"We are the 99%."
If you've been on Twitter or turned on the news lately, you're probably familiar with this mantra. These simple words are currently echoing through the streets of cities all over America. It acts as the slogan for Occupy Wall St., a protest largely organized by students and artists, originally in The Big Apple. It seems as though student activism has made a resurgence, but the full extent of this is yet to be seen.
Perhaps the golden age of student activism was in the peak of the counterculture movement. During that hot revolutionary summer of 1970, in the aftermath of the U.S. Invasion of Cambodia and the Kent State shootings, the protest movement gained notable momentum. Violent student movements experienced moderate success, but with President Nixon's de-escalation of the war and an economic downturn, the crowds turned passive. After the war was over, the end of the counterculture of the 1960s marked the fall of large-scale student activism in the United States. After goals were accomplished, revolution rebels' energy began to wane. What was once desperation for change degenerated into apathy. There were brief surges of activism due to Clinton's push for civic engagement, but nothing significant; the American youth were viewed as "bourgeoisified" and complacent.
Fast forward to the 21st century. With the advent of social networking, the idea of the youth protest was revolutionized (no pun intended), and the power of Twitter and Facebook was seen in the Arab Spring. Entire revolutions were organized by teenagers who just did what they did best: complain, and go on Facebook. In the United States, a strong LGBT movement was established by passionate young adults. With multiple wars, there was even a strong underground anti-war campaign, headlined by the development of a new subgenre of punk called "protest music."
Occupy Wall St. is just another example of this phenomenon. In an interview with Salon, Adbusters co-founder Kalle Lasn explains that in addition to the Arab Spring protests, inspiration from the movement is derived from the Situationist movement. He draws a parallel between these student protestors and the Situation protestors who were "like the philosophical backbone of the movement." To those involved, however, this movement is a lot more serious than the cultural revolution of the Situationists. Many students now are burdened with $100,000 debts. The thought of not having a promising future after doing everything you've been told leads to success is painful, and it's easy to empathize with these student protestors. The way Lasn sees it, it could incite something big, even inspire the "second global revolution that we've been dreaming about for the last half a century."
More recently, however, these students have formed their own movement due to dissatisfactiom with the lack of a coherent agenda with the #OccupyWallSt movement. On October 5, in an effort largely organized through Facebook and backchannels, students from over 100 colleges walked out in solidarity to begin a movement they call Occupy College. United with their protests to student debt, loan reform, unemployment, and corporate greed, they have already gained a national following and are planning more. The era of the mass teen protest is back.
Whether or not you agree with these students' objectives, you can't deny that voicing an opinion is important. These students are taking up a cause they feel passionate about. This discourse is a crucial part of any democracy. Occupy Wall St. could lay the necessary foundation for the next surge of student activism and the return of steamy revolutions. This disquietude will be distinct from the revolutions of yesteryear. This time, we teenagers have enormous mass communication at our disposal and a great deal of tension compounded by decades of silence.
So what are you waiting for? Go out, find something you're passionate about and push for it. Thomas Jefferson said that every generation needs a revolution... maybe our generation's is in your hands.