Fourteen years ago was still the twentieth century: a period of great, fast paced change and social and scientific development. It is almost hard not to think that the youth of that period had more battles to fight, greater social goals to achieve than we do. They had to struggle to give us every freedom we take for granted today, the luxury to cry for change and the power to communicate opinions, to make people listen – if we really put our minds up to it. But sometimes I think they had one thing that seems distinctly lacking in us: courage.
We are victims of a constantly changing world, a constant flow with which we have to hurry to keep up. It leaves no time for reflection on what has just passed, never mind what is to come. We no longer get to decide the direction of the flow, but to stay at its fore fronts (a point of undue pride).
An opinionated youth is not unheard of, though often unseen, because while they do exist, I daresay in large numbers, most are silent in the ways that count, that lead to a different flow. The practice of the modern youth is a studied refusal to acknowledge the integrity and meaning behind the thoughts (and the expressions of those thoughts) of the past generations; dismissing them as old fashioned and 'so last century', while hypocritically reaping the benefits of the outcomes of the very same thought processes that have brought us where we are.
We rebel (another point of undue pride) but it is not quite clear what the rebellion is against. What common goal does our generation have? We don't look at what has changed, why it has changed and how, nor do we put in a conscious effort to try to change what is with a goal of what we want there to be. We only try to stay ahead. Ahead of what, I have to wonder.
But why? Why are we content, for the most part, to be an audience rather than the producers? Why are our voices and our opinions scattered through the winds of the internet and various media with no clear direction? And why is it so difficult for us to capture each other's attention when it matters most?
I think we are still living through what some have called 'the cynical times'. To quote Jedediah Purdy "Irony has become our marker of worldliness and maturity." That is, in a quest to seem tough and wise we mistake cynicism for strength. We don't dare dream too big – and when we do, it is only in the dark confines of our most private thoughts, never to be spoken out loud for the fear of accusations of naivety. We don't trust and we barely dare to hope or care openly because of the fragile ground where such a person would stand, facing the, quite possibly imminent, valleys of betrayal and disappointment. And this is where courage fails us. We fear the mockery of a skeptical generation so we hide away what we care for and ultimately fail to realise that we are our own prison wardens.
We are silent because we are stuck in a terminal search for originality as opposed to genuineness. Every sentiment, every notion, every movement has been portrayed in so many various ways, in films and advertisements, books, on social media, in forms both sincere and insincere, that one begins to doubt ones feelings as one's own; distrust their source as foreign influence and instead try that much harder to find something that has not been said yet, regardless of how true it is to one's own convictions. Or alternatively forever remain in silent contemplation of new and interesting methods of expression – while the idea itself takes a back seat. Our unhealthy dose of self-awareness extends towards a phobic fear of repeating a cliché – until we begin to mock ourselves too.
It is difficult to spark the sort of overwhelming enthusiasm that carries crowds with it because we are fundamentally bored. Our most time consuming sources of entertainment and socializing are the windows through which we can find common ground with each other. We reach out across our own small bubble of existence through memes and tweets and vines for a momentary exclamation of "yeah me too!". We don't look for marvels and surprises in the world anymore. We look for mirrors. We traverse the same grounds in an unnoticed monotony that marks our lives, filled with barely noticeable trivialities that we claim to enjoy but really just fill the empty spaces with. We advocate for change regardless of improvement because we are bored. We are apathetic because we are bored. And we are bored because most of what we do has lost its meaning. Our lives progress in predetermined steps and we no longer stand for something. We have buried idealism and with it the wish to do more, to be more. What is youth without its ideals? Without hope? What is the point of energy and potential without a direction?
What we need to free us from the clutches of cynical apathy is not inspiration, is not leadership, is not hope. Those things have a way growing where they are needed. What we need is a purpose, a reminder that we are still needed, a renewed sense of responsibility. It is the responsibility of the youth to take charge of the direction towards which society moves. But while the lesser privileged struggle to reach the ranks of the privileged and the privileged float above it all like a giant gelatin, impervious to the imperfections around them, we miss on the chance to evolve, remaining stagnant. And then where would humanity be?
Nasim Mirzajani 13A