John Mayer has a new album coming out this month, just in time for autumn. The lead single is “Waiting on the World to Change” and it’s one of those songs that has a socio-political message and inevitably it got me thinking about what’s been happening lately. This isn’t one of those philosophical incoherent ramblings rather a sincere attempt to understand the message that has come to define our generation.
It used to be that social revolutions were inspiring, an insurgency, and a sight to see. We read about them in history books to the point that we believe the ability to change the status quo has always lied in the values alive and kicking at the citizenry. The ability to attempt something revolutionary has its degrees. It can be angry mobs, coup detats or editorials; revolutions have come in all sizes and packages with the fundamental outcome: change. I am not talking about political revolutions or the overthrowing of governments; we’ve had plenty of those in the past half century that resulted in fairly little. I am talking about the people; the revolutionary ideas that planted seeds to create flourishing minds.
Many of those ideals described to our generation in history books have all but died. Perhaps the advancements that have happened in the world have left less to be desired from change. Did the industrial revolution kill the social revolution like video killed the radio star? There is poverty, war, unemployment, diseases and disasters of both a human and divine nature, but one can argue there’s less of it all around. Our generation is living in a better world than what had existed a century ago. Rapid advancement has created a generation that is less inclined to rise up against the status quo. If people are angry with the world today what must have life been like before air conditioning?
This is just one reason though; there are many others that attempt to explain why our generation has been pretty lazy despite all the new outlets to voice our opinions and discontents. We have comparatively less to fear from oppression and censorship.
Instead we feel useless, like there’s nothing we can do to inspire change. Even wars these days have done little to mobilize the masses. The revolutionary idea and the revolutionary movement has been commercialized, whittle down to a Che Guevara t-shirt.
What’s worse is we expect a lot from the world but do little to challenge it or push it along. We tend to blame leadership or lack thereof as the source of all our problems. The two characteristics that have come to define my generation is the ability to blame others as well as the tendency to rely on others to get things done for us. Everything has become automatic for my generation and we’re willing to pay for it like pizza delivery. If there were “revolutionaries for hire” they’d make a fortune and we could all sit back and watch them do their work on live television. Perhaps all future revolutions will have to be televised.
I don’t have the answers but it hasn’t stopped me from wondering about the causes; wondering what ever happened to that spark that lit the world on fire. Perhaps it’s the media, perhaps its apathy, perhaps we’ve been spoiled, and perhaps we’re waiting for inspiration.
I’ll be interested to see what will finally be my generation’s tipping point but meanwhile…
We just keep on waiting on the world to change.
In your post you show how passiveness might be a recent thing, and how our generation might be exceptionally lazy about the responsibility we bear to get involved with politics. But I disagree, since in history you find many examples that illustrate our current situation very well.
But before I get to that, let me make another point: Revolution is, just like any other change or improvement, a two-sided coin. Many revolutions have had their victims as well, and rarely have all those victims been guilty.
Take Napoleon, who disappointed the masses by establishing another monarchy, leading his soldiers into war instead of securing a peaceful society in his home country. Or the German people, who thought they rose against unjust conditions of the first world war and then became one of the most savage oppressors of documented human history. These are the downsides and risks we should keep in mind before we call for and/or glorify revolution.
But education has undergone a strikingly beautiful revolution, more and more people can read and write, and basic mathematical and scientific knowledge has become accessible to people around (at least the rich part of) the world. Though I doubt whether we are any more educated than the ancient Greek, the philosophers of old Persia or the writers of the romantic and classicistic Europe.
Now you might wonder just what I am getting at. I think we are not just waiting on the world to change. You have your blog, and so do others, and we are exchanging opinions and at least working intellectually on the problems that haunt our world. The masses might seem passive and helpless, but there has always been a “critical mass” among those masses, who eventually acted and maybe even improved the world a little bit. So if people like you and me continue to deal with this world intellectually, and eventually find a way to go beyond just thinking and talking, we might already be having a little bit of an impact on the world. WeÃ¢??ll probably not turn it into the garden Eden, but undoing our predecessorÃ¢??s faults without creating new ones would be an achievement. So all we have to really be beware of is that in case this is another revolution, we have to make it one without friendly fire and collateral damage.
I agree with you to an extent. Napoleon is one example of dissapointment and the same can be said of khomeini, although these revolutions are in part political…the overthrowing of a government and the replacing it with tyranny. it is an extreme form of change as opposed to citizenry that can impose change through social revolutions, demonstrations, protests, organization, mobilization, information, persistance.
I’m also not sure to what extent intellectualism can have a significant impact on social paradigms. sitting around and talking, analyzing, discussing and exchanging ideas is all fine and dandy but it is too slow a process and often not responsive enough to current social demands.
You are making a good point about the questionable impact of discussions. Then what kind of action would you consider more effective and realizable for people who are working outside of politics or the media, and have only their spare time to make a difference?
You mentioned demonstrations, but from my experience they have not helped much in the past 20 years. Demonstrations I witnessed just took place, were mentioned in the newspapers and then forgotten about. Organization sounds more effective, along with the persistence and information you mentioned.
It sounds like you have put some thought into this topic already, so I would be happy to hear what your idea of such a revolution would be.
florian, yeah demonstrations have not changed much and thats the problem. when was the last time we saw a million man march? this is what i was trying to point out. utilizing politics and media is a must for our generation, even if organizations or lobbies are formed they have to integrate those two key elements in order to achieve anything significant. it’s not that i have all the answers or anything its just mind boggling that with everyone carrying a cell phone and having access to the internet and other methods of communication you would think mass mobilization of people could be instantaneous and numerous but it is neither.
Well I was thinking about the important role of politics and media, and you are right about their necessity. It’s just worrying me sometime just what bad statements are made in that field, and how dirty the fights in politics actually get. But I guess we can’t do without them, and sometimes you have to be confronting a group that scares or bothers you in order to achieve your goals. Though it must be hard to be involved with the media.
Now a crucial question would be: What kind of movement could gather enough momentum and people? Is there any way to join confessions and religions and even atheists with a common denominator? I mean if you browse through forums about environmentalism, tree-huggers, christians, muslims, jews and many more groups, it always seems to me that we are all pretty much the same, and so are our views. Makes me think of K-os who sings in “Clap Ur Handz”: I’m not a muslim but I still say Salaam.
Then what is the goal of such a rebellion, as K-os worded it? Driving cars that run only on renewable energy, fight drug abuse and mindless music on mtv and Materialism? Well, I think there are tons of interesting topics out there that could improve our lives a great deal. Just the outline is kind of missing.
Sorry to put fourth so many questions. But I thought they might be worth discussing. Even when intellectualism doesn’t really help improve anything;-)