Thursday, June 4, 2009

Is the enemy us? Or is we the solution?

How to interpret the above video? It's obvious what it depicts: ignorant young American Jews in Jerusalem, with strong convictions entirely unjustified by any actual knowledge (I could watch, over and over and over, the part where the poli sci major who claims to "know [her] shit" fails to recognize the name of the Prime Minister of Israel [though of course she can be forgiven, since he's only been a major figure in Israeli politics for literally her entire lifetime.])

But what does it mean (,man)? At first, I reacted pretty strongly to it: it's hard to watch people who look like me, sound like me and have so much in common with me (or at least my background) say such noxious shit. And I began to think that it hinted at a larger truth: that my generation, coming of age and becoming politically relevant for the first time in our lives, was more ignorant and reactionary than I'd previously realized.

But as I talked it over with Irina and Eric, who pushed back somewhat strongly against my hastily-drawn conclusions (which were really the worst kind of Friedmanesque talk-to-the-cab-driver-and-conclude-something-moronic-about-the-World-Today delusions) I started to think something different.

In particular, while it's apparently not too difficult to find young American Jews in Jerusalem who'll say stupid shit at 2am to a guy with a video camera, it's also not too difficult to find many more young American Jews who'd disagree with everything they say. Not only does it appear that young Jews are less attached to the notion of a Jewish State in Israel than they once were, they also appear to be, as they long have been, overwhelmingly liberal, Democratic and anti-hardliner.

What is definitely true is that my generation is losing the luxury of having its opinions not matter. We're getting old enough to not just vote, but contribute to causes, enlist in armies, pressure our governments and work to achieve what we believe. Our ignorance about the world around us is now just as salient a fact, just as impactful, as our lack of ignorance: whatever we know, or think we know, will necessarily help shape our reality. The world isn't going to wait for us to learn remedial Middle Eastern Affairs before it begins to expect to hear what we have to say. Let's just hope the voice that we find is more eloquent than any of the voices in that video.

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