From Tiananmen Square to University of California-Berkeley in the ’60s, student activism has been at the pulse of social justice and political movements. Human rights, civil rights, campaigns against apartheid and animal rights are among the many issues student activists have brought to national attention.
Campuses across the nation have been the post-modern headquarters for social change, allowing students to rise like the cream on the top of the world of social activism. The idealism and energy of student activism is infectious. On campus after campus, it is increasingly commonplace for student activists to learn and utilize political organizing skills to bring about effective social change.
Today, activism is alive and well on college campuses. Whether forming dialogue groups or staging protests and forming networks or coalitions, students are shedding light on the path toward social, economic and political awareness. After several decades of declining interest on college campuses, California has begun to see another resurgence of political activism among those in higher education, making itself an epicenter of political awareness once again.
While the players may have changed, the game remains: war. From Vietnam to Iraq, intelligence to the FBI, television to telecommunications. Many things in the world have changed, and much of it has not. Civil society still struggles with wars our country becomes involved in, transnational corporations still control much of our world and political leaders continue using media to lie and manipulate public opinion.
The barrier that students overcame then was authority. Nowadays, students no longer find themselves in constant conflict with “the establishment.” In fact, studies show that our generation is actually more conservative than our parental cohort in the ’60s.
Making moves in a new era, students have begun to use innovative tools and techniques to fight the war. As “I’m too busy” appears to have become the apolitical anthem of the post-modern world, it becomes clearer to those in the struggle that time is the new serious obstacle to activism. Young adults, especially those seeking higher education, have little time for the knee-jerk responses of their radical predecessors. However, the technology and gadgets of the modern world have proved to help in some ways. Aiding in the necessity of networking, the Internet is an extremely useful tool for the modern activist. Message boards and e-mail are also a better form of communication now than telephone and postal mail. Information is more readily distributed or discovered.
This new twist on political awareness will hopefully prove an effective tool in negotiating and operating in a new world of information cascades, global competition and a feverish work pace. While our attention is limited in a world that picks up the tempo after you start keeping pace, one thing is certain: Our generation will be better armed and more capable of victory than our parent’s generation. Of greatest concern to new social movements, passion was the thing that empowered their generation to succeed.
Maybe asking for passion from a desensitized and apathetic generation is a bit overboard. There are days when even the brightest and most ardent are disillusioned. Why not try good old-fashioned concepts like “convenience,” “knowledge” and “power in numbers?” Convenience will stem from changing a system, allowing its functioning to be improved for the student. Knowledge is what will be our greatest strength in the modern age; it is everywhere and easily disseminated.
Another concept that will soon emerge in our age bracket is our voting strength. We are the “echo-boom” for a reason and are a large demographic, capable of wielding incredible political power in the near future. We are a political resource in and of ourselves, waiting to be tapped into. We have the tools, but do we have the determination?
Jari Leischow, The Daily Aztec, San Diego State University