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A Sunday Afternoon Wake Up

01/03/2011

-by Regina Wang

On a Sunday afternoon in Princeton, most students are busy worrying
about some of the most important aspects of their lives – their
academic and social needs. I wasn’t sure if I could tear myself from
those things to make it to the Awakening the Dreamer symposium this
Sunday, but I’m definitely glad that I did.

As one of three Princeton students who attended the entire event, I
definitely felt like an integral part of the experience, and I now
feel awakened to really do something.

The WakeUp was organized by Generation Waking Up, an organization
based in California which seeks to “awaken” young people to the
challenges of our generation in creating a sustainable, just future.
Princeton’s WakeUp was coordinated by Princeton freshman Leland
Baldwin and included several members of Generation Waking Up (in fact,
they outnumbered us Princeton students nearly two to one).

The symposium alternated between videos and discussion about our
reactions, educating us while allowing us to engage and share. If
focused on four main questions: Who are we? Where are we? How did we
get here? And What’s possible for the future?

The event started with everyone introducing themselves as individuals,
followed by a group effort to define our generation. We then watched a
video about our generation, which highlighted our passiveness in
taking action to bring necessary change, contrasting our belief that
we can’t bring change with the activism of the 60s against war,
segregation, and gender equality, among other things.

Next, we focused on where we are now in terms of the issues we face
today. Most of the information we learned wasn’t entirely new to us –
I’m pretty sure most Princeton students know about the huge disparity
between the rich and the poor as a tiny fraction of the population
owns a majority of its wealth and the majority of the world does not
have access to everyday conveniences most of us don’t even think twice
about. Animals are disappearing at an alarming rate, and the
incredible amounts of waste and pollution we produce each day are
anything but sustainable. However, as we discussed after the video,
most of had forgotten about or unconsciously ignored these global
problems in favor of the comparatively inconsequential matters that
fill our lives.

In particular, my partner and I shared how the video reminded us of
the almost superficial nature of almost all our immediate concerns.
The video showed us how many people today are obsessed with stuff as a
means of satisfaction, without realizing that material possessions are
not bringing happiness. We both reflected on how easy it is to get
distracted by stuff so that one forgets about larger issues.

The next video and discussion focused on the challenges we face today
in bringing the change we want to see. We discussed some underlying
assumptions (many of them untrue) that prevent people from taking
action, including the ideas that individuals cannot do anything,
technology will solve all our problems, and some people just don’t
care and cannot be convinced to care. Video clips featuring Van Jones
and other activists discussed the idea that from a rationalist
standpoint, an individual really can’t do anything, but it takes an
individual to get anything done. He provided the example of the
standing ovation in a crowd of people – one person has to stand up
first, and then the crowd follows. Similarly, young people today need
to realize that nothing will happen until one person takes action.

Finally, we discussed the possible actions we can take for the future.
By intersecting things we love with things we want to see in the
world, we found actions each of us could take. We also wrote plans for
individual and group-based actions we planned to take and when we
planned to act.

Altogether, the experience really reminded me of what I already knew
but had pushed behind my own selfish, superficial worries. The
awakening really reminded me to care and take action for something
bigger than myself.

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