Wednesday, May 31, 2006

International Herald Tribune:

I read Sam Graham-Felsen's essay: "Where have all the protesters gone?" with a rapidly sinking heart, because he had the arrogance to declare the world's intense, and growing movement toward widespread justice and peace dead before it's even had a chance to finish being born.

I am 32, in Generation X. We are regularly described as apathetic, cynical, embittered people, jammed into despair by a realistic sense that the moral and physical worlds are being torn apart by the short-sighted profit-seeking of our parents and grandparents. Our ideas, even our physical presence in public places, are routinely ignored. We are the small, quiet cohort subsisting in the shadow of the loud, sprawling, greedy Boomers.

But when there are protests, we are there, even when the media doesn't cover the protests. When there are lobbying trips to legislators, we are there, even when the legislators politely show us the door and go back to counting corporate cash. When editorial pages smolder with impotent, righteous rage at the powerlessness of the People and the corruption of the Government, our letters are there. When local lectures, vigils and film screenings are organized, we are the organizers, and the participants.

These many actions may seem futile, but their apparent futility cuts across all generations, and we young ones are, in our own unique ways, creating new strategies through and beyond them that seem invisible right now but are, I think, on the cusp of bringing down centuries of exploitation and oppression. I think it's inevitable both because those hierarchical structures have grown too top-heavy to be supported by the masses on the bottom, and because one of our other characteristic responses to conflict and pressure is to walk away, opt out, find alternatives and live them, rather than talk about them. We're not going to carry these burdens of empire for much longer.

I identify with Gen X characteristics. I deeply distrust institutions, even while I respect the potential for the United Nations to prevent war, as it was designed to do. I know my history, even the Howard Zinn, so I am aware both of the potential for broad social change, and the incredibly high odds against it, and the cleverness of the power-elite at tamping down dissent and change agents in increasingly subtle, effective ways.

Because I am young, female, married, and a mother, despite being among the best-educated generation of women the world has ever seen, I am a writer without a publisher, a public intellectual without a public. My mind is consumed by the innumerable details of caring for children in a culture that refuses, decade after decade, to support young families and enable women like me to contribute our ideas and leadership.

But between changing diapers and throwing dinner on the table, I have developed an extremely detailed Utopian vision, complete with clean water, air and soil; organic food and community kitchens to cook it in; free neighborhood health care clinics and small, public schools and workshops open to all ages, geared toward fostering individual creativity rather than fitting all the pegs into the corporate holes. In my Utopia, the homes are small and energy efficient; the jobs are vital, fulfilling and close by; production is local; trade is fair; and the energy comes from clean, renewable resources. In my Utopia, Peace Corps volunteers are responsible for the "war on terror," drying up the sources of hatred and violence by treating people in other lands as dignified, valuable, vulnerable human beings who live, love and die, just like us.

Both because of Bush, and because of people like Graham-Felsen, I swing on a slender thread, between faith that this Utopia is not only possible, but almost inevitable, given the way the Iraq War has focused the collective mind of humanity in such an unprecedented way, and despair that those currently in power, but on the verge of losing it, are almost at the point of no return,
when it will seem to them like instantaneous nuclear self-annihilation is a good idea.

But in the faith corner, I count all the blogs and conversations and other signs, from all sorts of people all over the world, all clear that we want the same things. Our Utopian visions are virtually identical, as though something larger than all of us is pushing these ideas out through each of us.

So I think change is in the wind, despite the appearance of quiet among the young, the inability of traditional radar to pick it up, and even the likelihood that things will get worse before they get much, much better. This isn't quite like other historical upheavals. It's larger, more integrated, more organic, and few will see it coming until it's already upon us all, at which point it will seem like the most natural thing in the world, which it is.


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