Slacktivism

As a young feminist, I’m constantly told by my aging counterparts that young feminists aren’t doing enough.

As a young liberal, I’m constantly told by my aging counterparts that young liberals aren’t doing enough (or, indeed, anything).

As a young voter, I’m sick of hearing it. I vote, I campaign, I sign and circulate petitions, I write a snarky blog and, on the off chance I have some spending money, I donate it to causes I care about (or buy candy with it).

I don’t currently have the means to donate to all the causes I care about and, if I did, I probably wouldn’t donate because  there’s some horrible story of corruption behind almost every charity I find. Clicking on petitions and spreading them around is just about all I can do that seems to have any chance of not sending money to the baddies.

Other young people I know are in a similar boat. Almost no one is trustworthy when it comes to…anything. Not only that, but the vast majority of my generation (and every other; I refuse to put all the blame on us) are complacent, naïve and ignorant. Sometimes willingly, sometimes just because they have other interests or obligations. When I tell people about what’s going on, they tend to get at least mildly worked up about it, but then their interest fades after they’ve clicked the petition.

Are we a generation without an attention span? I’m not so sure. We laboriously watch ‘Jersey Shore’ and memorize the lines to movies and shows. We play video games for hours and, despite what people say, we have more schoolwork than almost any group in the U.S. that preceded us. Homework in kindergarten? What?

While many blame the media for turning us into a bunch of know-nothing, apathetic slackers, I blame the media for keeping us there.

Most of the people I know who would do something if they weren’t too busy at The Gap weren’t even born when the Fairness Doctrine was repealed. Almost immediately after its repeal, hate radio and violent rhetoric (most of it on the side of the Right) skyrocketed and the voice of the Left petered out into the flaccid whimper it is today. The closest most people my age get to news is Yahoo Headlines, TMZ or hairy-legged feminazis like me posting links from the biased (but rarely wrong) HuffPo and Alternet.

Caring is exhausting. For a generation of young people who have had to go to school, then soccer practice, then run home to do AP physics before heading to their required community service hours (like we had in Baltimore County Schools), is another thing to worry about really the highest priority? It’s easy to become fatigued on fourteen hours of sleep a week and “Damn it, the whales again?” becomes an increasingly attractive alternative. Is it right? No, but activists are humans, too. Even non-activists are humans and these humans have their own psychological needs to deal with. Most women’s libbers never stopped caring, but still had to be mothers and take care of their children or get a job so they could afford markers and posterboard for their protests. There are only twenty-four hours in a day, no matter how much you care.

Finally, I wish to levy a complain against the Left as a whole (though the idea of a cohesive Left is risible and this weakness is precisely the reason that the Extreme Right has become a much more powerful force). Where is the Glenn Beck of Tolerance? Where’s the Sarah Palin of Social Programs? There is no strong person to attract the young of the Left and energize them. I’m not saying that it should be the media’s job to get people to care, but these celebrity forces on the Right have done a marvelous job of getting people to do their bidding.

What has the Left given us? Well, we have Michael Moore. Other than having luscious lashes and snide movies, he doesn’t do much. What he does do isn’t that impressive to the average young person, unless they want to make documentaries. He isn’t a loud, commanding presence like Beck, nor a would-be sex pot like Palin.

We had Obama. He excited the mass just long enough to get elected and then, everyone stopped caring. He was in office with his magic wand, right? He’ll get stuff taken care of. The appalling lack of education about how the government works is a huge reason for the dissatisfaction with Obama. What do you MEAN he can’t just write an edict? What Senate? Raze the House! My experience in 9th grade government can be summed up with: Legislative, Executive, Judiciary. Supply and Demand. 2/3rds majority…somewhere. Senate has 100 people. House has a bunch. Puerto Rico’s a state?

The only other voices we have are the occasional movie star(let) talking naïvely about politics. They, like many liberals, have their heart in the right place, but have failed to educate themselves properly and cannot form a strong argument for anything other than “War hurts us all.” War totally DOES hurt us all, but something more compelling and maybe backed up by science would be much more effective. All their crooning does is turn off harder-core activists, give legitimacy to the “Clueless Liberal” stereotype and provide sound bite-fodder for the collective guffawing of the Fox News mouthpieces.

I want to believe that we can make a difference and am not going to stop my crusading. However, until we have a more cohesive unite of general “caring,” the Left is going to continue to be fragmented. It’s not fair for the older generations to call us slackers and categorically dismiss us. We lack the time, the funds, the infrastructure to do protests the way they did. They also, in typical older generation fashion, dismiss the relevance of THOSE INTERNETS. Sure, th’Internet facilitates slacktivism by promising change with the click of a mouse, but it also works wonders for disseminating information to those who do care.

The “Us vs. Them” mentality of the generation gap of Left mirrors the overall fragmentation of the Left’s special interests. Saving whales and helping gays really can be noble goals that help themselves. The Right figured this out forty years ago. Get your act together, Left. For all our talk about togetherness and brotherhood and sharing and shit, we’ve allowed ourselves to become unique snowflakes to the extreme.

Old people, accept that things have changed. Young people don’t do things the way you did, but that doesn’t mean they’re wrong or hopeless.

Young people, read your history. Old people made it so you could have things like you do now. They are invaluable resources for inspiration and guidance.

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One response to “Slacktivism

  1. Kaliane Moloch March 24, 2011 at 8:08 am

    Great points. I hate how older people add to the long list of -isms by taking a crap on young people simply for being young. I’m tired of hearing how I have it so easy and how I don’t do enough from people who don’t even know anything about me beyond a username on a screen.

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