Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Protests for greater democracy are being led by students in Hong Kong. These students are boycotting classes, a move that could put their tenuous careers in jeopardy. They are giving up solid advancement in a system they find corrupt in order to make a better future for the society as a whole.
I admire that.
When I listen to the interviews I hear enthusiasm, aliveness, passion, and vision of better life.
And I wonder if many of my students, or I for that matter, could take such a stand.
Americans, I hate to say it, have gone pretty soft. "Me-me" culture reigns supreme. The common good is a distant afterthought. On top of that, most students live a virtual world that doesn't much politicize them.
We are missing out on something.
When people stand up for something, a principle bigger than themselves, especially one that speaks the truth of poverty, injustice, or corruption to power, they are infused with energy.
I had a small taste of this in my student days at Madison when my fellow politicos and I went to "Survival Gatherings" and other political marches. I got arrested for civil disobedience and did workshops on non-violent resistance.
Yes, there is a veil of nostalgia over those times, but I also remember the days as some of the best of my life. I didn't care so much about my career, or about job security, or health insurance. I was single and able to live on next to nothing.
Of course, things have changed. I am more responsible. But I am also less excited about the difference my work might make.
I watch, with no small resignation, news of the widening gaps between rich and poor. I look at my paycheck and see that I am making less, in real terms, than I was thirty years ago.
In short, working people are getting screwed by the systems set up to benefit the wealthiest Americans.
Millennials are looking down the barrel of reduced wages and opportunity. And they are a wildly creative bunch who know how to work together.
It bothers me that the "old guard" is so set against giving them education and opportunity. They are like a bunch of spoiled children afraid that they might have to share some of their toys. They live for the bottom line and are as ruthless with the environment as they are with their fellow Americans.
And "we," the ones who work for a living, mostly, don't stand up to do anything about it. When you need money, you do what the people writing the checks tell you to do.
The result, for me, is depression, resignation, desire for distraction. (And there is plenty of distraction.)
Just sayin, and just noticing.
It is a hard choice to make, but maybe the cure is to risk everything again for the next generation.
The recent marches in New York drawing attention to climate change and the need to respond are one indicator that people may be waking up. I say more of that.
Here's to the thrill of waking up and putting it on the line.