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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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We didn’t start the fire

By Aaron Zundel

In my admittedly short lifespan, I’ve seen a lot of changes. I grew up in an unprecedented time of technological advancement-one never before equaled in human history. I’ve watched a cold war end and a new war start. I saw students protest in Tiananmen Square, four different U.S. presidents take office and millions of people slaughtered in Rwanda. I’ve even seen Janet Jackson’s boobs on national television (well, maybe I only saw one of them, and it had a pastie on it).

Now, in 2006, my generation is poised to enter the world, make its mark and shape the world with its image.

And I fear for the future.

Make no mistake-my generation’s greatest problem has nothing to do with global warming, human rights or even a war that will probably go on for the next 60 years. No, my generation has a much bigger, more insidious problem.


Indeed, how are we supposed to do anything about a war when we don’t know where it is, why it’s being fought or who’s even involved? It doesn’t affect us, right? And if it does, what are we getting out of it?

If I could apply one word to my generation, it would be “apathetic.” Of course, words like nihilistic, greedy and selfish would work well, too. Instant gratification is our sole focus, and as long as we have our fast cars, video games and reality television right now, we don’t really care about much else. This attitude, eerily reminiscent of J. Wellington Wimpy’s pleas of payment on Tuesday for a hamburger today, infects my generation like a plague. Unlike Wimpy, it’s not funny.

Where does this attitude of hedonism come from?, you ask. Well, we could blame it all on MTV; but while I think MTV is a sort of Typhoid Mary in this case, it is not the disease itself-the media can’t be scapegoated for this problem. My mother loves to blame it on the violence in video games, but that doesn’t hold water, either. I think the real answer is that we do it just because we can.

Never before in the history of the world has everything been so convenient, cheap and easy. Extreme poverty notwithstanding, most of the generation has had pretty much everything it has ever wanted. Sure, a kid from Brooklyn might want a car when a kid from the Hamptons might not, but that’s an extreme, and I’d bet one probably felt just as entitled as the other, regardless.

Don’t get me wrong: This isn’t a diatribe against materialism or convenience or any of that Thoreauvian jive. I love convenience. I just happen to think that no one ever taught my generation how to prioritize or how to sacrifice, and I submit the rising consumer-debt level as evidence of this.

By no means does my generation have a monopoly on problems. You don’t have to be a history professor to know that the last 60 years have been pretty crazy, and even my generation knows that-if only by virtue of Billy Joel’s pop smash “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” But, like Billy says, others before us tried to fight it. People cared then: They staged protests every other week and burnt a lot of bras and draft cards. Now it’s crazier than ever and nobody cares. Honestly, when was the last time you saw a massive college rally on the nightly news (aside from, like, a drunken orgy after some sports championship)? You think kids today would have the guts to throw themselves in front of a tank if there weren’t a fat wad of cash on the other side?

In the coming years, America will inevitably reshape itself on both domestic and international landscapes, much as it has with every generation. But when we look to the future, how can we expect America to be reshaped into anything but a total disaster when more of my peers are voting for contestants on “American Idol” than they are for candidates on the ballot? Most don’t even know what a voting ballot looks like.

Yes, it’s true. We will be our own worst enemies. But if you are looking to me for answers, I have none. One of my generation’s major problems is that it complains a lot but doesn’t offer any solutions. We also don’t listen to anyone, so I have no clue how to get through to us.

Of course, things can always change. Maybe we’ll get wise and unleash our true potential on an unsuspecting world-blazing social, political and economic trails, the likes of which the planet has never seen?

But if you’ll excuse me now, I have a text message to answer, and “Desperate Housewives” is on.

Aaron Zundel

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