No doubt the skinny young moptop was trying to be friendly when, as I left the supermarket, he congratulated me for “rockin’ the reusable”—meaning my non-disposable grocery bag. He was flagging down passersby on behalf of some green group, asking them “Do you have a moment for the environment?” But I was nevertheless... rankled. At this time of year, after college has let out, this particular block near my home becomes a stalking-ground for undergraduates doing advocacy work and soliciting signatures for petitions. I find it a nettlesome business, daily dodging nice kids asking me if I have time for the environment, gay rights, affordable housing, and so on—the implication being that if I don’t stop to yak with them, I don’t have time for these issues.

Yet I feel for these callow twerps, for I was once one of them, only worse. In the summer of 1985, I worked as a canvasser for the New Jersey branch of PIRG (Public Interest Research Group), a consumer and environmental lobby founded by Ralph Nader. Not only did I actively knock on doors in the suburbs rather than just pester urban pedestrians; I asked people for money. And what’s stranger still is, a fair number of them wrote out checks to NJ-PIRG on the spot.

I still can’t believe I did this. It’s not only against my inherent nature even to leave the house (let alone appear on the doorstep of a stranger’s); I also have doubts about the very effectiveness of this sort of street-level twerp deployment, even if I believe in the causes themselves.

Yet when I look at what’s happening in Iran, where two thirds of the population is under the age of 35, I’m reminded that youthful activism can be a powerful, wondrous thing. (As opposed to, say, this.) With lives on the line and freedom at stake, young Iran has no time to indulge in twerpitude.

June 25, 2009  Link  General Posts  Share/Bookmark


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