Blank Eyes: How the Arab Spring Should Influence America’s Youth

Why, good morning, droogs.

Egypt. Tunisia. Syria. Bahrain. Yemen. Libya, and many other countries (look at that map!). All of these countries, within the last six months, have committed themselves to nonviolent revolution (with the exception of Libya) to overthrow oppression and dictatorship. One of the key components, in addition to unity under persecution and suffering and desire for change, to pushing all this forward was social media. Blogging. Facebook. Twitter. Digg. All of these softwares, with the addition of the use of smartphones, acted as a catalyst to bring down dictators in Tunisia and Egypt (the revolutions and protests are ongoing in Yemen, Syria and Bahrain). Introducing a sort of new guerrilla, an augmented digital revolutionary that takes to the streets with new power to organize and speak out against tyranny, calling others to the front lines of nonviolent civil disobedience. I get goosebumps just thinking about it. These revolutions were largely fueled by the youth as well. They stood in the face of dictators and bodly held their ground without raising a fist. As a result, Egypt is on its way to a new constitution and parliament, and if they persist, other countries will be on their way as well.

Now, when we hop across the pond, things aren’t exactly so inspiring. Let’s face it: the American youth, from preteen to twenty-somethings are largely disaffected and oblivious to injustice, tyranny, and oppression, and prefer to utilize Facebook for the wild parties they attended, and Twitter for when they’re taking a crap. Foursquare is only good for showing your friends where you’re picking up the beer for the night, and Tumblr is for random photos of kittens. Blogging is hardly a step up, populated mostly by whiny “activists” like myself who’ve never put themselves in harms way for whatever cause they’re championing in an effort to make themselves feel “conscious.” If this were the 60s, social media would have been used much in the same fashion that the young of the Middle East use it: organization, speaking up, and toppling oppressive governments.

In our time, we have it WAY too easy, and it’s making us soft.  It’s sad to me that we want to prank our friends by linking them to a Rebecca Black video about how many days until Friday instead of speaking up and organizing for causes in our area.  For example: in the Harrisburg area alone, the homeless population runs about 300 typically year round, with the Bethesda Mission on Reily St. reporting around 41,000 overnight stays in 2010 (see The Patriot News article here).  300 isn’t a huge number, but by contrast to population statistics (see here) it’s pretty high.  Besides, I think we’d rather see the number at 0.

Or what about the young man killed while intervening in an argument at Reservoir Park? Or the shooting that took place in front of the Church of the Brethren on Allison Hill? How many of us participated in the vigil and rally that took place not long after said shooting (I didn’t, and I am ashamed I didn’t). It seems to me that we might talk about these problems a little bit, maybe help volunteer once in awhile at food outreaches, but are we really working to fix the problem?    How many of us are brave enough to approach these people and really help them on a regular basis?  How many of us are courageous enough to go looking for the homeless and bring them food, or fight against violence where it occurs the most, here or abroad? Heck, how many of us are willing to truly stand up and fight legislation that strips us of our rights, or the rights of others?

Or are we all looking out through blank eyes?


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