into some benevolent and infallible god.

I’m reading a book by Douglas Brinkley called “The Quiet World” about the conservation movement’s role in preserving wilderness in Alaska. I was struck by just how early Alaska was threatened by entrepreneurial interests. The salmon runs were being decimated, loggers were eager to chop down whole forests, seals were quickly becoming endangered. This was all happening in the 1900’s-1910’s when white Americans were just starting to arrive.

Again, the free market can be a force for good, but such cases show that it also needs to be restrained. Yet some prominent libertarians, it seems, are virulently opposed to anything that gets in the way of the free market. Ron Paul calls global warming the “greatest hoax” (1) and his son calls the president’s administration “un-American” for being tough on BP after the oil spill (2). Ayn Rand called ecologists “vultures” (3) and Lew Rockwell says a whole bunch of ridiculous things in his anti-environmentalist essay (4):

“Oil might be good for some wildlife.”

“The answer is to privatize and deregulate everything.”

“There is no evidence of global warming, but even if it were to take place, many scientists say the effect would be good: it would lengthen growing seasons, make the earth more liveable, and forestall any future ice age.”

“We can set about solving real environmental problems through the only possible mechanism: private property and the price system.”

“Moreover, if we sell all the national parks, we can pay off the federal debt.”

“Chicken or chicory, elephant or endive, the natural order is valuable only in so far as it serves human needs and purposes. Our very existence is based on our dominion over nature; it was created for that end, and it is to that end that it must be used — through a private-property, free-market order.”

“I spritzed some hairspray at the sky (not having enough hair to justify pointing it at me), used up a whole roll of paper towels, turned the refrigerator thermostat down, mixed newspapers with my garbage, filled up my car at an Exxon station, turned on all the lights, and took my daughter to McDonald's for cheeseburgers, since they still had those nice, clean styrofoam containers. Unfortunately, it wasn't cold enough to wear my fur hat.”

Such strident anti-environmentalism indicates to me that there exists an obsession with ideology and a disconnection with reality.


Anonymous said...

Fair points about Ron, Rand (interesting note though, BP donated to Rand's Democratic opponent), and Lew's resistance to environmental causes. Libertarianism is a hot bed for skepticism. I suppose I'm a bit more environmentalist than most libertarians. So here I can't provide a total defense of libertarianism. Instead, I guess all I can say is that the ideology of libertarianism is at least compatible with many environmental causes.

No doubt Alaska was threatened by entrepreneurial interests in the early days just as the Great Plains were decimated by early farmers. The problem is essentially economic in that property rights were poorly defined and there was a hazardous opportunism that arose we still see in economies today. You saw early settlers decimate the buffalo populations as the lands and population were essentially disposable. After one locality became barren, they could easily start again elsewhere. Tragedy of the commons. As property rights and markets developed, the situation improved. Admittedly, neither side can totally claim victory from strictly historical observation because as markets and rights develop, so did government.

Similarly, economists were some of the earliest opponents of slavery. After all, the incentive structure just isn't right for maximum growth with slavery. However, modern sex slavery can be profitable because there is a large class of essentially and regrettably disposable people because of the failure of governments to ensure individual rights. The problem here isn't capitalism, it's the lack of rights.

I love the national parks, you love the national parks. However, I can't help but think it's a regressive tax. I've visited many, but I can't help but think it benefits mostly the upper-middle class.

And Ayn Rand might have been the worst thing to ever happen to libertarianism, as she exacerbated the polarity I think. Sometimes I find myself tempted to be strictly ideological, but I do have to remind myself we live in the short run. So some compromise is necessary, and I think more libertarians need to recognize this, just like some Greenpeace activists perhaps. Pristine wilderness and pure capitalism are both alluring, and offer a great deal. However, cities and cars are also nice and some kind of safety net (of debatable size) is desirable.

By the way, I'm a long time reader and love the blog.

Brian said...

Your post remined me of Chuck Palahniuk's book "Fight Club"; "We don't have a great war in our generation, or a great depression, but we do, we have a great war of the spirit. We have a great revolution against the culture. The great depression is our lives. We have a spiritual depression."

Kevin M said...

I think #1 explains a lot of it. Couple that with the fact that we are detached from those who really are struggling, maybe because of the lack of community, and there just isn't that groundswell of support needed for a long-term movement.

Clearly we are capable of helping each other though - just look at the response for something like tornado relief in Joplin, MO. I guess what we need is someone or something to keep up the momentum over a long period of time - and it could take decades to really change the mindset of the country.

For me personally, it took a long time to realize consumption wouldn't make me happy. It is drilled into us from such a young age, it is just "what you do". That really worries me now that I have children. I'm trying to set a better example and live more simply, but still - we live in the suburbs, have 2 cars and a 2,000 sq ft house. We don't buy a lot of useless crap, but to some we probably still seem to use more than our fair share of resources. It's a struggle to find balance and even more a struggle to lead a revolution based on such an intangible concept.

Ken said...

Anon—Thank you for your well-reasoned comments. I think it’s always good to have cordial discussions with people of different ideological persuasions. National Parks, a regressive tax, maybe. But I guess I have little problem with some regressive taxes. Just as I think it’s a good thing maintain a museum to remind us of the past, I think it’s a crucial that we have protected wildernesses to remind us what a harmonious natural ecosystem looks like (among other reasons)—even if they have little to no economic justification. Thanks for the kind words!

Brian—Holy shit. Can I steal those lines? Well put.

Kevin M—Great point about how our disconnection with those really struggling inhibits the formation of some sort of coalition among the lower and middle classes. I recently read the book “Suburban Nation,” which was one of the most insightful books I’ve read in a while. The following are quotes from the book that support your insight:

“Our history is fraught with many different types of segregation—by race, by class, by how recently on has immigrated—but for the first time we are now experiencing ruthless segregation by minute gradations of income” (43).

“There is plenty of evidence in California, Florida, and the other Sun Belt states: the people in the gated pods are the ones consistently voting down necessary taxes… Meanwhile these people often pay hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars a month to their homeowners’ association to maintain their personal archipelago. The rest of the world is expected to take care of itself. Robert Reich calls this phenomenon the ‘secession of the successful’” (44).

“Unfortunately, the segregationist pattern is self-perpetuating. A child growing up in such a homogenous environment is less likely to develop a sense of empathy for people from others walks of life and is ill prepared to live in a diverse society. The other becomes alien to the child’s experience, witnessed only through the sensationalizing eye of the television. The more homogenous and ‘safe’ the environment, the less understanding there is of all that is different, and the less concern for the world beyond the subdivision walls” (45-46).

“Not only is a society healthier when its diverse members are in daily contact with one another, it is also more convenient. Imagine living just around the corner from your doctor, your child’s schoolteacher, and your baby-sitting aunt. Imagine being able to grow old in a neighborhood that can accommodate your changing housing needs while also providing a home for your children and grandchildren. Of course, living in Georgetown does not guarantee that this outcome will occur—but living in Pheonix guarantees that it will not” (47).

Ben said...

"I’m baffled with the amount of people who don’t vote in favor of their economic self-interest. I understand why rich people are Republicans, but the fact that poor people make up a solid portion of their base is beyond me."

I'd imagine that poor people make up the Republican base because they don't expect to stay poor. They want a political party in office that is in alignment with their goals and can provide them with opportunity. Contrast this with the poor who support Democratic social programs who desire handouts because they DO plan to stay poor.

I feel I've been in this boat before. I've voted Republican even though based on my income it would be more economically gracious to vote Democratic. I did this because I felt I was voting for the best policies for everyone, not just myself. According to my morals and beliefs they just aligned better. Just like I SHOULD be out applying for welfare and food stamps because my income is technically low enough. I still don't, why? Because I feel that these programs where intended for people who really need them.

Allison said...

Going back to your original question...

Another possible answer as to why you don't see too many protests on college campuses: This generation doesn't know how to struggle. I mean, why fight for anything if you've never had to? Or, for that matter, if it doesn't concern you directly? Students - especially, especially those that inhabit universities like our dear old Duke - have had no cause or reason to fight, or even to simply unify for very long.

Perhaps the most telling thing I've seen at Duke is its only protest this year...over the loss of tailgate. I've had to ask myself several times - is that really the only thing students feel compelled to fight for?

Ken said...

Ben—Well said.

Allison—Ugh. I was appalled with the whole tailgate “uprising.” I think Duke students don’t have to worry about the realities of the future especially since the great bulk of us either come from wealthy families or will have little trouble obtaining a lucrative job after graduation. As expensive as Duke is, we’re still at about the average debt level ($24,000). But it’s not just Duke students who are apathetic; it’s college students in general, I think. College is kind of a weird fantasyland where we don’t have to concern ourselves with financial worries. (We can just swipe payments on our Duke Card and worry about it later.) It’s as if we’re playing around with fake money—there’s no point to worry so long as we can put more booze on credit. This obviously separates us from real financial hardship, inhibiting us from gaining a sense of empathy for the economically downtrodden. Plus, college campuses are oftentimes segregated from the suffering parts of town. We won’t worry about what we don’t see.

Chris Troutner said...

Just because I haven't seen it mentioned in the comments here, I'd also recommend the book Sacred Economics. It's got some very compelling and well thought out ideas of how to make little tweaks with the money system to fulfill a lot of the desires given voice in this article.

I discuss the book at some length on my own blog, San Juan Sufficiency. I read Walden on Wheels and was hugely inspired. I'm living a life along a similar parallel.