The youth of a culture plays a key role in keeping the democractic energies alive, remember it was primarily the youth that drove the anti-war movement of the 1960's and black freedom movement as they followed their own"vision and courage". As our culture becomes nihilistic and worships at the alter of consumerism, the youth's role has been diminished and damaged. I don't want to quote the entire chapter, but no one can articulate it better than Cornell West. I understand it's long but I ensure you it's worth your time. The whole book is just as well written and thought provoking as the excerpt below.
Excerpts from Democracy Matters: The Necessary Engagement With Youth Culture.
"Yet one of the most effective strategies of corporate
marketeers has been to target the youth market with distracted amusement and in saturate them with pleasurable sedatives that steer them away from engagement with issues of peace and justice. The incessant media bombardment
of images (of solutions body and mindless violence) on TV and in movies and
music convinces many young people that the culture of gratification-a
quest for insatiable pleasure, endless titillation, and sexual
stimulation-is the only way of being human. Hedonistic values and
narcissistic identities produce emotionally stunted young people unable
to grow up and unwilling to be responsible democratic system. The
market driven media lead many young people to think that life is basically
about material toys and social status. Democratic ideas of making the world
more just, or striving to be a decent and compassionate person are easily overlooked.
This media bombardment not only robs young people of their right to struggle for maturity-by glamorizing possessive individualism at the expense of
democratic individuality but also leaves them ill equipped to deal with the spiritual malnutrition that awaits them after their endless pursuit of pleasure. This sense of emptiness of the soul holds for wealthy kids in the vanilla suburbs and poor kids in the chocolate cities. Neither the possession of commodities nor the fetishizing of commodities satisfies young people's needs for love and self confidence. Instead we witness personal depression psychic pain and individual
loneliness fueling media influenced modes of escapism. These include the high use of drugs like cocaine and Ecstasy; the growing popularity of performing sex acts at incredibly young ages, such as middle school-age girls giving blow jobs because it will make them "cool"; and the way in which so many kids have become addicted to going online and instant messaging or creating Weblogs in which they assume an alternate personality. This disgraceful numbing of the senses, dulling of the mind, and confining of life to an eternal present-with a lack of connection to the past and no vision for a different future-is an insidious form of soul murder. And we wonder why depression escalates and suicides increase among our precious children.
Many have been reduced to a bundle of desires targeted by corporate American for consumption. Their armor of life is often too feeble to enable them to withstand the emotional trauma generated in part, by the fast paced capitalist culture of consumption that confronts them. In short, many lack the necessary navigational skills to cope with the challenges and crises in life-disappointment, disease, death. This is why so many are enacting the nihilism of meaninglessness and hopelessness in their lives that mirrors the nihilism of the adult world.
Yet some young folk do persevere and prevail, those who are dissatisfied with mere material toys and illusions of security. They hunger for something more, thirst for something deeper. They want caring attention, wise guidance, and compassionate counsel. They desire democratic individuality, community, and society. They know something is wrong with America and something is missing in their lives. They long for energizing visions worthy of pursuit and sacrifice that will situate their emancipated souls in a story bigger than themselves and locate their inflated egos (that only conceal deep insecurities and anxieties) in a narrative grander than themselves. Their emancipated souls contain a rage that often strikes out at the world; their inflated egos yield a cocky pose and posture that defies authority, whether legitimate or illegitimate. A grand story and a large narrative-especially democratic ones-can channel their longings into mature efforts to contribute in a meaningful way to making the world a better place. This longing is the raw stuff of democracy matters."