Monday, March 29, 2010

Vol #1, Col #6: You Say You Wanna Revolution? Well You Know, Then Start Doing What YOU Can!

If the 50s embraced traditionalism, the zeitgeist of the 60s was one of revolution, and those growing up during the 70s were characterized as belonging to the “me generation”, then the children, such as myself, who came into their own throughout the painted-faced hair metal and Nirvana decades comprise the most apathetic cohorts, to date. We bitch and bitch and bitch about how hard we’ve got it, and how much is wrong with the world, yet very few of us actually endeavour to engage in collective action in order to make a difference. As we all know from the not-so-far off “swinging 60s”, while all revolutions originate with a mere single voice, they require the support of many; otherwise they bubble and fizzle away.

This is precisely our problem: I believe there are progressive forward-thinking individuals out there the same as there have always been, but because of the structure of modern society, along with the values we promote, people our age are less apt to even bother voting, let alone take part in a countercultural movement as controversial as let’s say the anti-Vietnamers known as “The Weatherman”. In my view, this “blah” indifferent mentality stems from a combination of the following factors:

Ah, “The (North) American Dream” and the “Be All You Can Be” speech from the army are just a small sampling of the individualistic-oriented messages that are shoved down our throats on a daily basis. For that matter, if we do receive collective ‘calls to action’, they are rarely inclusive to all parties (ie: they usually have a narrow focus, be it gender, sexual, or ethnic specific-rights that are being fought for).

As a consequence, we get so completely caught up in the struggles of our own lives (after all, we’re told that’s where the emphasis SHOULD be) that we often neglect others, not realizing, of course, that EVERYTHING we do affects other persons, irrespective of whether said actions were intended to do so. Ironically, while we claim to be more “connected” than ever before, in actuality, we are further apart.

In a word, society has gotten “complicated”. As much as the discourse surrounding globalization makes claims that cultural mixing and integration lessen racism, and lead to more “universal” humanistic notions of culture, I think it’s fairly apparent that this is not the reality.

The US, especially in regards to popular culture (a major vehicle through which values are propagated), has maintained a position of hegemony over other countries for quite some time. While this is changing due to the aforementioned nation’s economic situation, it would be a downright lie to claim that certain countries (and accordingly, their views/cultures), not to mention certain ethnicities WITHIN those countries remain privileged at the expense of others.

We as people and the UN as an institutional body, cannot agree on what morals, ethics, values, laws, and the like should (and “if” is really the question) apply to all persons at all times. As a consequence, when it comes to binding together to fight against a so-called “common enemy” (which brings me to my next point), the decision as to whom that person(s) is/are, in it of itself, is a problem.

While I strongly maintain that the best judgements are informed by a multitude of perspectives (“nationalism kills”, people), it’s very difficult to make any solid decisions when such perspectives are conflicting, rather than complementary. In the end, it is impossible to please everyone, and because we live in a capitalist society (which ties in heavily to our promotion of individualism), well, those with the “big guns” (ie: the moula) typically win out.

Should we blame our parents? The media? The government? The CEOs of multi-national corporate conglomerates? Society as a whole? Men? Women? The ethnic minorities? OR the victims themselves for the world’s growing plethora of problems?

We quite simply can’t, as a society, agree on towards whom we should be pointing our fingers. Everyone’s got a different theory, but not one is free from partisanship or personal biases.

I personally don’t think we should be attempting to scapegoat anyone as the sole perpetrator. Rather, I’d like to see a world in which EVERYONE does their part (that’s my call to collective action, take it or leave it), but that’s just me…

The days of John Lennon, Mother Teresa and Princess Di are sadly long gone. Instead, we’d rather glamourize completely talentless celebs like Paris Hilton and/or make the indiscretions of pro athletes like Tiger Woods “breaking news.”

The problem with the mass media (especially when it comes to influencing the impressionable minds of our adolescents – ie: our future leaders) is that it has become nothing more than a vehicle of distraction and entertainment. At one point, those with a message used the media to promote their cause(s) and gain recruits, and if the major news outlets wouldn’t listen, they’d start their own. Now, even our news broadcasts are laughable at this point – they’ve become about nothing more than the 30 second sound-byte.

While there are a few amazing candidates out there like Bono or Angelina who are sincerely trying to make the world a better place, not only are their efforts frequently overshadowed by the latest Tinseltown scandal (shows you where our values are), but further, when they do receive airtime for their goodwill activities, the media often constructs their actions as calculated – nothing more than a means of reputation management.

While admittedly there is certainly no shortage of global-reaching societal crises at this current point in history, among my list of my top five biggest pet peeves is: complaining coupled with inaction. Too many people feel completely overwhelmed by the sheer volume of maladies that our modern world has to contend with. As a consequence, they remain stagnant. IMAGINE IF EVERYONE HAD THIS VIEW.

While I don’t expect any of you (as I could hardly expect such of myself) to go out there and crusade against every single dilemma that is currently plaguing humanity whether it be in accordance with environmental concerns, human rights violations, organized crime or what have you, I don’t believe it is too much to ask everyone to try and contribute in their own way. There is ALWAYS someone who has it worse off than you, I assure you (especially considering the comfortable lives in which we live on this end of the globe).

It’s as easy as picking up after yourself, volunteering at a soup kitchen, sending money or other goods for relief, adopting a rescue animal, assisting an elder who is struggling with their groceries, or even encouraging a friend or acquaintance to seek counsel for his/her psychological distress. It doesn’t matter what it is, JUST DO SOMETHING (for someone other than yourself, that is).

Because we live in an industrialized wealthy Western nation, we tend to ignore the problems that are colouring our very own backyards. For example, did you know that the UN has flagged Canada’s homeless problem as one that we should seriously be ashamed of?

But let me clarify - it’s not as though the majority of us doesn’t give a shit about our own. Rather the emphasis (again thanks to the media) is almost invariably placed on the tortures and sufferings of those from undeveloped nations. Therefore, we remain ignorant regarding our home-grown predicaments. This, my friends, is by NO accident (but I don’t have time to dissect the political and ideological frameworks that inform and shape our mass media).

What it comes down to is this: how do you weigh one human’s life as being more valuable than another’s or one human’s problem(s) as being more severe than another’s? Isn’t everything relative? When faced with highly emotionally-charged questions like this, too many people would rather opt for the easy way out, than face their own biases. The result yet again? Inertia.

The point to this entire rant of mine is as follows: although we have wars, moral panics, and epidemics just the same as we did in the past, joint movements in protest of a better world, in demand of a more tolerance societyNO longer occur, and I’d like you to consider why. It’s not just oversaturation. It’s not just distraction. Something has sincerely altered our value system, and in my view, it ain’t for the better.

If I were born in the 60s, you can bet your bottom dollar, I would have been up there in the front lines fighting for what I believe in. Nowadays, it seems like a feat just to get people to come out to an awareness-raising charity event. ‘Tis a sad state indeed. Let’s change it. Break out those bellbottoms. I wanna revolution.