Dear Young Americans,
Life is so big, yet it seems everyone is focused on the small things. The world is full of wonder- an infinite playground of places to see, people to meet, and things to do. Yet we spend almost all of our days concerned with the vanities of consumer culture. We worry about what clothes to wear or music to download, and live for the weekend so we can waste it away on chemicals.
It’s funny because everyone always seems to be chasing happiness, always in pursuit of that good time or that notoriety or that perfect other person. Childhood was great because we didn’t yet assign expectations; we knew what made us happy, and that’s what we did. We put our nerdy clothing on and didn’t brush our teeth and went outside and played in the dirt and smiled. There was no money, no shame, no vanity. We learned those things. Now we chase a status, and have made society’s measuring stick our own.
It wasn’t just our fault, there are a lot of forces out there that taught us these things, mostly to get to our pocketbooks. Hollywood sells us happy endings and entertainment, providing scripted wonder while distracting us from the beauty of our own lives. People wish they were movie stars, which is sad because the best part of movies are the stories– stories we can find and create in our own lives. Corporations in general have propagated everything, selling us our image. They tell us what we want, and then sell it to us. Urban Outfitters offers indie clothing for the offbeat 20-somethings, right? Wrong, its just more corporate executives taking advantage of people who want to be different. Urban Outfitters, American Eagle, H&M. They’ve got all different kinds of people covered, and they’re selling you low quality products that come from any number of impoverished countries. Are there really eco-friendly Nike’s and health-conscious fast food? Or are they just marketing plots? Do we really need a flashy car, a plasma tv, an iPhone, 100,000k a year? Is that what happiness is?
Even the people who desperately want to be different and fight the system don’t know how to. So many of us envy the 60’s, that radical time of rebellion and youth. We mimic them; wear their peace symbol and Dylan-black shades and listen to their music. But that generation not only stood for something, they acted. Where is our action? Which of us have been to a rally to end the wars overseas? There is no absence of things to fight against, in fact there is everything to fight for. Wars, climate change, consumerism, hunger. Wearing chucks and listening to indie music and drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon doesn’t make anyone unique, it makes you another brick in a wall that does nothing to help our world. Bob Dylan or JFK or Audrey Hepburn or Barack Obama is not impressed. Go. Out. There. And. Do. Some. Thing.
There is no definite image of what happiness looks like. And there’s nothing wrong with knocking a few back, buying some new threads, seeing a flick, and jamming to some tunes.
But this ignorance and vanity needs to end. We can’t afford to go through our youths focused on nothing but night clubs and Facebook and what kind of music we like. So many challenges await, and the powers at be are hoping we don’t start paying attention, that we just keep sleeping and keep buying. Instead, you can recycle, take the time to buy local produce, get off Facebook and volunteer your time instead, write a letter to your senator, don’t give MTV ratings and don’t buy Nikes. Bike, don’t drive. Everything is at stake: our country, our world, even our minds. The decisions we make will define our generation as one that rose in the face of a perfect storm and reclaimed our humanity, fought for equality and truth and simplicity, or as a generation that sat idly by, staring in the mirror, as the threshold of a darker world passed under our feet.