John Whitehead's Commentary
The Age of Fear: A Graduation Message for Terrifying Times [SHORT]
With all that is crashing down upon us, from government-manipulated crises to the blowback arising from a society that has repeatedly prized technological expedience and mass-marketed values over self-ownership and individual sovereignty, those coming of age today are facing some of the greatest threats to freedom the world has ever witnessed.
It’s downright frightening.
Young people will find themselves overtaxed, burdened with excessive college debt, and struggling to find worthwhile employment in a debt-ridden economy on the brink of implosion. Their privacy will be eviscerated by the surveillance state. They will be threatened, intimidated and beaten by militarized police. They will be the subjects of a military empire constantly waging war against shadowy enemies and government agents armed to the teeth ready and able to lock down the country at a moment’s notice.
As such, they will find themselves forced to march in lockstep with a government that no longer exists to serve the people but which demands that “we the people” be obedient slaves or suffer the consequences.
It’s a dismal prospect, isn’t it?
Things could very well get much worse before they ever take a turn for the better. Here are a few pieces of advice that will hopefully help those coming of age today survive the perils of the journey that awaits:
Be a thinking individual. As John F. Kennedy warned, conformity is “the jailer of freedom, and the enemy of growth.” Worry less about fitting in with the rest of the world and march to the beat of your conscience.
Learn your rights. We’re losing our freedoms for one simple reason: most of us don’t know anything about our freedoms. So grab a copy of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, study them, and stand up for your rights before it’s too late.
Speak truth to power. Don’t be naive about those in positions of authority. People in power, more often than not, abuse that power. To maintain our freedoms, this will mean challenging government officials whenever they exceed the bounds of their office.
Resist all things that numb you. Resist all things that numb you, put you to sleep or help you “cope” with so-called reality. As George Orwell warned, “Until they become conscious, they will never rebel, and until after they rebelled, they cannot become conscious.” It is these conscious individuals who change the world for the better.
Don’t let technology turn you into zombies. Techno-gadgets are merely distractions from what’s really going on in America and around the world. If you’re going to make a difference in the world, you’re going to have to pull the earbuds out, turn off the cell phones and spend much less time viewing screens.
Help others. None of us can exist very long without help from others. If we’re going to see any positive change for freedom, then we must help one another. That will mean gaining the courage to stand up for the oppressed.
Give voice to moral outrage. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” There is no shortage of issues on which to take a stand. Choose one and start making your voice heard.
Cultivate spirituality, reject materialism and put people first. We must change our values to reflect something more meaningful than technology, materialism and politics. Standing at the pulpit of the Riverside Church in New York City in April 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. urged his listeners:
[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motive and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
Pitch in and do your part to make the world a better place. Don’t rely on someone else to do the heavy lifting for you. Don’t wait around for someone else to fix what ails you, your community or nation. As Gandhi urged: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Say no to war. Addressing the graduates at Binghampton Central High School in 1968, Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling declared:
Too many wars are fought almost as if by rote. Too many wars are fought out of sloganry, out of battle hymns, out of aged, musty appeals to patriotism that went out with knighthood and moats... do not accept the shedding of blood as a natural function or a prescribed way of history—even if history points this up by its repetition... find another means that does not come with the killing of your fellow-man.
Finally, prepare yourselves for what lies ahead. The demons of our age—some of whom disguise themselves as politicians—delight in fomenting violence, sowing distrust and prejudice, and persuading the public to support tyranny disguised as patriotism. Overcoming the evils of our age will require more than intellect and activism. It will require decency, morality, goodness, truth and toughness.
As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the only way we’ll ever achieve change in this country is for the American people to finally say “enough is enough” and fight for the things that truly matter.
It doesn’t matter how old you are or what your political ideology is. If you have something to say, speak up. Get active, and if need be, pick up a picket sign and get in the streets. And when civil liberties are violated, don’t remain silent about it.
Wake up, stand up, and make your activism count for something more than politics.