The following essay was submitted by Senior Wil Kenney to the edtitors of Harbinger and Harbinger Online.
When we think of what our world will become in our adult lives, do we look forward or backward? Will our blueprint for the future be based on yesterday’s facts or tomorrow’s questions? A quarter of a century ago, many of our parents were facing this same predicament. They experienced some of the most politically turbulent years of American history; the magnitude and calamity of the actions within rivaling those of today. They saw a world built on a rusted and unstable foundation and devised their plan for fixing it. They held their beliefs close and did not back down, following the instinct to defend them with a vote or a voice. They were at some point what we are today: a group of confused, restless youth frustrated by the outdated generation in control and unsure of what the next decade will contain. As we move forward, we must first look backward and learn.
There won’t be Vonnegut-esque virtual reality rooms or hover boards (for a while). We may not reach Mars or cure cancer within our lifetimes. Wonka-caliber candy products might not be on the market for years. But the beauty of our future and the times we live in is that all of these things seem not just possible but inevitable. In our arsenal is the most potent and infinite tool humans have ever created: the internet. We- our generation- know its ins and outs, remember the cacophonous drones of a dial-up connection and can navigate it as well as the culs-de-sac we were raised in. Each new level of processing unlocks the next, and this power is growing at an exponential rate. World markets are exploding in previously dormant areas. The global literacy rate has surpassed 85%, rising primarily in developing countries, according to a UNESCO report. Civilian organizations like WikiLeaks, despite their character flaws, have created a world forum where government transparency is no longer just the ideal, but the standard. An International Telecommunications Union study projects that a wave of three billion new internet users will be connected by 2020 to join in the global conversation. Long-held regimes and bastions of oppression are crumbling in regions considered unbreakable not five years ago. According to BBC News in 2005, wars have become significantly less bloody and less prone to inhumane or unnecessary violence since the end of the Cold War. In a sentence: our world is becoming smarter, more hopeful, and better connected than ever before.
And yet, there are millions of Americans and global citizens alike who haven’t caught on. The rights and lives of a countless number are being violated, controlled, and held hostage by groups of people entrenched in the past. This is an issue endemic to all peoples, places, and political systems. Many of the world’s problem-solving efforts have tripped and stuck fast in the quagmire that is unnecessary politics. Many hundreds of leaders care more for the perks, be it a speaking tour or a lavish desert palace, of their office and the sport of argumentation than the true needs of the people. Stagnation seems to be the most convenient and effective method for maintaining office and the public is being used as a shield against the growing pains of our world. Progress is not political; it is natural.
I won’t beat anywhere near the bush; I’ll take a flamethrower straight to it. This is what you must do to help this generation succeed: use your vote. This nation has spent two hundred years, trillions upon trillions of dollars, and countless lives to give you that opportunity. Use it. Do not hand it out on a slogan or for any single issue. Demand transparency. Demand civil liberties for one another as global citizens, not political parties. Demand to be known not as the world policeman, but as a member of the Neighborhood of Earth. Demand equality. Demand respect for science, spirituality, and individual privacy. Demand that politicians be responsible for their words and actions. Do not allow the continuation of petty squabbles and political nonsense that have so thoroughly closed down any chance of new legislation, domestic and foreign. And most importantly: demand the prioritization of those issues which would change our world forever over those that would alter the face of solely our society for a few years.
Will we perpetuate the trends and attitudes of the past century? Will we continue tradition for tradition’s sake? Or will we move into our young adulthoods with the same critical yet open minds that our parents did not so long ago, ready to shatter and re-forge their fertile world into something better? Our ideals and priorities are as harshly at odds with those of previous generations as theirs were with the Sinatra-loving old-folks before them. And I know we are ready to fight just as ferociously for our future.
Welcome to The World, Generation Z. Let’s make this one count.