Articles / My work

Being 21 in the 21st Century

Just a few thoughts on a world that’s becoming more difficult to live in every day.

The News

We have too many news sources. Anyone with an Internet connection can stake their claim on a piece of the web. That’s a wonderful thing, and it’s a step closer to true equality. But the problem is that seven billion voices get a little deafening after awhile, and it’s hard to decide who’s telling the truth and who’s pushing their own agenda. Plus, the stories of corruption and tragedy make me want to switch to Netflix and forget there’s a world outside my TV and snacks. It’s a horrible thing to say that we’d rather turn a blind eye to what’s going on most of the time, for the sake of our own happiness and sanity – but anyone who lives in this modernised world is guilty of it.

Scams

The amount of scams in the world today is unbelievable. Last week, I went to London to visit a friend. We were walking along the Westminster Bridge and several men were lined up, playing those cup games where you have to guess which cup the ball is in. I knew the games were a con, but what I didn’t know was that they were a ploy to lure in tourists so pickpocketers could swipe their wallets while they were absorbed in the performance. What’s more, the throng of tourists milling around them were in on the scam as well. It breaks my heart to know that so many people would willingly collaborate to steal other people’s possessions and money. This extends to institutions like most modern governments and charities that keep donations for profit. I wonder how they sleep at night.

Student Loan Debt

I think the student debt problem can be summed up by a simple Bob Dylan lyric: ‘20 years of schoolin’ and it put you on the day shift.’ It’s true – employers no longer care that you put yourself into thousands of dollars of debt for that Bachelor’s degree. Several of my graduate friends are working menial day jobs at fast food joints – or worse, Walmart – for a starvation wage. They can barely afford to make rent, much less student loan payments. We don’t need to punish our youth for getting their education and wanting to better themselves so they can support a family later in life.

Borders

I’m an American student working on a Master’s degree in England. In order to do that, I had to spend months organising my visa. My wallet took a $5,000+ hit in visa application fees, priority service fees, health surcharges, plane ticket prices, and tuition deposits. $5,000 and countless documents later, I’m able to ‘visit members of my own species across artificially conceived borders.’ (Well said, Neil deGrasse Tyson.) Pile that on top of the student debt I’ve already accumulated for my Bachelor’s, and you’ve got a figure that would make a college freshman faint. Unfortunately for students, a globalised world means that employers expect potential job candidates to have been somewhere in the world other than Smalltown, USA. The reality is that many people just can’t afford to see the world they were born on. Thanks, organised society. Thanks, capitalism. You suck.

Screens

iPhone, we need to break up. But there’s always a reason I need you, whether it’s for keeping in contact with family back in the States, or for having a portal to instant information if I need it, or just for playing games when I’m bored. Whatever the reason, this hunk of plastic and glass is a staple in my life, and I don’t like that one bit. The only thing I want to rely on is myself.

Call me a pessimist if you want, but there are still many things in this world that bring me joy, like the fact that I live in a temperature-controlled shelter from natural disasters (which are increasing in intensity and number thanks to climate change). I love that I can walk into a doctor’s office with the flu and walk out alive. I love that I can drive to the grocery store and pick up a pack of carcinogenic meat instead of having to stalk and shoot an animal myself. The 21st century truly is a time to be alive – but it comes with a heavy price.

Knowing all these things, I want to move forward. I want to break free. I want to care more about the world I live in. I want to be an active contributor to society – after I graduate, get a decent job, pay my student loans, and raise a family. Maybe then I’ll have the money to donate to some worthy causes, or to travel to underprivileged countries to volunteer. But right now, I am in no place to do those things, and slapping a French flag overlay on my Facebook profile picture doesn’t really do much to help anyone.

But above all, I want to stay positive. I know the world isn’t all sugar and rainbows. The world is also unannounced air strikes on children’s hospitals, senseless war, rape, violence, poverty, and suffering. And staying positive despite all that is what I find most challenging.

Cartoon: Keith Tucker © 2006

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7 thoughts on “Being 21 in the 21st Century

  1. “I know the world isn’t all sugar and rainbows. The world is also unannounced air strikes on children’s hospitals, senseless war, rape, violence, poverty, and suffering.” This is so true. And it rhymes too. Love the contrast between “rainbows” and “air strikes on children’s hospitals”.

    Like

    • Thank you! Wow, it’s been awhile since I read this post. I still feel this way every single day. I guess that’s how I see the world — a fluctuating mess of black and white, good and evil, etc. Because that’s essentially what it is. It’s hard to cope with that even on the good days, but I’m still figuring it out. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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