Social Justice: The AV: #ReGENERATION

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The A.V. is TKO’s occasional foray into politics via multimedia.

On top of being an Academy Award nominated actor and occasional indie rock singer, Ryan Gosling is also quite the political activist. He’s campaigned against slaughterhouse cruelty, supported the clean up after Hurricane Katrina, and is now narrating and producing a new documentary about political apathy amongst today’s young people. The film, called #ReGENERATION, will be released in May and deals with this generation’s social and political frustration that lead to the Occupy Wall Street movement. I’ve posted the trailer above and it’s worth checking out, if only to see a parade of radical and conservative luminaries like Noam Chomsky, Andrew Bacevich, and the late Howard Zinn bemoan the current state of cynicism among today’s youth and ponder the factors that contributed to that cynicism.

Compared to the civil rights movement, anti-war movement, feminist movement and epic struggles for democracy happening right now in the Middle East, our own forms of social networking-driven activism can seem lacking in political coherence, moral authority and relevance to the broader population. After all, the Occupy Wall Street movement and its sympathizers represent a relatively tiny segment of America’s youth.

But young people have a lot to be cynical about, mostly a political culture that places their concerns (environmental degradation that will likely affect them but not their parents, a health care entitlement system that massively redistributes wealth from young people to the elderly and a job market that has been particularly brutal to those graduating from high school and college) at the back of the line. The same Baby Boom Generation that stood up for racial equality and against senseless slaughter abroad has been outspoken in opposition to cutting Medicare benefits to finance health insurance for young people and to the kind of social causes like marriage equality and immigration reform that young people care about.

Sometimes it seems like institutional forces like corrupt banks and a gridlocked congress are too difficult for young idealists to overcome. But we’d be foolish to follow the advice of John Mayer in his song, “Waiting on The World to Change,” which the Chicago Tribune once described as the “most spineless social justice song ever,” and just sat around until things got better. Older Americans tend to get what they want because they vote more often and contact their elected represents at higher rates than young people. When young people do these things they see results, be they electing a President that 67 percent of them supported in 2008 or by successfully killing the Stop Online Piracy Act.

I’m looking forward to seeing this documentary which shows how music and technology can nudge young people toward greater social action. Maybe we can learn something from a 31 one year old Canadian born actor, animal rights activist, and one time “Sexiest Man Alive.”

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