“The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality.”
stagnant (ˈstæɡnənt) adj
1 (of water, etc) standing still; without flow or current
2 brackish and foul from standing still
3 stale, sluggish, or dull from inaction
4 not growing or developing; static
—Synonyms dormant, lifeless, dead, inert, lazy.
There is a common ideal that threads throughout the television shows and movies that my peers and myself consume. We seem to enjoy a dialogue of enlightenment. A waking up of oneself- to WHAT seems irrelevant. I’m talking ‘The Beach’, ‘Fight Club’, ‘Alice in (fucking) Wonderland’ and ‘The Secret’- I’m talking self discovery, self destruction. I’m talking “self improvement is masturbation- now, self destruction…” Have you ever read Fight Club? That shit echoes perfectly the bored fury of the generation I had the dubious honour of being born to- milling, static in their obsession that they SHOULD be impassioned, but really couldn’t get up enough energy to.
This is why we ended up at university. We’re all looking for the same thing, that spark of inspiration, that realisation of purpose, of energy, of culture, that will make us- what? artists, writers, poets, gods, philosophers? – vital? Television told us that university is where the real nexus of thought and inspiration blooms. If we simply show up, we’ll suddenly be transported into the selves we could be if only we’d be a bit more motivated.
I’ve been a part of university sexuality politics for nearly four years now. I’ve learnt the buzz words and brainy spiel that makes it work. I’m constantly reminded, by the theories I read and the teachers I correct and the people I rant with, that we are at the forefront of the next movement, a yet-to-be-labelled, undefined locality of questioning, deconstructing, insanity and intensity. No one said we’d be happy, and I doubt happiness is the aim. It is the temptation of true, undiluted knowledge that drew us. The experience, who could resist? No one said we’d have to actually make an effort, but an effort is being had.
I worry that we sometimes get too worried about regulation, too obsessed with the bureaucracy and the paperwork of making the day-to-day organisation run like clockwork. I sometimes worry that we’re burning out, after a bright flash of intelligent realness. It’s true that we’re the front runners, the avant-garde of the new school of thought- but, this is all on the proviso that we’ll actually think up something new. We’re re-hashing old news, deconstructing yesterday’s films, and last year’s feminists. Who here has the guts to write their new theory, to think it up in the first place, and convince a room of crazies just waiting for the right motivation that THIS will be the thing that changes our world, and blows our mind?
I worry that every socio-political movement of my generation has an expiry date. We’re a generation that is used to instant gratification. The myriad groups across campus, all spouting the next best thing, all in varying stages of birth, life and death, are the proof of a society with a low attention span. Trained by our media to consider last week old news, no one thing can last longer than the next season of Glee on our TV sets before we understand the plot, can second guess the characters and have obsessed over our mental reruns too many times to count. We expect a good story, with a solid and quick conclusion- and with the proliferation of narratives offered us, we’re quite willing to drop a book and start a new one.
Unfortunately, this constant streams of beginnings without conclusions leave us milling, standing in our own tepid lives, and feeling quite, well, stagnant.
I want these years to matter more than just for a bit of paper that gets me an extra zero on my future paycheck. The mental training has to be for something, something bigger than the Public Service, bigger than making a tidy profit, bigger even than just me. I want real social mobility, and the solution seems simple. Commit yourself to one school of thought, immerse yourself in your brand of radicalism, ask yourself hard questions and come up with real answers, real decisions- then enact them. It SEEMS simple. But when the real questions are too abstract, and the real answers too hard to grasp, and the real decisions have to be work on YOURSELF and YOUR mindset, because WITHOUT your willing motivation, participation, collaboration- I’m afraid that this too will just be a bunch of kids jerking off.
By Danielle K. Day