Activism at College

February 11, 2008

I am not a social activist.  I would like to be and probably will be one day, but today I am not.  Maybe next week.

The baby boomers always talk about the 60s.  How many protests, sit ins and all round activism was present in the world and on their college campuses.  It’s not like any more.  I’m sure everybody knows that. 

At my university, there are a few movements on campus every year, usually by the same group of people.  But the vast majority of students are hostile towards the activists on campus.  The common argument for the hostility is that any protest or movement for change is a waste of time and these people with their Monday night meeting and sign parties are wasting their energy.  Now don’t think that these people are the deadbeats that are going to work on Wal-Street or become corrupt politicians.  Some of them may follow these roads, but a great majority of them will deal with the problems that the protesters advocate against within the system that needs the change.  Many of the college students I know do not join human rights groups on campus or participate in sit ins, but they have a bigger plan.  They plan to use their education to get a job in whatever industry they believe needs fixing and do it themselves.  To them, protests on campus are silly displays by free spirits who are wasting their time. 

John Mayer wrote a song, “Waiting on the World to Change” and while I like what he says and I enjoy listening to the song, I often find myself hating the message he gives.  He essentially says that the younger generations are passively waiting for the older generations to die out and that when this happens, the world will change.  But what John Mayer and many of my peers fail to realize is that progress in history didn’t wait.  And while protests for Sudan divestment on campuses around the United States may not always accomplish their main goal, they do accomplish two things: 1. progress is making universities aware of student concerns  2. a message to the world that not everybody accepts what they are told.

The main thing with power is not that it comes in many shades, but simply that it exists.  Freedom is only possible when a person decides to ignore its existence.  Therefore, those students who I envy that ignore the power their classmates have that affects their reputation, the power that the government or university has that tells them to be quiet and their own individual power that tells them that there could be consequences to their action; those are students who are more free that most citizens. 

Activism at college is dying, though there are students who will continue to fight for what they believe in regardless of any power source.  And those students who refuse to become part of these student groups may in fact one day help the government, corporate world or social thought to progress from the inside, but who’s to say these activists won’t do the same one day?  The issue with activism is not whether it is right or wrong, it is whether activism should have a definite form.  Whether activism makes people more free.  Whether it would change the ignorance of college students if it became lost.

So here, we are faced with two roads.  College students and older citizens alike.  To take the road less traveled and ignore the power the our fellow human beings hold over us.  To protest, to join human rights groups, to write letter to editor and to the CEOs and to whatever organization the gives us an uneasy feeling that we tend to ignore.  Or we can relish in the comfort of our safe zones, where we prize ourselves on the contentment we feel.  Where we feel no anger at any current situation and allow ourselves to remain safe amidst the power that the ideologies of our nations and fellow human beings hold over our freedom.

The road less traveled or the road trampled?  Unfortunately, I have not yet made my decision.

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A College Kid’s View On Why Church is getting Less Popular

December 18, 2007

It seems that a lot of adult ministers are facing a dilemma in the world.  Christianity and church are running becoming increasingly unpopular in my generation.  I can attest to being one of the many who doesn’t go to church very often.  I believe God, however, but the God I see being represented in the media is not the God me and my peers believe in.  In addition, the cult like atmosphere of church makes us uncomfortable.  We are a generation of freedom, not restriction. 

Generally, we are Generation Proof or Generation Why, because we demand proof for all of the hard, skeptical questions we have.  Rarely has any church been able to answer our questions.  The reason for this is that our questions are interpreted as judgemental and we seem to have already judged the answer.  But the truth is, we have the gene to question authority.  We want all sides of the story.  We want to hear about your doubts in religion, we want to hear that you don’t know all these answers and we want you to answer our questions.  Preaching only that “Jesus saves” to people who aren’t like the kids in “Jesus Camp” produces horrible results on the whole.

I doubt my generation will be a very strong “church going” generation aside from the evangelical children being taught as in “Jesus Camp.”  We will be a generation of faith though, just not restricted in a church.  If you practice youth ministry, my advice would be to ask genuinely without expectations what they want out of religion and how they see God in their lives.

In addition, atheism is growing among my generations for the same reasons above going to church for believes has diminished.  I can guarantee, especially being on a college campus, that there is astounding number of believers in God who just don’t want part in any church.  In essence, church isn’t appealing.  Ask people my age why.

One last comment, my generation has a lot invested in the idea that personal responsibility in necessary.  We face a lot of expectations from parents, school and society, so church is just another place for expectations we don’t want to deal with.  The new ministry that a lot of seek is one the “preaches” personal ability and trusting in yourself.  After all (Imago Dei), if everyone has a piece of God, truly taking the time to make decisions based on what you heart tells you will lead to the will of God, right?


Talkin’ Bout My Generation

December 17, 2007

Andrew: My God, are we gonna be like our parents?
Claire: Not me…ever.
Allison: It’s unavoidable, it just happens.
Claire: What happens?
Allison: When you grow up, your heart dies.  

This is dialogue from The Breakfast Club.  I used to like this movie because I thought it was fun and entertaining.  Not until recently did it actually mean something to me.  It summarized the themes of conversations around my university dinner table.  That’s right, the college kid is in town. 

I am in the 15-25 year range.  Our 3rd leading cause of death is suicide.  There is 1 suicide for every 100-200 attempts.  In 2005, 16.9% of high school students had considered suicide in the 12 months prior to the survey.  Our problem?   It hurts too much to go on.  The problems never seem to end and nobody seems to really listen or ask the right questions.  It’s less about dying and more about escape.

If we make it through: 79% of us (13-25) wants to work for a company that cares about how it impacts and contributes to society.  More than ever, college graduates are taking a gap year to work for non-profit organizations.  Our motivation?  To not be what we watch, what we play and what we listen to.  And in the end, it’s about making sure that the problems we see are eliminated.  We are only as strong as our weakest member.

I used relish in the idea of being an adult.  I would have complete control of my life.  Then I realized that being young is the most freedom I will ever have… if I become the adult America wants me to be.  Allison (the “freak”) says that our hearts die when we become adults.  My generation does not want to be adults because we are afraid.  We do not want our hearts to die. We do not want our passion to diminish.  It seems a little ironic that we don’t want our hearts to die, yet so many of us attempt or at least think about suicide.  It happens because we are passionate and every detail in our lives is blown up.  Our hearts are very alive and we take everything magnifyed compared to adults.  So we escape through getaways and some can’t find one, so they decide to leave.  At the root of it all, the adventure in life that we seek is too appealing to let go for the tainted adulthood that awaits us.  Whoever said it gets better when you get older was lying.  It only gets better when you make it happen, at any age.  That’s the part left out of the education system.  As a young adult, though, sometimes we only have tunnel vision.  We know we’ll need to grow up, but the pressure can be too much.  It may be pressure different from past generations, but it is still very real.

For those of us who find the strength to make it through the misunderstanding and the pressure, we seek to change the world and make it easier for future generations.  The public activism of older generations has been transformed into personal activism within our specific lives.  Still, we are reluctant to enter the “real world.”  We were told immaturity, peer pressure and all the “teen” issues stopped at adulthood.  The truth is that they only become more passive aggressive and more institutionalized.  I’m sure any adult in the workplace can testify. 

Adulthood:   

  • Discovery of new things becomes limited
  • Freedom – only within the reigns of what is accepted by society; you make choice based on how you think you will be percieved
  • Honesty happens less – desparate housewives is based on a true story
  • It’s harder to apologize
  • You lose touch with your children’s generation 
  • The workplace is horrible (see “The Office” but in real life)
  • It’s harder to change (adults rarely evaluate their beliefs when questioned)
  • The illusion of being “too old” – you are never “too” old, why does this thought happen

The 15-25 Getaway:

  • Alcohol and drug abuse (more than just use) – instant relief from reality
  •  Music.  It expresses us.  It listened before we talked.
  •  Art.  It says without having to bother with words.  It is a translation.
  • Sex (abuse).  Somebody needs to love us, this is the easiest way to get it.
  • The internet.  What we write, what we read, it’s ours.  Nobody else has to interfere.
  • Video Games.  Fun.  Not schoolwork, news, parents, pressure. It stimulates.
  • Books and Magazines.  Something else.  Someone else.  Something more.  Something better.  

These getaways shouldn’t be necessary.  It’s not just our problem.  18-25 years and younger is not enough time to evaluate and then screw up.  The growing up process needs help from society.  It takes a village to raise a child.  The movies, games, music and television aren’t the only problems.  In the words of John Wooden, “Young people need models, not critics.”

The Point: 
This isn’t only for adults; this is a point for my peers too.  What you see on the surface of 18-25 yr olds is not what lies beneath.  The truth is never shown at first glance.  It is always put at a deeper position so that it can be earned.  If you’re a parent, stop talking, believe me, they know where you stand and they’ve taken from you what they think they need.  There’s so much you do not know despite how much they tell you.  If you’re a “child expert”, you don’t know the half of it.  If you’re just an adult, re-evaluate what you think.  If your one of us, screw it and just do what you need to do, this is your only chance to make sure that when you grow up, “you’re heart doesn’t die.”  The power to change the world is already in our hands.  We don’t have to do it like our parents; we can be the change, not protest for it.  Change what adulthood means.  Make it about discovery, learning, maturing and acceptance.  

Most importantly, never let your heart die. (too you adults, get it back and poppin’)

Stats and Facts (evaluate your views):

http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/dvp/suicide/
http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2007-12-12-emerging-adults_N.htm?csp=34&POE=click-refer
http://www.marcandangel.com/2007/08/17/what-is-adulthood-20-defining-characteristics-of-a-true-adult/
Business Today Magazine. Fall 2007. Volume 44, Issue 2. – put out by Princeton (not my college. nope.)  It’s a good read for young aspiring adults and adults who want a refreshing perpective.