Posted on Tuesday 9th December 2008 at 00:00
Earlier today I was sat in an unusually sleepy lecture on Consumer Buying Behavior in Tourism. The lecturer was trying, in vain, to get the class to contribute and kept putting questions to the students to try and get them thinking and responding to what he was telling them. Afterwards he remarked to me that he really wished that students would make more of an effort to challenge lecturers about what they are being taught.

"Back in my day, students used to be rebellious. They argued with authority and fought against ideas they disagreed with. These days young people have become commercialised conformists and all their individualism has gone."

He then went on to tell me about how his peers, outraged by the siting of a US Missile base near their home, had chosen to protest by storming the place and pulling down the fences. It didn't change anything, but at least they were able to make a point. There was a strong sense of idealism and anger at the establishment for permitting what they saw as injustice in the world.

This got me thinking; why have we moved from a world where students were on the forefront of political and social debates, always making their opinions known and campaigning to change the world, to one in which students don't even bother to question the information being spoon fed to them in lectures, never mind take an interest in current affairs or speak out against injustice? Why don't we ever rebel? Is it simply laziness? Is it the consequence of living in a consumer entertainment world, where no one ever has to think for themselves?

Quite possibly, but I have another suggestion that I wish to put to you today, oh dear reader. Could it be that these days there simply isn't anything to rebel about or against? Could it be that we simply don't need to make a stand anymore?

Perhaps the biggest single difference between my generation and the previous generation of university students is that right now, in 2008, life is pretty sweet. Back then there were real problems to be concerned about. There was a Cold War going on. Serious, very real threat of a Nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the West. There were wars that actually affected people in the West; the Vietnam War for example, where large numbers of soldiers were dying or being brutily maimed. There were periods of wide spread civil unrest, power shortages, povety. Lots and lots of thing to get angry about.

And we just don't have that anymore. Yes there are still Nuclear weapons and other WMDs in the World, but no one is really expecting them to ever be used. There are still wars, but they are a long way from here, and thanks to the reduced size of the military and better risk assessments, most people don't know anyone serving over seas, and far fewer still can name anyone who has actually been killed or injured in battle. As for power shortages, I can't remember the last time there was a cut here, and the petrol pumps rarely threaten to run dry.

The fact is that life is pretty good. Okay, the economy is in recession, but since most students don't have stocks and shares or large morgages, they remain relatively affluent. I get annoyed when I see my electricity bill. I can feel my blood pressure rising when I get stuck in traffic or when I can't find a parking space at the supermarket, but that is as bad as things get for me these days. There just isn't anything that makes me really angry, and there isn't anything I'd pick up a plackard for just now.

One day this happy little problem free world will again be punctured by something terrible and outragous, and when that day comes I think the student population as a whole will be rallied to do what it can to fight the powers that be once more. But whilst times are good I suspect my lecturer is going to becoming yet more frustrated by the care free, unquestioning nature of those who enter the classroom.

What do you think? Did you ever rebel against anything when you were a student? Would you do so now? What gets you angry enough to speak out? Answers in the comment box please.

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