“The vast and complicated issues facing today’s generation can leave many with uncertainty and fear that nothing can be done,” said actor Ryan Gosling, narrator and co-producer of this month’s green film, #Regeneration. “Yet by exploring how the influence of our media, parents and education have shaped us, we can begin to understand what we must change, both as a generation and a culture.”
Rider’s green film series doesn’t typically touch on issues such as the negative effects that the media and education have on our generation of Americans — Generation Y. But #Regeneration, which will be shown Feb. 11 at 7 p.m. in Sweigart Auditorium, shows that every aspect of our lives relates to sustainability.
The film starts out by analyzing our generation, deeming us a self-absorbed generation that has no purpose or historical role. Do we have the right to be offended by that statement? After comparing our generation to the young people of the ’60s and ’70s — a generation that risked their lives to stand up against racial discrimination and a futile war in Vietnam — it’s undeniable that we are not stepping up to the plate.
But the film doesn’t just dismiss us as a failure of a generation or blame us for being the egocentric Americans that we truly are. Instead, #Regeneration blames the media.
We aren’t ignorant about the issues of the world because we are stupid. The media don’t show us what’s really going on. Death and violence and suffering are shown, but sanitized. The complex underlying forces are barely mentioned. The media are used to distract us, not inform us. This is the heart of the issue, says the film.
But the media aren’t the only ones to blame. #Regeneration also points a finger at our parents and the self-esteem-boosting movement of the late ’90s. Our generation has been told our entire lives that we are special; the most important person in the world; able to achieve anything; a good person, despite our bad choices and actions. Our generation might be a bunch of self-absorbed people with tunnel vision, but the unwarranted flattery of the prior generation played a role in making us who we are.
Growing up in a digital environment didn’t do us much good either, says the film, which claims that growing up watching fake video game characters and movie stars get murdered on screens, rather than being exposed to the real death and devastation in the world through news, has drained our generation of empathy. Our generation isn’t watching the war play out on our television screens — we are safely pretending that it isn’t a reality. After televised footage of the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War sent America into an angry outrage, the media decided that they were better off keeping people ignorant and calm.
So what does all this have to do with the earth, global warming and sustainability? Gosling has the answer. “We want to save our earth,” he says, “but we’re so intrinsically connected to some form of a screen, we hardly have enough time to look up and see what the earth is saying.”
#Regeneration offers an eye-opening look into our generation of Americans and their role, or lack of, in the world. But how can we change who we are? We need to celebrate the fact that we live in a country in which freedom exists, and use that freedom wisely. As the film so blatantly declares, freedom is not going out on Friday night, drinking beer and watching television. That is the reality that we must face if we hope to make any valuable contribution to history and this place we call home.
The weekly editorial expresses the
majority opinion of The Rider News.
This week’s editorial was written by the managing editor, Sarah Bergen.
Printed in the 02/11/15 issue.