Courtney Martin responds to Tom Friedman's concern about the next generation and politics:
We are not apathetic. What we are, and perhaps this is what Friedman was picking up on, is totally and completely overwhelmed. One of the most critical questions of our time is one of attention. In a 24-7 news climate, it is all but impossible to emotionally engage all of the stories and issues you are taking in, and then act on them in some pragmatic way. So instead, young people become paralyzed ...
My generation tries to create lives that seem to match our values, but beyond that it's hard to locate a place to put our outrage.
We aren't satisfied with point-and-click activism, as Friedman suggests, but we don't see other options. Many of us have protested, but we -- by and large -- felt like we were imitating an earlier generation, playing dress-up in our parents' old hippie clothes. I marched against the war and my president called it a focus group. The worst part was that I did feel inert while doing it. In the 21st century, a bunch of people marching down the street, complimenting one another on their original slogans and pretty protest signs, feels like self-flagellation, not real and true social change.
When Friedman was young and people were taking to the streets, there were a handful of issues to focus on and a few solid sources of news to pay attention to. Now there is a staggering amount of both. If I read the news today with my heart wide open and my mind engaged, I will be crushed. Do I address the injustices in Sudan, Iraq, Burma, Pakistan, the Bronx? Do I call an official, write a letter, respond to a MoveOn.org request? None of it promises to be effective, and it certainly won't pacify my outrage.
Ezra Klein approves:
I'll just say that it's the truest analysis of activism and apathy amongst my generation that I've seen -- and I've seen a lot of navel-gazing on the topic.
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