A Generation of Wimps

Dull Ache column by W.R. Marshall

“There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part; you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!”
– Mario Savo

The good old days.
Savo was speaking to the assembled Free Speech Movement at a sit-in in front of Sproul Hall on the Berkeley campus on Dec. 3, 1964. This was one of the flashpoints of the Student Movement that led to all kinds of fear and loathing back in the ‘60s.

(And, yes, for those of you who are history challenged, but find time to watch “Battlestar Galactica,” you did hear Chief Tyrol paraphrase Savo’s speech in Season 2. So I’m a geek – how is this news to anyone?)

But back to kind of radicalism Savo extolled … the kind we don’t have anymore.

There was once a willingness to commit to something bigger than yourself, something important, something dangerous, something that needed to be done. People were willing to sacrifice themselves for what they believed in.

On both sides.

The ’60s were rife with conflict between groups who believed passionately. Construction workers and hippies fought more than one battle. Mothers marched in the streets. And let‘s not forget the cops-vs.-everyone slugfest outside the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. People were genuinely frightened for the fate of their nation and were willing to fight for it; and most of this discontent started on college campuses … ah, good times.

Now, all our fear and loathing is government-sponsored, heavily edited, and doled out when politicians need a bump in the polls.

And the youth voice? Well, in the unmitigated disaster that is known as the Bush administration, the one thing they got right was convincing waves of business majors and finance students that speaking out is bad for your resume.

Welcome to the world – you generation of wimps.

It’s a world that, fortunately, isn’t like you.

Go look at what your contemporaries are doing in England: www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/jun/13/activists.climatechange?gusrc=rss&feed=networkfront.

The short version: They’re environmental extremists who hijacked a coal train in broad daylight and shut down the entire line.

Now that’s putting your “bodies upon the gears.”

Most of you wimps think being “radical” is having one more shot of Jäger.

Most of you wimps think being “on the edge” is suing your Econ professor for giving you a B.

Most of you wimps think “taking it to the streets” is going to Mardi Gras.

If your world sucks, a lot of blame is laying at your feet, and it’s up to you to change it.

I’m not talking about going all Eugene Debs here (go look it up), but, come on, get off your asses and do something. You sat by while the Idiot and Chief rode roughshod over your nation, your rights, and, the way things look, your future.

What’s it going to take to get you people involved … I mean, besides college credit?


W.R. Marshall is a regular contributor to The Augusta Free Press.

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