Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Sally Kohn: Real Change Happens Offline

Via the Huffington Post

Real Change Happens Offline

By Sally Kohn

Today's American young people feel a deep connection to people in Tibet and Darfur, want to hold corporations accountable to environmental standards and worker justice, and value the role of government in meeting our shared needs. Yet the Internet tools that help Millennials appreciate our interconnectedness may actually erode the community values they seek.

The Millennials, or the cluster of young folks born roughly between 1980 and 1995, were raised between two conflicting phenomena. On the one hand, they have grown up with new technologies that have helped the world connect more easily; on the other hand, they have been raised alongside the rise of hyperindividualism in American culture that has isolated us from each other and the world around us.

As the Millennials were learning to walk, Ronald Reagan proclaimed that the only "excuse government has for even existing" is to protect the rights of individuals, not the larger, common good. Having once played a cowboy on the silver screen, Reagan helped transform America into a radical Darwinian Wild West. Industries were privatized, public school budgets and other social programs slashed, Wall Street given free rein. Reagan's British counterpart, Margaret Thatcher, went a step further, declaring, "There is no such thing as society." In the neoconservative political vision of the era, people were left to fend for themselves.

At the same time, the world became more interconnected than ever. Technology allowed the Millennials not only to imagine the children in Ethiopia, but to actually see them and, eventually, become their friends on Facebook. Changing demographics made the new generation more comfortable with difference and diversity than their parents. Plus, technological connectivity opened the door to economic interdependence.

Click here for entire column

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