Amherst Magazine

Actually, We’re Not Like That

What’s the greatest myth about your generation? Five members of the graduating Class of 2011 weigh in. Add your own answer in the comments section.

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That we’re too absorbed in online media

The greatest myth about our generation is that we’re too absorbed in online media to notice the real world. Sure, we’ve got Facebook, MySpace, blogs and chat rooms, but we’re also deeply engaged in global issues in ways previous generations would have thought impossible. We do read, and we do care—and we are willing to make sacrifices and put in the effort to learn about and change the injustices of the world.

Kat Libby ’11
South Portland, Maine

That we’re apathetic

Many people see our generation as being apathetic and unconcerned about the world outside of ourselves. I can understand the perception that our generation has been over-handled and raised to focus on ourselves, our goals and our aspirations, because there are certainly people like that. However, if nothing else, my four years at Amherst have proven that my generation not only cares about the world but is passionately dedicated to being involved in state, national and world politics and to helping improve the lives of those without the immense resources that we have access to. Barely a weekend goes by on our campus when there is not some benefit dinner or performance. Several of my friends gave up a semester or a year at Amherst to participate actively in Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. My friends read the newspaper, discuss world events at dinner, post articles or causes to their Facebook pages and join groups committed to causes that are anything but apathetic. I hope and believe that the compassion on this campus is echoed in our greater generation.

Emily Shinay ’11
Scarborough, Maine

That we’re indecisive

The greatest myth about our generation is that we’re weak and indecisive. Twenty-somethings often hold jobs for only a year or two, which supposedly shows that we’re not dedicated to our careers. That assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. We’re actually looking for jobs that we’re passionate about and jobs that make a difference. We’re not indecisive or risk-averse; we’re trying to be precise. And that takes time.

Natasha Smith ’11
Prior Lake, Minn.

That we’ve transcended the culture wars

A columnist for the Daily Telegraph declared in 2008, “What we are living through is nothing other than the death throes of 20th-century ideology.” Maha Atal wrote an essay, published by the New York Times Magazine, explaining that our millennial generation has abandoned last century’s countercultural youth radicalism and instead “takes individualism seriously.”

Reading the mainstream media, one is led to believe that our generation has transcended our 20th-century patrimony of international conflicts and domestic culture clashes. We hover as enlightened, airtight individuals over the fault lines of yesterday’s silly, passé ideological battles and culture wars. But the student of history should be wary. One can find eerily similar statements of transcendence in the first decade of the last century.

Our generation may indeed feel empowered by technology and intense individualism. Yet a global trade in sex slaves, legal battles in the West over the definitions of gender and marriage and the maniacal predations of supremely ideological despots across the world visibly betray the presentist folly of our cool postmodern aloofness. We merely hope it’s a new world.

Gregory Campeau ’11
Tehachapi, Calif.

That we don’t side with the powerful

One of the greatest myths about my generation is that we are depoliticized. This is a myth because of the simple, yet scarcely realized, fact that depoliticization is always political. For whenever we close our eyes to injustice or claim to sit on the political sidelines, whenever we fail to speak truth to power or experience outrage over what is being done to “them,” whenever our moral currency is self-interest rather than selflessness, whenever we refuse to put feet to our words and instead step upon weak someones in pursuit of our own happiness rather than helping them in the direction of theirs, we are being political. We are siding with the powerful against the powerless. And while we may not raise our voices in support of those who perpetuate oppression, our silence says enough.

Amanda Bass ’11E
West Chicago

What's the greatest myth about your generation? Use the comments section to tell us.

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