I’m just imagining how surreal it would be to have class with James Franco. Not only that, but it would be even more surreal to be in a class about Beat poetry with him at a time when he’s starring as Allen Ginsberg.
Treatise on the Current State of Higher Education: How the Millennial Generation has Codified Their Flaws Within the Institutions of Student Government
Generational disparity is a constant attribute of human existence. With the ebb and flow of time, the differences between young and old become apparent; however, the current distinction between age groups has never been as apparent as it is today. The rapid change of technology has radically affected the interplay between the various factions of society- most notably the conflict between those in power, Generation X, and those attempting to assume power, the Millennials. For the purpose of demography, I consider those older than the age of 30 but younger than the age of 50 to be members of Generation X. The Millennials are comprised of those born between 1980 and 2000. Furthermore, I acknowledge that I, myself, am a member of the Millennial generation and that I also possess many of these same flaws. However, to say that I am incapable of objective observation would be naive; Madison was able to critique his own generation, as shall I.
Barefoot for Babies, Day of Silence, and the Ineffectiveness of Silent Protest
[n. proh-test; v. pruh-test, proh-test]
Noun: an expression or declaration of objection, disapproval, or dissent, often in opposition to something a person is powerless to prevent or avoid
There are few things more American than civil dissent; except perhaps baseball, racism, and the Alien & Sedition Acts- but we don’t like to talk about the latter two. Activism has been a critical piece in the construction of American democracy for the past two hundred years. However, I fear that activism, and its potency, are diminished in both drive and effect due to trends in contemporary society. I say this due to empirical observation, not theoretical pondering. It’s through my experiences that I feel activism, and the application of it through protest have dwindled into obscurity; what’s more important is the effect this has on our democracy and what we must do to prevent it.
Bearfoot for Babies is a movement which began in 2009, and the relatively recent inception of the event is what makes it so relevant to my thesis. The week long protest grew out of a group of students who were involved in on-campus religious organizations- most notably Bear Catholic. The event takes place during “Life Week,” a seven day affair with events ranging from rosaries to documentary screenings. However, throughout the entire week students are encouraged to go barefoot. This means throughout class, dining, and living in a communal environment, students are choosing to lose the shoes in order to show their support for a pro-life agenda.
The program is couched with the idea that going barefoot is about, “putting aside personal comfort and social norms.” And yet, traversing normal social boundaries like sexual orientation and gender roles is taboo. Social norms are only arbitrary when we want them to be; at least, according to this event they are. The chosen nomenclature makes participants out to be martyrs, as they’re subjecting themselves to discomfort and stares from people because they’re neglecting to cover a normally hidden part of their body. God forbid women show midriff though- that’d be offensive.
However, it’s the unwillingness to engage in a discussion about women’s rights and abortion policies that really unhinges the entire event. It’s a week of exclusivity and moral elitism- it’s a visual way to distinguish between those who practice a certain ethical code and those that don’t. It’s about discouraging pro-choice advocates from voicing their concerns regarding pro-life policies. It’s not about civil discourse and thus it’s contrary to the entire purpose of protest- to effect.
Were Bearfoot for Babies a form of positive and effectual form of activism, I’d have little problem. It’s simply a juvenile way for conservative students to feel like martyrs, for them to feel like they’re acting on unfounded ethical obligations. However, this obtuse form of protest isn’t limited to the right- it’s infested the once prestigious institution of liberal activism. One such example is the Day of Silence.
The purpose of the Day of Silence is to make a statement regarding verbal and physical abuse towards members of the GLBT community. However, making a statement through silence isn’t making a statement; to prove a point only serves a purpose if someone can provide a rebuttal, and providing a rebuttal is irrelevant when your audience chooses to remain silent. The Day of Silence isn’t initiating conversation, it’s refusing it. It’s pandering to those who commit acts of abuse toward the GLBT community; it’s sinking to their level. 1000 silent voices is only that- silent voices. It’s when those 1000 voices work in unison, with the same message, that change happens. Through dialogue and discourse, vicissitude occurs- not through silence.
My greatest fear is that this trend regarding citizen engagement in government is that lethargy is the dominant train when speaking of attitudes toward public life. It’s the apathetic view that my generation approaches issues with; be clear that I said apathetic, not cynical. It’s not that my generation doesn’t think they can make a difference in our world, it’s just that they don’t care to. And when they decide to engage with the community, on a regional, national, or global scale, it’s half-assed and passive. What happened to Madison, WI in the 60’s? Apparently, those people grew up, became libertarians, and joined the Tea Party movement; because there is no greater sign of the end times when the most participatory demographic in public discourse are middle-aged white folk.
I can’t blame participants in either of these events for their unknown contribution to societal changes. In every aspect of society, citizens are increasingly discouraging public discourse. There is a greater emphasis on impartiality and unbiased information. And this is a problem. Bias is everywhere, and it’s a good thing. Opinions drive debate, and thus change. Only through people arguing distinct opinions and divulging their thoughts in public can we expect social evolution. Those who have the courage to stand up in public to espouse their political ideology have a moral obligation to do so, and those that shy away from public discourse are morally reprehensible for neglecting their social responsibility.
Just as Uncle Ben once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” If you live in the United States, you have great power. Thus, you have a responsibility to engage in verbal and active protest- not silent activism.
1. Dogtooth 2. Exit Through the Gift Shop 3. The Social Network 4. Secret in their Eyes 5. Terribly Happy 6. Mother 7. Winter’s Bone 8. Trash Humpers 9. The Kids Are All Right 10. Valhalla Rising 11. Animal Kingdom 12. The Loved Ones 13. The Town 14. Mic Macs 15. Shutter Island 16. How to Train Your Dragon 17. A Prophet 18. Greenberg 19. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World 20. Get Low
Every film I’ve seen in 2010, with its respective letter grade:
Daybreakers: B- Youth in Revolt: B+ Book of Eli: C+ From Paris With Love: C Secret in Their Eyes: A Terribly Happy: A Mother: A Winter’s Bone: A- The Loved Ones: A- Mic Macs: B+ Valentine’s Day: C- The Wolfman: C- Shutter Island: B+ The Ghost Writer: B The Crazies: B A Prophet: A- Alice in Wonderland: F Greenzone: C+ How to Train Your Dragon: A Kick Ass: B The Losers: C- Exit Through the Gift Shop: A+ Harry Brown: B Trash Humpers: A- Prince of Persia: D Splice: B+ Toy Story 3: B+ Dogtooth: A+ Restrepo: B The Last Airbender: F Predators: B The Kids Are All Right: A- Inception: B+ Dinner for Schmucks: C- Greenberg: B+ Get Low: B+ The Other Guys: B Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: B+ The Machete: B The Town: B+ Valhalla Rising: B+ Animal Kingdom: A- Mars: D- Cyrus: B Monsters: B+ Brotherhood: B+ Putty Hill: B Higanjima: B- Tiny Furniture: B+ The Happy Poet: D+ Centurion: B The People vs. George Lucas: B Crying With Laughter: C- Tony: C+ The Runaways: C+ Some Days Are Better Than Others: C Saturday Night: B Waking Sleeping Beauty: A- Going the Distance: B+ Wall Street 2: B The Social Network: A+ Total: 58