A Mixed-up World—Can You Change It?
Millions believe the world situation to be extremely critical. Who can bring about change for the better? Can young people do it?
THERE is a lot wrong with the world. No one will argue about that. Many young people believe the situation is so critical that changes are necessary if the human family is to survive. In fact, some of them believe that it is already too late to avoid world disaster. They would compare the course the world is taking to that of a runaway train that is speeding downhill toward a yawning canyon the bridge over which has been washed out.
Most older persons, however, will probably not agree. They are inclined to feel that this mixed-up world will somehow recover and that everything will work out all right. “Look at the dark days of the Great Depression, or to those of the World War II period,” they may say. “Conditions often appeared hopeless, but they improved. The world survived, and it will again.”
“But the situation is not the same,” many youths will quickly reply. “It is altogether different now.” And, frankly, they have a point.
A very different society has been created. In his book Future Shock Alvin Toffler writes: “We are simultaneously experiencing a youth revolution, a sexual revolution, a racial revolution, a colonial revolution, an economic revolution, and the most rapid and deep-going technological revolution in history.”
If we face up to the present troubled world in which we live, we have to acknowledge that what happened to previous generations may not be applicable to present-day situations. We must try to grasp the effect that the shocking revolution in society has had upon youth.
Consider, for example, the effect of the technological revolution, which is fueled primarily by the hundreds of millions of gallons of petroleum daily taken from the earth. Youths often are appalled by the mismanagement of resources. At the reckless rate that these are being consumed, not only will they soon be depleted, but the air, water and land will be poisoned! Young people are inclined to exclaim: “How dare our parents’ generation exhaust earth’s resources and pollute the environment, ruining it for us and our prospective children!”
Can’t we sympathize with such a view? For how would you feel to enter a park to find its once-beautiful flowers and shrubs trampled, its stately trees burned and its grounds littered with garbage? Many youths feel that this is, in effect, what has been done to the earth by the older generation, and that even worse is threatened. And don’t they have good reason to worry?
Think about this. Never before has a generation of young people grown up with the knowledge that nuclear weapons could wipe out civilization several times over! Drawing a contrast to the previous generation, British commentator Jeff Nuttall points out that youngsters who reached puberty before the dawn of the atomic era “were incapable of conceiving of life without a future.” But those who have grown up since, he notes, “were incapable of conceiving of life with a future.” As Nuttall emphasizes: “They never knew a sense of future.” The threat of man himself blowing civilization to radioactive pieces is a real, believable prospect to them.
Really, what impression can we expect youths to have of men in power? A seventeen-year-old was simply telling it as many people see it when he wrote in the New York Times of November 22, 1975: “People equate a politician with a burglar, a mugger, and a con artist; many think that our leaders are constantly looking out for no one except themselves.”
When children enter their teens, they come to realize that it is business persons out for financial gain that have been responsible for exposing them to a poisonous mental diet of crime and violence. A leading United States magazine, in its September 1975 issue, reported: “Your child, if he’s typical, will watch 13,000 people die on television before he is 15 years old. If he were to see every show on network prime time this year, he would witness murders, beatings, rapes, muggings, and robberies at the rate of eight an hour, with three out of four programs featuring violence.”
Also, as youngsters grow older they begin to discern that it is greedy commercialists who endanger life on earth with pollutants, and it is power-hungry leaders who imperil civilization by building nuclear arsenals. Can we blame youths for growing to hate the system that has done so much to ruin their prospects for a happy, secure future? Nobel Prize-winning scientist Szent-Györgyi understood how youths feel, explaining:
“They find everything a lie. The great political parties are out for profit and power, the military for domination, fattening itself with their young bodies. . . . They see that religions are always on the side of power. And they see that while half of the children of the world go to sleep hungry, without the food they need to build sound minds and bodies, we spend hundreds of billions to raise our stack of nuclear bombs and missiles higher and higher. They see that most of their political leaders are really mindful only of their re-election, of keeping their power, feeding the people with arguments which should be rejected by the simplest logic.”
Yes, many youths see this as a corrupt, cruel world! And don’t we have to agree? But, some will tell you: ‘You can build a better world. You must clean out of your governments the corrupt, immoral elements. You can do it.’ But can youth change this mixed-up world, and create a new and better one? Is it a waste of time to try?
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Many young people believe the world to be on a fatal course
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Many youths believe that much of the earth has been ruined for them and their prospective children