Generation Y: Wake-up call badly needed

Perspectives Editor

As the final days of the semester approach, there comes a time to start making some serious life decisions, a time when we step outside of ourselves for once and think about our collective futures as a new generation of Americans comes of age.

Still, much of what we talk about on a daily basis is whether or not to take that entry-level job. For others, it involves whether to continue their studies (and, subsequently, their debt) at a graduate institution. Still, for others, it involves where in the world to go and what in the world to do after receiving that diploma. But are we really asking ourselves the important questions?

Most here tend to think everything will be A-OK after we part ways, and why not? Many Pepperdine students have never had to worry much about money — we have spent four years in a paradise that celebrates success and wealth, and we, as a generation, have never had to endure anything that could be qualified as a true “hardship.” We’ve had it pretty good ... so far.

The more I see the grip that commercialism, technology and the media has on us, the more it seems we have been lulled to sleep with what exactly is going on in the world and how much of a stake it has in our future. Ironically, these gadgets were supposed to make us more connected, but it seems they have achieved the opposite. We have dangerously adopted the defeatist mentality that, “if it doesn’t effect me, I don’t care” since we have so many other “important” things to occupy our time.

Over the weekend, I was watching a documentary about the youth uprising in the 1960s and the generational wars occurring across the entire country. The times were spontaneous and exciting. White college students risked their own life to help enfranchise African-Americans in Mississippi. College campuses were the centers of political activism and protests. Cops were beating protestors in major cities. People such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were encouraging people to get involved and changed the way we looked at issues such as war and racism that had plagued us for years. It seemed society had reached a boiling point and the explosion was imminent.

The differences between our parent’s generation and ours are painfully clear: we are just too distracted to care. It feels as if we are caught in a monotonous grip where everything seems relative and there is too much on our plate to possibly comprehend.

We’ve been standing on the sidelines as a war on two fronts has raged for nearly five years. We have a government so arrogant and careless that when an ABC News reporter asked our vice president about the two-thirds of Americans that believe the war in Iraq is not worth the sacrifice, his reply was, “So?” The idea that they do not care about the concerns of everyday Americans is utterly clear in this statement. But they know they can get away with comments like this, because what do we care about? Typing away endlessly on our CrackBerry or planning our day around the season finale of “Lost” seem to take the cake.

How did this come to be? When did the peace symbol turn into a fashion icon instead of an actual cause? What happened to youthful idealism? And more importantly, what will it take to wake us up to issues we should be caring about?

Granted, Pepperdine has never exactly been on par with a Berkeley or Brown with regard to activism, but there is a serious void here of social activism that needs to be addressed. For one, approval for flyers on campus is a ludicrous policy that slaps free speech and free expression in the face in the name of aesthetic beauty. And the “Freedom Wall” is not enough, since it provides the same meager free speech “opportunities” that are afforded to those in Communist China (see Beijing’s “Democracy Wall”).

The largest ever student activist group, Students for a Democratic Society, proved in the 60s that student activism could accomplish amazing things. And we need it more than ever because if we, as a generation, do not wake up, our ignorance and passiveness very well might come back to bite us down the road — if it is not already biting us now. For all the ridicule of the 1960s youth movement by today’s hard-liners, never let them tell you they did not accomplish anything because that could not be further from the truth.

Just ask yourself what would give you more satisfaction? Getting that high score in Guitar Hero or knowing that you played a part in changing American society for the better? Where we go from here as a generation could highly depend on how you answer.