By JoanWile - Posted on 10 September 2010

I recently posted a piece on WarIsaCrime, "A GRANDMOTHER WANTS TO KNOW," earlier published on my New York University grandson's and fellow students' blog, "Beer and Philosophy." Essentially, I asked why the U.S. youth of today were so apathetic about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and if they thought a draft would mobilize them to protest more actively as it did during the Vietnam war.

One of the students responded with what I consider a highly articulate and insightful commentary, and which I feel is valuable for the anti-war movement to read. With the writer's permission, I am reproducing it below:

A Young Person
Posted September 8, 2010 at 10:58 PM
Dear Ms. Wile,

I think you are absolutely right to remark on the apathy of the young in modern times. You may find it revealing that despite the size and location of a campus like NYU, the students at large are vastly apathetic. The largest campus political club are the College Republicans (a tragedy) and even they are not especially well-populated.

I think most young people accept a state of war as a common feature of the political landscape. I was 13 during 9/11, so in the crucial years when one strikes out to form an independent view the default state of the world was one of war.

Perhaps more importantly, it is a state of great detachment from the realities of war. I am sure you are well aware of the US government's policies about keeping caskets and dead bodies off of the air waves. I believe this explains the shock that accompanied the release of Wikileaks' video "Collateral Murder," which was not especially graphic given the sort of imagery that war so often creates. I cried when I saw the video, not just because it was disturbing, but because I (and many, many more like me) routinely play video games that simulate this sort of activity with great accuracy. Our so-called "brave men in uniform" murder indiscriminately using an interface (and with the same sort of sanitized, black-and-white feedback) that I can experience at my desk at home. I've even read that Playstation controllers are being used inside APC's because the youthful machine gunner recruits are already acclimated to the control scheme and attuned to staring at screens hosing human forms with bullets.

Young people are also generally spoiled and materialistic. Many young people do not hold jobs and have never held a job; but instead of using this fortunate position to improve their thinking and thus the world, most seem content spending all of their time indulging their vanity by buying designer clothes and slouching around coffee shops talking about foreign films. This appears especially true for the "radical leftist' types that, perhaps in a past era, one would expect to be kicking over the traces to end the war. Instead they study social work or write dissertations on airy notions of "social justice' to get a perpetually secure union job working for the government -- the same institution that perpetrates the greatest injustices towards peaceful society the world over.Many smart students are also siphoned off into high-paying military jobs or into the massive network of private firms that support the military. Two young people that I knew as a child, both of high intelligence and associated with religious pacifism growing up, now work for the military doing high-level computer science.

Perhaps a draft would interfere enough with a young person's life that the opposition would become audible. Or maybe young people would simply look at it as another opportunity to be cared for from cradle to grave, with all of life's troubles taken care of by a mysterious paternal force. At least until the bullets started flying!

Young people also know almost nothing about the history of American imperialism, nor do they know about the rich (and bipartisan!) antimilitarist tradition in America. Years of government school has only served to leave Uncle Sam looking strapping in his camouflage. This is probably why inanities like "they hate us for our freedom" have such currency in America.

Finally, most young people are more interested in remaining in the good graces of those around them than learning about the world. Despite all the adages about youthful folly and boldness, many young people do not have any opinions whatsoever: not even bad, ill-thought out ones waiting for mature reflection. War and peace? That sounds like a topic that would require reading a book or talking intelligently to adults -- I might even form an unpopular view if I entertain these ideas! Pshaw! Pass the Heineken!

A Young Person.


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