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.