For a minute, let’s put aside our carnival election cycle dominated by Trump’s windbag comments and Hillary’s obfuscations. Let’s get real. Let’s focus on our environmental and moral crises and ask ourselves, “What responsibility do we, as elders, have in creating social change?”
It’s easy to become overwhelmed in the face of our national and global morass, but time is running out. We don’t have the luxury to withdrawal. If we don’t promptly address climate change, economic inequalities and America’s addiction to wars, our grandchildren and their children might not have a future!
I still remember the weekend in the late ‘60’s when my ex-husband and I left our busy lives as grad students and Viet Nam war protesters in Washington, DC to pay a visit to his parents in upstate New York.
I will never forget my father-in-law sidestepping my question as to what he thought of the social upheaval marking our nation. He quickly answered, “We’re old now. We’ve done our part. It’s up to your generation.” I was taken aback. At that moment I made a silent vow to never give up, to never stop working for social change, no matter how old I became.
Lately my activism has taken a back seat to this blog and to my passionate investment in addressing ageism and sexism in the lives of older women. I need to get re-involved with activist groups working for peace, climate concerns and a third party.
I believe elders have a moral responsibility to give back to society. After all most of us who grew up as Baby Boomers had it pretty easy.
Our parents didn’t have to worry about job security or paying their monthly bills. College was relatively affordable. Jobs were there when we graduated.
Today’s young people face a very unwelcoming world plagued by skyrocketing student debts and a dismal job market. They’ve been more or less written off, ignored by society. And it’s getting worse. Schools everywhere, especially in urban areas are being shut down and/or drained of resources. Social services for poor families and for all of us are drying up.
Community, as we knew it, is evaporating. The screen culture, particularly cell phones are making real time conversation passé. My grandchildren have to be reminded to look one in the face when they talk. They’re accustomed to multi-tasking where they dialogue while texting, staring into their phones.
Sherry Turkle, who has done extensive research on the human effects of technology, has discovered that today’s young people have a serious empathy deficit resulting from their addiction to cell phones and laptops.
It’s not just kids who live in the screen bubble, most adults do as well. The activism of most of my contemporaries (myself included) consists largely of posting political messages on Facebook. This isn’t a bad thing, but if it makes up the bulk of our activism, I find it troubling. We need to return to community forums where we meet in the flesh to discuss issues we care about, followed by social action to bring about the desired changes.
Remember the vitality we felt in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s when we were meeting in one another’s living rooms, in church basements, or in run-down storefront offices?
I long to re-experience that energy, to rub elbows with other activists, to share concerns, laughter and hopes in real time. What if we all put aside our phones and laptops for one weekend a month, pledging to meet over coffee or at potlucks to discuss our worldly concerns? It could be revolutionary!
If you’d like more conversations with like-minded women, we have a Facebook page for you: WOW