I moved to the States in my junior year of high school and two years later I arrived at this beautiful campus. Full of eagerness to assimilate into the American culture, I learned U.S. history and the different subcultures of the past and the present.
The cultural phenomenon that caught my eye most was the hippie generation of the 60s. Regardless of your political opinion, there is something to appreciate about people who are willing to go so far to stand up for their beliefs. In fact, this campus is very famous for its 60s political activism.
For example, the famous Mifflin block party started off as a Vietnam anti-war demonstration. Among the pioneers of the Mifflin block party is our very own Mayor Soglin. Yes, the same mayor who is greatly opposed to the Mifflin block party today. And here is my point: whether you believe that Mifflin should be held or not, we can all agree there is a huge difference between what Mifflin meant in the 60s and what it means now.
Back in the 60s, Mifflin was an expression of beliefs; it was an expression of ideology. Today, we cannot observe any ideology being expressed so strongly.
You might argue that such expression is not needed nowadays, you might argue that as a country we are on the right track and there is no need for a revolution of any sort. I am not arguing that we do or do not need a revolution. I am arguing that we do need our beliefs, what we stand for, and what we strive for as a generation must become the focal point of our lives here on campus.
This is the apology we owe to the 60s: we did not continue the tradition of centering our lives on beliefs and knowledge. I do indeed apologize for that. Nowadays, it’s as if our ideologies and our college lives are mutually exclusive.
We can and must change. This change does not need to come in the form of a political movement, as long as our conversations change. Let’s put a stop to the most oft-repeated chain of words on this campus. Namely, “what did you do last night?” Let’s try, “what have you been thinking about?” or “What subject have you been exploring?”
There are many great things that we do here as undergraduate and graduate students. Some of us study the latest technologies, some of us completely understand the great economic debate between Keynesian and classical economics, some of us know what it means to be an educator and some of us engage in the conversations between science and philosophy. So many of us think about the value of the good life and how we may achieve it. We are a very intelligent generation of Badgers — let’s put intelligence back into the center of our college life, not merely our college education.
It is only by restoring conversations about our belief systems that we can truly be proud Badgers. This article is what I believe in, and I am glad I can share it with you, fellow students. I know we can make the change, I know we all want it and we are all capable of it. Nothing can stop us from living up to the tradition set by the great Badgers of the 60s.
Tomer Stein ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in philosophy.