The End of Apathy

Generation O reveals its revolutionary potential.

The End of Apathy
Photo: Yosi Sergant (flickr)

There were supposed to be fireworks in Grant Park on November 4 but, at the last minute, Obama pulled the plug. His bid for the presidency could have culminated in an explosion of phosphor against the dark Chicago sky. Instead, he offered us these simple words: "Today we begin the earnest work of making sure that the world we leave our children is just a little bit better than the one we inhabit today."

It was a sober denouement to an ecstatic experiment in possibility. It was also a warning. With his restrained rhetoric and almost somber demeanor, Obama was sending a clear message to his emotive base – this whole thing is about to get seriously unsexy. Now that an inspired generation of voters has exuberantly elected Obama president, we are forever separated from him by the yawning expanse of legislative structure. The symbiotic relationship we have enjoyed with him is over. Obama is now the president-elect of the United States of America; he no longer feeds on our fervor. Instead, he will engage in the slow, tectonic grind of policy change. And we, having reached the apex of our democratic abilities, will have to sit on the sidelines. Our level of direct participation has officially peaked.

But that doesn't mean that we're done, only that our role has changed. Having pledged to tackle climate change, the economy, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and America's increasingly villainous role on the world stage, Obama represents the most realistic hope for change since Kennedy. But he is still a politician and, as such, Obama is operating within an immovable power structure infinitely stronger than any one man. As he begins the business of governing – a banal blend of appeasement, compromise and concession – Obama will be unable to maintain his status as a revolutionary figurehead. Sustaining the sense of hopeful rebellion that swept such an improbable candidate into the White House falls squarely on the shoulders of the people who put him there: "Generation O."

The question hanging in the air is this: does our generation have the revolutionary spirit to keep this thing going? Now that the election is over, the results of any collective efforts to bring about real change in America are going to be decidedly less tangible, quantifiable and visceral. Political shifts of such magnitude – building a green economy, instituting universal healthcare, reining in a capitalist system run amok – are going to require more than a willing president. If these changes are to manifest, they will be the result of a vigilant, engaged and youthful populace that never stops pushing. That means our generation, the one described in Adbusters' now infamous hipster article as a "lost generation, a defeated generation," representative of a culture that is "so detached and disconnected that it has stopped giving birth to anything new," will have to be the engine powering this revolution. That's why it's essential that we temper our post-election euphoria with a serious dose of realism. It's also why Obama canceled the fireworks.

This is the beginning of the battle, not the end. And if there's one critique of this generation to which I'm willing to lend credence, it's that we are seriously hooked on immediacy. If we fail to resign ourselves to the fact that change is a process, not an event, then I fear we'll be sent spiralling headlong into a dangerous new cynicism at the first disappointment dealt to us by Obama.

Disappointment is inevitable. We've elected a good man to office but we are years away from tearing down the broken system within which he must operate. So now you have to ask yourself, how much fight have you got in you?

66 comments on the article “The End of Apathy”

Displaying 1 - 10 of 66

Page 1 of 7

sir jorge

A good man? There is nothing to prove this outrageous statement. Empty words are cheap, and while it is unpopular to dissent on the Obama train, there is still lots to be seen from his administration. I'm not going to fear the change, but I've been promised a lot from the government in my life time and the promises are free flowing but greed rises so easily. I'm waiting for the fall. And I'll say I told you so.

sir jorge

A good man? There is nothing to prove this outrageous statement. Empty words are cheap, and while it is unpopular to dissent on the Obama train, there is still lots to be seen from his administration. I'm not going to fear the change, but I've been promised a lot from the government in my life time and the promises are free flowing but greed rises so easily. I'm waiting for the fall. And I'll say I told you so.

Anonymous

There still needs to be hope. I agree there is still lots to be seen from his administration but let us hope that there will be changes. Let us hope that this is one small step in the right direction and that we have not been promised empty promises. Until there is (if there is) there is still hope.

Anonymous

There still needs to be hope. I agree there is still lots to be seen from his administration but let us hope that there will be changes. Let us hope that this is one small step in the right direction and that we have not been promised empty promises. Until there is (if there is) there is still hope.

Shawn Michel de...

But he is still a politician and, as such, Obama is operating within an immovable power structure infinitely stronger than any one man. _______________ The above statement beggars belief and the sad realization that the author doesn't know history, not even in the slightest degree, apparently. Man-made structures are, by the very nature of the fact that man made them, far from "infinitely strong." In point of fact, single men and women have, throughout history, changed its course, and irrevocably. I don't propose to list the heroes and villains populating that list; do your own research. It's wonderful to be a "realist," save the one irrefutable fact that there is no such position. Your subjective take on Obama's ascension to the Presidency is, in point of fact, somewhat doleful. What he faces as president is daunting in the extreme; this cannot be disputed. And it will require sacrifice (the real kind), understanding (the authentic variety), and a willingness to trust the man to do his job whilst holding him accountable at every juncture. It requires a fundamental tack, which is this: democracy is messy. Very messy. Change comes slowly, painfully, and always with cost. Always. Get used to it. So many want Obama to fail, easily as many on the fringe left as the fringe right. Let's pray that President Obama sees this and does the right thing by both, which, in the final analysis, might simply be to ignore them.

Shawn Michel de...

But he is still a politician and, as such, Obama is operating within an immovable power structure infinitely stronger than any one man. _______________ The above statement beggars belief and the sad realization that the author doesn't know history, not even in the slightest degree, apparently. Man-made structures are, by the very nature of the fact that man made them, far from "infinitely strong." In point of fact, single men and women have, throughout history, changed its course, and irrevocably. I don't propose to list the heroes and villains populating that list; do your own research. It's wonderful to be a "realist," save the one irrefutable fact that there is no such position. Your subjective take on Obama's ascension to the Presidency is, in point of fact, somewhat doleful. What he faces as president is daunting in the extreme; this cannot be disputed. And it will require sacrifice (the real kind), understanding (the authentic variety), and a willingness to trust the man to do his job whilst holding him accountable at every juncture. It requires a fundamental tack, which is this: democracy is messy. Very messy. Change comes slowly, painfully, and always with cost. Always. Get used to it. So many want Obama to fail, easily as many on the fringe left as the fringe right. Let's pray that President Obama sees this and does the right thing by both, which, in the final analysis, might simply be to ignore them.

Pages

Add a new comment

Comments are closed.