BLOG 11: Democratic Citizens
I find it interesting that despite the abundance of social media technology that can connect people, being a visibly active democratic citizen nowadays is much more rare than sixty years ago, or it at least appears that way. During the Civil Rights movement, student activists risked their lives at sit-ins and other protests in the United States, and their actions received an abundance of media attention. While we still have a number of protests today, they seem much more subdued than in the past. Even the most vivacious ones rarely make the news, possibly because they are often quite small. Interestingly, the last “protest” I remember being prominently featured in the news was Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity. While this event did draw attention to some problems with today’s politics, when one thinks of the Vietnam protests and the massive impact they had, Stewart’s rally seems to pale in comparison. Many people draw comparisons between the Iraq War and Vietnam, and rightly so. But difference in youth reaction to the wars is incredibly interesting. Of course young people did protest the Iraq War, but the numbers were hardly comparable to those of Vietnam protesters. I think this stems from a combination of the self-centered ethos promoted in the current age, along with the overabundance of digital information. If a young person does not want to pay attention to serious news stories, they can easily ignore them and thus never be moved to protest.
It is now more easy to be an informed democratic citizen, but it is even easier than before to ignore such information. And even if today’s youth are democratically active online, it is not being reflected in physical social activism within the democratic system.