Why did you pick up this paper? No doubt you were hoping to learn something interesting, make yourself informed, gain greater understanding about important issues on campus, in Whatcom County and around the world. Good job. You’ve made the first step. The next question is: what are you going to do with all this information? How are you going to sort through the barrage of facts, political discourse, and problems needing attention? How do you resist getting so overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information about things going wrong in this world that you are stunned into inaction?
I am talking about apathy, and how shockingly rampant it is among people of college age. It is understandably exhausting to live with full knowledge of the injustice and inequalities in this country and world. However, there is so much that can be done! In taking action, one not only affects change, but also confronts the feelings of hopelessness that can otherwise lead to an apathetic take on the very things you find out in, say, this here edition of the AS Review.
One common experience related to learning how vast and far-reaching current social, environmental and political issues span, is an emerging sense of personal helplessness. Shared sentiments include, “My voice is so small compared to the largeness of these issues. What can I really do to change anything? How can one person really affect change?” Well, my fine friends, there are so many ways.
Being an activist does not have to mean standing at the front of a large group of protesters with a banner and motto advertising your cause. This is a very legitimate form of protest, and certainly does vocalize a demand for change and raised awareness on a particular issue. But as society changes, the means of protest can, and must, also change. There are countless ways to be involved in participatory and active change, many of which we, as students and resourceful, savvy citizens have the power and responsibility to create. It is necessary to do something, and that something can be as unique and individualized as each one of us. And where are we? College! A great place to develop and hone the skills we need to contribute to society and affect positive change in the world.
But among the barrage of information, it is common for college students to be stumped by the question, “What do you want to do with your life?” So while you’re shopping around for a major, consider these questions: What interests do I have? What skills do I have? What skills do I need or want in order to apply myself to a worthy cause in a way that is authentic to my unique individuality and perspective? The answers to these questions can take on many forms, and do not need to be stereotypically “activist” to make a change in the world.
Say, for example, you like art. Why not consider majoring in art, honing your expressive skills, and then applying them to art that exposes injustice or unfairness? There is no question that affective and sensitive political artwork can be an extremely powerful tool in raising public awareness and inspiring action around pressing issues. Say you like learning about ecology. Why not consider a career in ecological preservation? The preservation of land and natural places is a hugely important issue. Like music? Write some songs with lyrics that speak to the issues you know about and find pertinent.
The point is to pick an issue and do something to work towards solving it. The specific ways we find to contribute to the solutions to current problems are limited only by our willingness to creatively apply ourselves in whatever awesome ways we can think of! So why not find a creative way to make your course of study one that will help you help the world?
As college students here at Western, we all have tremendous resources at our fingertips. We are given the luxury of time to study, to learn, to think and form strong opinions about our society, culture and world. You may not know exactly what you want to do with your life, and that’s just fine. But why not keep in mind the very issues that you might currently feel hopeless or apathetic towards as you start to sort those questions out? You may find that your college career takes on a whole new level of purpose. You, yes you, have the power to change the world. Give it a thought.