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Where Did It Go? This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   My parents' generation had the Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam War, and the Peace Corps. They chanted "Ban the bomb" and "Make love not war." They were idealists.

Where has idealism gone? I look around and I see a generation of virtual nihilists. I watch movies like "Slacker," "Kids," "Bottle Rocket," "Clerks," "Mallrats," and "The Basketball Diaries" and see my generation depicted as such. We're treated with disrespect by some of our elders who see us this way. All we are is the privileged spawn of yuppies who spend all of our time just hanging out, drinking, and smoking.

There is a reason for this perception. Few kids today are idealists and most don't join community service programs. The previous generation's events affected everyone. The desire to change was still pressing. You could just hop on the bandwagon and join a fraternity of peers to rally for a cause. Now idealism is much harder to come by, and the fraternity is hanging out in front of 7-11. "Don't trust anyone over 30" was a slogan of the last generation and this too created a fraternity of youth.

The events of today aren't global or even pressing. The Gulf War is one example. It was a clear-cut decision to attack after numerous warnings and embargoes. The annexation of Kuwait as a new Iraqi province directly affected the economic vitality of our nation. There was a lot less gray area for going to war than during the Vietnam War with the Domino Theory as the reason. The Gulf War also called for few troops to be deployed. Most importantly however, there was no draft and therefore almost nothing to get excited over. The mission into Somalia was not a war but a relief mission that had few negative aspects and practically no impact upon us youth. The destruction of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain was completely foreign to us as is the war in the former Yugoslavia in terms of having no impact on our individual lives. The net result is that we also have relatively little reaction. The fallout of the continuing turmoil in the Middle East has affected us most directly with the killings in New York City and the bombing of the World Trade Center. But still we don't react much here in our isolated community on Long Island.

These events don't produce radical leaders among our youth. Today, if we're not hanging out, we're preparing for college. The competition level is so intense that many of us keep to ourselves studying to raise our GPAs. Such self-imposed isolation and cliquishness have turned us into a fractious generation.

How can Habitat for Humanity or Hunger Task Force bring out the same number of people as the Vietnam War? The sheer ineffectuality of such groups is a turn-off to the bandwagon. Many of my peers are well-off, so that the need of such groups surpasses them. We can't envision waking up hungry one morning, so we don't even think about it.

It's too bad that many of us today are slackers and loners. I guess that's just what we are. That doesn't mean that we're worse than our parents were, just different. In today's society of TV, video games, PCs, and the Internet, that's just the way we've been raised. ?


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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