The sad death of youth activism

Originally written for on April 11th, 2018

I heard some frankly disturbing news last night. In response to the as yet unproven claim that Bashar al-Assad again used chemical weapons on his own people (the timing seems to be a peculiar pattern), apparently not only does President Trump want military action in Syria (which may well lead to a war with Russia), but also my own country's Prime Minister has come out in support of the idea, making it clear as day that she wants to get involved. We are literally spiralling back to the Blair/Bush days of Middle East interventionism, and as I thought more deeply about it, I realised that as the establishment has been building up to this moment, there has been barely any activism from my generation.

Seriously, one thing I have noticed is that the youth of my generation has been robbed of its zeal for protest, at least where I live, and I think this has been a trend for at least five years. The last serious activist movement I remember fully was Occupy Wall Street. Back in 2011, there was a movement of people gathering on the streets of New York's financial district to protest the undue influence that Wall Street has over the US government as the lives of ordinary people were irrevocably changed for the worse by the great recession. What kind of activism have we seen in America since? Farcical parades of whining, screaming children demanding safe spaces and protection against hurt feeling, and they pass that off as a protest against "oppression".

For all practical purposes, legitimate student activism seems to be all but extinct, and whatever is left is not taken seriously thanks to the shenanigans of social justice warriors and the attention they attract. That there is barely any serious protest, in my view, is a sign of just how pacified my generation has been compared to the baby boomers. We have been taught to want for nothing, for as we are told, we have everything we could possibly want, and how can we not come to that conclusion considering the abundance of consumer electronics and cheap entertainment? The culture industry grants us this illusion, and the successful pacification of the youth is a testament to its great power. Why protest the iniquities committed by the bourgeoisie in the name of their own self-interest when we could simply accept our lot and consume the latest in a long line of mass-produced superhero films?

Simply put it, the reason there has been a dearth of student activism is because our desire to protest has been weakened by decades worth of consumerist propaganda, courtesy of the culture industry of course. This is a far cry from the youth of the 1960s, who were so radically thirsty for change that they were willing to risk their lives protesting the government, and not just in America. The student protest movement spread throughout Western Europe, most famously with the student protests that took place in France fifty years ago next month (in which many workers and far-left groups also participated), which brought the French economy to a standstill. Fifty years later, where are the anti-war protestors when we need them now more than ever? Trapped in the realm of consumer appetites that grip them like a vise.

I suppose, however, that it would be myopic to solely blame the culture industry, even though it is arguably the biggest contributor. Another important factor is the fact that the youth have been blinded into participating in the grand illusion known as the culture war, only today they are distracted by fading spectre of the SJWs. Never mind that the global capitalist class are plunging us into another war, let's instead talk about safe spaces and how SJWs want to ban everything. We've been blindsided by insignificant wedge issues and SJW-mania, to the effect that internet politics itself has been reduced to even more of a farcical carnival than it already was, and that many have been deceived into believing that the ultimate middle finger to the establishment is to come from a very product of it.

But how do we get over this lethargic spell? What will reinvigorate the radical spirit of the youth? Simply put, I think we need to expose the youth to the situation they find themselves in. They must also be reminded that they do indeed have the power to affect change in a meaningful way. If you're in doubt of the power of student activism, Richard Nixon himself admitted that the student protests influenced his decision to withdraw from Vietnam in 1973. The youth of today can make a difference if they want to. All it takes is a willingness to get out on the streets and to make themselves heard. Our silence is the biggest source of strength the establishment could ever hope for. Do we really want to give them that?