Your Child, the Global Citizen

Young people should travel the world and learn about it. They should embed themselves in other cultures and talk - really talk - to people whose languages they find foreign. They should have discussions with people they've been taught to fear and loathe. They should talk about their experiences and should listen to the tales others have to tell.

I know perfectly well this is a world in which many young people will never have that chance. They are poor. They are locked into lives that don't give them vision. They don't have role models to point the way. They don't have access to funds and programs that could make this a reality. They're too busy either being guided down a path that ends with them clinging desperately to their assets, or a very different, darker path.

I know it's a pipe dream, but if we let our young people swim in the oceans of the world, wandering its peaks and valleys, encountering its hostility and beauty first-hand, we could save ourselves. 

If young people did this from the age they begin to formulate critical thought, this would be a very different world indeed. Policies would be motivated more by facts than fear. Laws would be shaped with a global view of society - a place where countries are interconnected in a world economy that's not going away and not retreating into an isolationist's fantasy utopia.

I fear that the new generation may be raised in this isolationist's fantasy world, a place where 'not in my backyard' is the motto, a place where select people 'take care of their own' (whoever that may be) and stay out of the business of other people and countries altogether. A world where people can simply make their own laws; where limited resources, overpopulation and global warming are all unproven. It's too late for that kind of thinking if we want to participate in the world stage and participate as shared communities rather than scrambling as individuals. We're a vastly overpopulated world fighting over control of a global economy. Living as a shared community is the only way to make our limited resources work. It's the only way to prevent annihilation.

Humankind's place in earth is as an unsolved puzzle. Our pieces don't fit. We're messy. We're unkempt. But so much of that is because we're too locked into hardship or fear, or the fear that comes from hardship, to see the world as it is. Instead, we give the world a story, and it's a story that explains our hardship and makes us feel at the center of it all. It's a story that tells us ignorance is the bane of others, not ourselves. It's not a narrative that helps us. When we pass that same narrative down to our children, it doesn't help them feel a sense of belonging past a very narrow view of what life is. By propagating the fear of losing it all, and by resorting to panic and hyperbole about the consequences of altruism, we tell our children, in essence, that giving too much is dangerous. We put their guards up. 

We've always been an egocentric country and I don't want it to get worse. When I got out of my twenties, the single most important quality I began to understand was humility. I'm not saying I got humble, but I began to understand that I wasn't humble, and I began to see the way lacking empathy lacking a sense of responsibility for those outside of my little universe resulted in damage for those who encountered me. My egocentricity was the worse kind, and it's the kind much of the world suffers from - the kind that doesn't see that its narcissism prevents real relationships. The law of the land in many circles is does not ascribe humility or sacrifice. It says: 'I can do whatever I want as long as I'm hurting nobody.' This ideology sounds practical and sounds brilliant, but it doesn't take into account that we don't always see the ways our actions hurt people until it's too late. Saying that what you do doesn't hurt anybody doesn't make it safe. That's where humility comes in. How can we call ourselves experts on how our actions impact the communities we inhabit? Who was I, for that matter, to deny my actions had any impact?

Our young people seem particularly primed for this egocentricity. It has a short term memory for its own destructive cycles. I worry that our kids, not through fault of our own, but through the prism of this country's transition to a struggling, suspicious country in an increasingly transparent world, won't be able to discern the difference between humility and subjugation, between charity and loss of autonomy. There is a difference, and it's our responsibility to teach it. We bear responsibility to teach our children that actions - no matter how self contained they may seem - all have consequences. We bear responsibility to teach our kids that if a ideology for living sounds too good to be true, and does not involve shared sacrifice, and hard choices, then it probably is too good to be true. 

Unfortunately, many of us who champion moderation and decency and the spirit of giving feel our voices drowned out for sake of the media circus that fights for our kids' time. Our young people have been born into this media environment  They are raised on it. Our media forms a symbiotic bond with the vocal, ignorant fringes of hate, intolerance, and madness for sake of a sensational story, for sake of the business of making money off America's disgust with itself. This poisons the wellspring of discussion and limits access to deeper, substantive interpretations of hard issues. Twitter and Facebook have improved the world but have also segmented and limited the manner in which we share ideas and speak with one another, and most importantly, the manner in which we listen. I fear that the long form modes of communication - those that involve gradual understanding of others' plight through repeated exposure to their ideas - is going the way of the dodo for sake of social media's increasingly frantic revolving door.

We bear responsibility to teach our kids about where babies come from, but we also need to teach them about where hate and ignorance come from. Yoda had it right: it's fear. Fear of giving up everything that belongs to us for sake of someone who doesn't appreciate it. Fear of toiling to pay for a lazy person's lifestyle. Fear of this notion of the upstanding, responsible, hard working folk busting their backs to fund drug addicts, illegal immigrants, or illegal war. We seek freedom from taxes, from wars we hate, from subsidizing things we feel don't improve society. Okay then. Let's acknowledge the fear exists, which is not the same as legitimizing it, and invent forums for collaborative fact checks rather than sporadic, unidentifiable gut checks. No matter how irrational it seems, fear is fear, and quashing it only give it more power. Fear is only at last conquered by exposure - to ideas, to facts, to travel, to discussion, and to listening to others.

I fear that our younger generation, without the tools to transform the way we communicate, may retreat further into compartmentalized thinking for a compartmentalized world. They may find themselves with limited exposure to the rest of the world. There is a risk that future generations will air grievance carelessly, giving tangible shape to their deepest fears and worries in the form of laws and policies and official statements, without first defusing the fear. All that impotent rage, irrationality, and ignorance funneling straight into laws and codes that cripple a world they already don't understand? I fear it's already happening.

This is not a Pollyanna world we live in. Social Democracy is dying because we're transitioning into a corrupt, inefficient Plutocracy. Young people here in the United States were born into it. It's not their fault; it's all they know. This has given them an inherent mistrust of Centralized Government. And who can blame them? The people who run Government aren't evil, but they have interests that aren't ours. They're in office because they had the money to win. The money and connections that allowed them to win also make them fundamentally not for us in spite of their best intentions.

Trust in Government is dying. Its partnership with private, privileged interests has made it into a frightening, untrustworthy symbol. Excised of access from Corporations and Special Interests, it can be something fundamentally worth investing in again - a tool for improving a struggling society rather than a monolithic hindrance to freedom and individualism. But to have that discussion, we must first make the choice to prioritize young peoples' access to the world. We must tell them it's okay to explore, and that the world is big enough - and interconnected enough - for them to, given the right resources, extinguish fear of the unknown, and destroy ignorance and hate once and for all. 


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