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Benish Shah Headshot

5 Reasons Why Protesting at the UN Is Useless... Seriously

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I'm going to warn you to read this article with sarcastic smile on your face. You'll need it.

1. Our generation lacks gumption.

There's a word you don't hear a lot. Gumption. And by "our generation" I refer to everyone that is after the baby-boomers. We lack a shrewd resourcefulness to make things happen. If an injustice happens in front of us, we sip our coffee, shake our head and say, "That's sad. Someone should stand up for that." But we don't. We just take that coffee and get to work on time. Since we aren't actually going to spring into action, then who is?

2. We love opinionating.

We post articles and comment on injustices at the same rate we post articles about our First World Problems (I just stopped myself from using a hashtag, thanks Fallon & Timberlake). Instead of going out there and making things happen, we prefer to chatter online where it's safe because no real action is needed. Take the recent case about the Sikh man to whom a judge told to take the "rag" off his head. Which one of us actually stepped up and did something about it? For example, write a letter to the Bar or offer up our services to help make sure justice was served. But we all jumped the online outrage bandwagon. It's not that we didn't care, we just fell short of action.

3. We don't hold anyone accountable.

I was at the UN this week and watched the protesters. Maybe 100-200 people were there for various causes about real injustices. Most of them were well above 40. Anyone younger than that was like me, an observer on their way to work. But there were people in their 70's, with a walking stick, screaming for the end of forced organ harvesting. Those people still believe that their government is accountable to them. They have this crazy notion that the governing bodies should take their voices seriously. But our generation doesn't think that. Or if we do, we have no idea how to make it matter.

4. We don't matter.

Ouch, that one is going to get me some serious hate mail. The reality is that we've been so perpetually wrapped up in our singular lives that we've forgotten the power of the collective. We've also forgotten that collective power is what brings about change. Without that power, we're all just single individuals screaming in a roomful of people who don't have any incentive to care. Remember that saying, "each person can make a difference?" That's true. But bring a bunch of those persons together and the change is stronger and faster. Until we can figure that out again, the powers-that-be are not going to think we matter.

5. What influence?

This is a generation that is in love with the buzzword "influence." You can be an "industry influencer" or a "social media influencer." We are told by large corporations that if we tweet about it and end up on a Twitter ticker on the news, we've influenced. And we feel really good about that. But I'm curious if anyone ever stops to think... "what exactly did I influence?" We couldn't exact enough influence to make the NYPD stop surveying U.S. citizens without cause, or shut down Guantanamo, or get student loan debt reduced, or hold banks accountable for the crash, or prevent the popular vote from being ignored in a presidential election. So, may I ask, what exactly are we so proud of influencing? Our 100 Twitter followers?

The hard-to-swallow fact is: As a generation we've given up control and, with that loss of control, we have been deemed useless. Articles are written about how we're a doomed generation and instead of fighting those sentiments, we laugh and share the article. We want Buzzfeed to tell us what personality type we are and Fox to give us dramatics instead of news so we can poke fun. Because all of that is easier than actually doing something about the things that bother us. We don't want to be the one who takes a stand because that would make us accountable -- and since we don't want to be accountable, we don't bother holding others accountable either.

So the next time we roll our eyes at the UN protestors and say that it doesn't matter what they say, maybe we should stop and figure out why it doesn't matter. It is definitely not because their cause isn't worthy. It's because they need mass support, which can only come from younger generations with energy, ideas, and follow through. Gumption. Until we can figure out how to regain that gumption, protesting outside the UN will be -- and sadly so -- useless.