How Will You Leave Your Mark on the World?
College should be a time and a place to learn about the world to go from the galactic to the microscopic, to learn of different cultures and art forms, to get into philosophy and history and questions of meaning and of truth to explore things that have been kept from you, to plunge into the exciting process of discovery to meet people from different parts of the world and different perspectives to stretch social and political boundaries and to get into different scenes.
It’s supposed to be a time to stay up all night talking, making music, reading poetry to be part of resisting and rebelling against everything that is wrong to make a statement about who you want to be and what kind of world you want to live into look at the world as it really is, and to begin to forge your role in relation to it.
But you are doing this at a time when all this is being reined in, when powerful forces are trying to shut it down precisely because discovering how the past has shaped the present, coming to grips with how your life will shape the future, and seeing how all of this is bound up with and will influence the lives of billions around the world has higher stakes now than probably ever before.
The World You Come To
You didn’t carve up the earth with man made borders, subjugate whole peoples, drive millions from their families and homelands in a desperate search for work in the leaner and meaner globalized economy-but you can’t escape the fact that the clothes on your back, the food you eat, the roads you drive on, the computers you use were all made through this global system of capitalist exploitation and plunder, including of millions of children literally chained to machines working 12, 14, 16 hours a day.
You didn’t rip up the earth’s beautiful landscapes and burn its fossil fuels, sending towers of filthy smoke billowing into the skies, to feed the cutthroat competition of capitalist corporations you didn’t decide that beef cattle for the cancerous spread of fast food chains around the world was worth massive deforestation and displacement of indigenous peoples that concern about the extinction of species and the melting of the ice caps should be ridiculed by government and major media-but you are now inheriting a world teetering dangerously close to destruction.
It was not your hands that chained millions of Africans in slave ships across the murderous Middle Passage, that sold children out of their mothers’ arms on auction blocks, that saddled up with the night-riding KKK and dragged Black people from their homes, or shot them down in urban streets when they dared to rebel or even walked with a little bit of pride-but you live each day in a country whose wealth flows directly from the veins of those slaves and whose deep-rooted racism is alive and well in its murderous response to Hurricane Katrina and the racial cleansing of New Orleans since.
You weren’t the ones cheering and waving the U.S. flag as nuclear bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, incinerating hundreds of thousands in slow and agonizing deaths as flesh hung from their bodies and their cities burned and burned and burned around them-but you live in the country that did this, the country that stockpiles more nukes than any other, the country that is threatening to use these weapons of mass death preemptively.
It wasn’t you who first enshrined the idea that women’s only value was as breeders of children, helpmeets of men, or objects of sexual plunder you aren’t the patriarchs who enshrined these ideas in the religious texts of every major religion-but you are living at a time when no woman in any corner of the globe grows up free of the fear or the reality of being raped, brutalized, mutilated, disrespected, or owned, and religious fundamentalist subjugation of women is on the rise everywhere.
And no, it wasn’t you who sanctioned the Presidency of George Bush, who with his unjust and immoral wars waged for empire, his fascist remaking of U.S. society, and his Dark Ages religious fundamentalism has taken this imperialist society into even more extreme, repressive, and rapacious directions-but even as you read this, there are innocent people being chained to ceilings, stripped naked, and tortured in your name.
Let’s face it-you, like everyone else, have had your circumstance largely determined by forces beyond your control. It would be easy to hide behind this. Without a doubt, there are options and rationales being held out there for you to “do for yourself” or maybe “just do your part.” But whether you chose it or not, all of these crimes have been laid at your doorstep and what you do-or don’t do-will shape the circumstances and lives of millions and millions of people around the planet for generations to come.
You have laid out before you the promise of the possibility of achievement, of personal acquisition, of a place at the table and comforts and safety and “protection” and all the rest. You can use your education, your talents, your creativity, your ambitions to run this hamster wheel, to scarf up as much as you can from high up on the global economic “food chain,” and to do as those who enforce this whole system of global plunder are hoping you will.
Or, you can refuse to be confined by narrow horizons. You can resist. You can challenge unjust authority, you can expose the government’s lies and its crimes, you can put your body into the political fight against the war grinding up hundreds of thousands in Iraq and the new wars currently being planned. You can be about ending racism and the hatred of immigrants being whipped up with deadly consequences. You can be about shattering the oppression of women and gay people. You can dare to take on and break people out of the death grip of the hateful brand of Christian fundamentalism that enshrines this subjugation as divine. You can defy the right-wing student brownshirts trying to cleanse the campuses of subversive ideas and critical thought.
You can throw your fist in the air and get way out there-the way young people have in every heroic struggle for justice and liberation in the past-bringing hope to people around the world and challenging and inspiring others to resist throughout society. You can act urgently and set in motion political resistance and upheaval powerful enough to drive the Bush regime from power and to open up the possibility of a whole different world.
And you can learn. You can find out about the human beings and their lives being shaped and destroyed by all this. You can look deeper at the structures that have caused all this, the ideas that have reinforced all this. You can investigate solutions that have been curtained off-behind the “caution tape” of the official keepers of ideas and “solutions,” written off even by many who hate the way things are but who have themselves been misled or have settled in-to see what has truly been accomplished through the revolutionary struggles of the oppressed and exploited throughout the world.
You can even dig beneath the simplistic and cynical refrain of “power corrupts” that serves simply as an excuse to leave things the way they are. You can-and you should-explore the truly breathtaking things that have been accomplished when the masses have held revolutionary state power in places like the Soviet Union or China, when they were really revolutionary. You can stand on the shoulders of all of this-of those who have sacrificed and struggled, who have dared to dream and to live and to fight for the emancipation of all of humanity-and you can be a part of taking all of this so much further.
If you’ve read this far, you’re someone who wants to change the world. Don’t listen to the cynics and the worldly wise who tell you you can’t, who try to lower your sights. History shows that the dreamers and fighters are right. Follow your principles, work to realize your deepest and highest aspirations, and follow THAT where it leads you.
And while you do that, check out and engage with the works of Bob Avakian: his re-envisioning of the communist project; his analysis of current world events and the challenges before people who want a different world; and the answers, approaches, and questions he is putting forward about what is involved in making a revolution that can remake the whole world in a truly liberating, viable, and lasting way.
Do all this as we work together to resist and reverse the mounting horrors-including the fight sharpening up now over whether the campuses will be centers of resistance or sites of imperialist indoctrination.
Your life is either going to count for something-or it is going to count for nothing. The world is intolerable. It is crying out for justice. Don’t look away from it.
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