Measured Against Reality

Monday, April 16, 2007

Am I just young?

I can hardly read the news any more because it makes me so angry. I see SWAT teams serving minor drug warrants, getting the house wrong, and killing someone. I see nearly one out of every hundred Americans in prison, most for ingesting a substance the government doesn't think they should ingest. I see an absurd imbalance between how the law is applied to different races. I see loving people who are unable to marry because, for some inexplicable reason, other people don't want them to. I see a $200 billion dollar deficit in the budget declared a win. I see an insane war in a far-off country started for no reason, fought for no reason, and continuing for no reason. I see politicians with no ideas, the same ideas, and bad ideas. I see a country that can't continue existing like it has been, because it will collapse under its own weight.

But I'm not dumb. I know that people have always thought that the present is different than, more urgent than the past. And I know that young people (more or less) always feel cheated, always hate those in power, always rebel against it.

For the past few weeks I've been wondering if I should be so pissed off. I'm never going to stop caring about the injustices in the world, but I can't help thinking that maybe the present isn't so different, isn't so special. I feel like it is, but I have no perspective. I wasn't even old enough to vote in 2004, how can I know what people my age felt like in the past?

So I'm asking those who are older, those who have seen more, read more, heard more, and experienced more than I, should I be so pissed off? Is this hour somehow different from the last? Is there cause to worry that we may soon pass the point of no return on the descent into our self-destruction? Or am I just an uppity young man discovering the ugliness and absurdity of the world for the first time, and finding its taste too bitter?

I'm not asking whether or not I should pay attention and get involved, there's little choice in that matter. But I must know, should I get so angry, or is it just my youth?

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  • It's not just your youth. It's your humanity, as well. I am neither young nor human, and all I can do is laugh when I read the news. Tyranny and stupidity are not new to the human race. You humans might evolve past your need for authority figures, which is the root of most of humanity's misery, but I do not consider that possibility to be particularly likely.

    By Blogger Go Go Chinchilla!, at 8:46 AM, April 16, 2007  

  • Well, you might be young, but I don't think that has anything to do with the things you've noticed.

    All of the problems you've mentioned come from the same source: people using force to change other peoples' behavior.

    Before you start trying to change the world, remember that coercion leads to these problems and that using coercion to change them will only make them worse in the long run. If you really want to make a stand, stand against coercion and the governments and organizations which consider it their moral prerogative to run the lives of others.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:08 AM, April 16, 2007  

  • It's not you. I'm almost 40 and thinking the same thoughts.

    Things today are far, far different than they were (say) when I was a kid in the 70s.

    And when I say "different" I usually mean "worse".

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:44 PM, April 16, 2007  

  • I am 58. Things are different than when I was your age but some things are better (opportunities for women and people of color), some things are worse (global warming, U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East). Anger is appropriate. The trick is to channel it into useful directions. Try reading "Dirty Hands" by Jean Paul Sartre.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:46 PM, April 16, 2007  

  • Stuart, this post is amazingly eloquent. Maybe try to get in published?

    By Blogger Jeremy, at 5:04 PM, April 16, 2007  

  • Jeremy, as far as I'm concerned this is as published as it will get. I'm flattered that you think it's eloquent though.

    By Blogger Stupac2, at 5:07 PM, April 16, 2007  

  • I am young as well, and i feel exactly as you do. I think to myself, am i just going through a phase, and is my concern and outrage misdirected. My family tells me that i am just too idealistic. But i ask you, is being idealistic just a trait of youth that disappears most of the time, or is it a gift, that if we hold on to it long enough, we might use to change the world?

    By Blogger The Haimsonian Principle, at 11:16 PM, April 16, 2007  

  • Very well said Haimsonian.

    By Blogger Stupac2, at 8:31 AM, April 17, 2007  

  • I think I fall somewhere in the middle. (I'm 29) Not exactly young anymore, but I don't want to think of myself as old yet, either (and I know some people who would be really upset if I thought of 29 as old!)

    Anyway, the only thing I couldn't relate to in your post was when you said "I know that people have always thought that the present is different than, more urgent than the past."

    I didn't use to feel that way. I used to watch news footage from the Vietnam era and think, "Gosh, what an interesting and (as you say) "urgent" time." I also wonder if I would have been one of the protesting hippies, like my parents.

    Like I say, I didn't use to feel like our time or our problems ever compared with that era. Now, I think they might rival them, or if I'm being really cynical, surpass them.

    I don't want to belittle the Vietnam war or any of the thousands who died there, but you mention global warming in your first paragraph. I have a degree in science and global warming is not only not a "hoax" (as the religious right likes to bury their heads in the sand and claim) it is going to have potentially catastrophic consequences for the ENTIRE Earth.

    The other difference between these two eras is the lack of protest music (until recently.) Now, I'm starting to see a lot of new music that is biting.

    Earlier I said that I'm sometimes cynical. What I meant was that I think there's a lot we don't know about what's going on these days. One of my favorite lyrics from a modern day protest song:

    "When you trust your television,
    What you get is what you got,
    'Cause when they own the information,
    They can bend it all they want."

    Anyway, I did vote in the last election and I'm still pissed off. So, if it's just the folly of youth that's making you (us) feel that way, well, then apparently I'm still "young" too.

    By the way, I had NO idea you were that young. By your writing, I would have pegged you older than me. (That's a compliment, just in case it doesn't sound like it...)

    By Blogger Terra, at 4:01 PM, April 18, 2007  

  • Terra, you must not have read my short bio on the sidebar, either I'm young or an old Sophomore. But thank you, I do tend to take pride in my writing.

    Also, I didn't mention global warming at all, I didn't actually think of it. But there are dozens of other things I could have listed, those were just ones that had been on my mind as of late. There's so much wrong with the world that it's sometimes hard to find the moments to take solace in what's right.

    By Blogger Stupac2, at 10:14 PM, April 18, 2007  

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