“(T)his generation of youth is shaping history. We saw that dramatically across the Arab world starting over a year ago in Tunisia. And we see it globally now in homes and in communities, clinics and schools, governments and intergovernmental organizations. Youth are more than a demographic force – they are a force for progress.”
– Bai Ki-Moon, UN Secretary General
A lot of people are talking about Crimea right now. Some people are talking about Venezuela, South Sudan and Syria too. The media is in frenzy.
My boss told me the other day that with all the conflicts going on around the world, his kids have become deft geographers. They’re surrounded by a swirling mass of information. We can never escape it, yet we’re never really in it at all. We know all about it, but we don’t truly know the reality of it at all.
Welcome to 21st Century Total War.
What is total war? Most people are familiar with World War II – the war after the war to end all wars. It’s a perfect example of total war, and is most simply explained as a conflict that actively involves the entire population’s efforts; military, economy, politics, everything. Interestingly enough, WWII was also the last total war experience for the ‘ol USA. At least in the context of its definition…
I have a new theory. Total War is still prevalent, but it’s changed.
21st Century Total War still revolves around the idea that our entire population is constantly engaged in our nation’s warfare. Whether it be through the 24hr news cycle, social media, or classic media – we are all immersed in the dialogue surrounding conflict. What separates this from the old version of Total War is that we aren’t actively working towards a war effort, even though the culture of a conflict-nation has permeated into every facet of our lives. We have already begun to see a move to harness our communicative powers with the “twitter revolutions”. The question that arises from this is how do we as Americans harness our own immersion? How do we prevent apathy, and catalyze positive action through the resources we have? This is the quandary of 21st Century Total War.
Evolution: A Nation at War
When Cronkite told the American public that Vietnam was a dead end, LBJ reportedly said, “if I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost the country.” Even though LBJ’s insider quote isn’t true, it actually lends more credibility to the mythos of a powerful group of talking heads that could make policy-makers buckle at the knees with a single newscast. The media no longer holds such power, at least not in that way. It’s changed – we’ve changed the way we communicate – and paradoxically, it started with the very same conflict, Vietnam.
One of the huge successes of the Anti-War movement during Vietnam, some might even say the pivotal moment, was when TVs became a household item. What is commonly known today as “CNN Syndrome” began to seep into the American psyche. As images of war flashed across every television screen in most houses in the States, people began to realize how horrifying war was, and their appetite for intervention was sated. Popular opinion began to turn, and lets just say that since Vietnam our casualties in any conflict have become incredibly smaller.
The 24hr news cycle arguably made us a more peaceful people (according to the theorists behind CNN Syndrome), less willing to send our boys and girls overseas. But at what point does the pendulum swing so far to one side that we sit and do nothing while our fellow human beings are fighting for the very freedoms our ancestors died for? Our ancestors spilled blood for the right to stay on their native land, to be ruled by a democracy, to not be owned by another human being, and to have the same rights in their society and control over their bodies. What happened to the mores which our nation was founded upon?
We’ve become oversaturated with information to the point where we turned from a more peaceful people, to an apathetic people. Not that we should send special ops to Venezuela or Syria – in fact I think doing that would be a bad idea. I just think that us American Millennials need to sift through all the bullshit, and begin to inform and take action amongst ourselves and the international Millennial community.
I’ve read so many articles about the Crimea Conflict that I can hardly remember them all. The thing I do remember about them was how drastically different the opinion of every author was. From talking heads, to former ambassadors or politicians, to Russians, Ukrainians and everywhere (not) in-between, hardly one had the same idea of the situation.
Putin is a tactical genius
Putin is absolutely crazy and losing grip on reality
Russians are Crazy Xenophobes, always have been, and always will be. I mean, you read Dostoyevsky too, c’mon.
The Russians are no longer afraid of the “soft and materialistic” West
A quiz called “how well do you know Putin?” …and no, it’s not Buzzfeed
This one is Buzzfeed. I hate you Buzzfeed. You are horrible*.
Oversaturation. The media is pulling Millennials in every which way…sometimes downwards (Buzzfeed*). We have all this information, but how do we shape the policy conversation to best aid those in Ukraine? How do we force our politicians to craft policy that helps Venezuela, Central African Republic or Syria?
21st Century Total War
Being an isolationist is easy, especially when we’re drowning in information. There’s nothing more simple than throwing out the paper and tuning into Ron Paul babble on about how little we should care about what goes on outside the county. Instead of shutting everything out, we must take control of the state of 21st Century Total War. By increasing communication with youth in Syria, Venezuela and CAR we can begin to spread stories and learn from the ground what is truly wanted, and needed.
We have a White House petition site, emails, phone numbers of Congressmen. Our generation is a dormant political leviathan that has been coddled by the baby boomers and fed the idea that the system is out of our reach to change.
Well, we’re growing up now, and guess what – we’re gonna be in charge of “that system” sooner than we think. It’s time to put down the Ron Paul pamphlet and start to actually create our own dialogue inside America, and around the globe.
I’m not just gonna spout rhetoric and a call to action without some direction though. There’s an outlet that has formed to help bring our nation’s millennials together. They’ve created a Super PAC, fellowships, crafted policy and are working to galvanize our generation’s energy in a productive direction. See how you can become involved – check out the Millennial Action Project at http://millennialaction.org/. It’s not the end all be all, but it’s a hell of a good start.
“The time is always right to do what is right” – MLK JR
*Did I mention that I hate Buzzfeed and their deep dive into the annals of idiocy and bullshit more than anything else in the world yet? I think I might write a post soon about how they’re everything that I think is wrong with us, and are a glimpse into how we could collectively fail as an entire generation. #realmillenialtalk