Saturday, October 13, 2007

My Internet Generation

Insert deep sigh here

Lately, I am unconvinced by the convictions of my generation. It's like somewhere along the way, we all collectively decided to "drink the kool aid," consequences be damned.

The New York Times hosted a little college essay contest and the winning entry entitled "The Posteverything Generation" managed to both sour my stomach and remind me of the futility of the "me" generation.

Perhaps we've been ruined by instantaneity, in the sense that we've become a people who believe that anything worth doing is worth doing right now, regardless of how half-baked and poorly executed the result. The idea that and Facebook groups are somehow a replacement for actual protest and revolutionary tactics is beyond me. What is the conferred advantage of rapidly accessible information at the flick of a switch?

Myanmar, for one, does not seem to be benefiting. No offense, but screw your Facebook group asking me to join in solidarity for the monks being slaughtered in the streets of military junta-run Burma. Did that click-click-clicking do them any good? Did I save a life? Did I actively move the government of Myanmar closer to resolution? I'm afraid not. But did I feel smugly better about myself. You betcha. That seems to be the sole intent of these web-based protests. A pacifier, something to placate that unsettling feeling of wrongness that soaks your conscience if you are so masochistic as to read the international section.

Do I have an alternative? I'm not sure I do. I'm questioning a lot of things right now.

The more educated I become, the farther estranged I feel. From old friends, from family, from the earth itself. I see an entire contingent of bright beautiful people having a lot of fun, and I wonder if I am missing something. Am I working too hard? Do I really think that all this effort will bear fruit on some grand scale? Or do I narrow my scope? Does the deferment of gratification ever end, or do I keep on working this hard forever?

I guess my point is that there is a nice balance in there somewhere. Whether you join Big Brothers/Big Sisters and spend some quality time with an underprivileged kid, teach an ESL class one night a week, start a community garden, go to a developing country and meet a family you want to help out by putting one of their kids through school, volunteer a weekend to clean up a park or river, go to a city council meeting, make a conscious effort to not shop at Walmart, stop eating factory farmed meat, smile at someone on the street, mow your elderly neighbor's lawn...the list is infinite. Joining a Facebook group or signing an online petition seems like the easy way out.

No, I don't think that I can stop what is happening in Myanmar, or Sudan, or the Democratic Republic of Congo, or (enter totally screwed place here).
In some sense, the fact that we've been made aware of all these things seems to have had an anesthetizing, rather than empowering effect.

I do think that we can use our own individual skills and creative genius to make big changes. I think it will take time. But most of all, it will take effort, not button pushing.

I am not afraid to admit that there is much more I don't know than there is I will ever know. I am not afraid to celebrate my smallness. I am not afraid to tell you exactly what I see. I am not afraid to try to make a difference, no matter how small, with my tiny, precious little life.


Anonymous said...

The tragedy of life is what dies in the hearts and souls of people while they live. You'll know in your beautiful soul when its time to stop deferring gratification, and act. The mind is not a vessel to be filled, it is a fire to be ignited.

ruminations said...

Sorry to hear that you feel estranged from the family ( I am part of that and don't feel estranged from you)
It is a good thing to realize, as you seem to, that each of us is a tiny little part of humanity and really not very important in the overall sceme of things. Lighten up. It is OK to have fun. Don't work too hard.

amycue said...

Francis - I absolutely LOVE the way you write - somehow writing should be a part of what you end up doing as you have a lot of conviction and passion and you are able to convey that through the written word. All that aside - I love that you are questioning so many things right now - rang a special bell with me. I have always thought that the little things we do in our everyday life is what will utimatly make this world better - being kind or actively paying attention will somehow make this world a touch improved. By the way, you will not always be working this hard - take a deep breath - once you are out of college things will slow down and you will find that balance. Walmart? You have bought into that it is an evil empire? I love that it has fought off unioninzing - that it hires so many people that otherwise would not have jobs (they do have health insurance by the way) - I don't shop there because I don't like to and have a choice - but I don't think they are "evil".....Amy

Kathy Hernandez said...

Some people are content to cast their sail into the wind and let the current take them where it will. The drifters. You are not one of them. It is well known that hard work pays off in the long run. The rewards will justify the means, though they are anything but intantaneous.