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Activity overload

Megan O'Neil | Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Our parents’ generation often lament what they describe as the “apathetic youth” of today.We tend not to vote, and we certainly don’t march on Washington waving banners of peace. We are not academically engaged and rarely read books not assigned to us in class. We prefer video games to award-winning foreign films and would chose a new episode of The O.C. over a lecture on global warming any day. Indeed, it seems that the more speakers the administration and faculty bring to campus, the fewer students are in attendance. Contrary to popular opinion, however, this is not because we don’t care about issues such as the crisis in Sudan. It is simply because we are overwhelmed by all that is expected of us and all that we expect of ourselves.Take the month of February as an example. February is, among other things, Black History Month, American Heart Month, Marfan Syndrome Awareness Month and Youth Leadership Month. Toss in National Eating Disorder Week along with Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, and you have got yourself a very busy 28 days.All of these observances are accompanied by obligations which with we are pelted by various means of communication. We are invited to “save a life” and donate blood. We are encouraged to attend a lecture on eating disorder intervention. We are given the opportunity to mentor a local youth. The catch phrase in all of this is of course “raising awareness.” Groups want to raise awareness about violence against women, raise awareness about the death penalty and raise awareness about illiteracy in the United States. This is not to say that these things are not important and valuable – they certainly are. At a certain moment, however, you simply reach a point of awareness fatigue. No matter how interesting or beneficial you know that lecture on the School of Americas will be, you simply cannot bring yourself to go. And the sight of yet another e-mail titled “Great volunteer opportunity” both irritates you and makes you feel guilty. Even when you do have a free hour or two during which to attend a lecture, the wide range of choices leaves you torn. Monday night at Saint Mary’s there were showings of the films “Whale Rider” and “Lost in Translation,” a lecture by the Humanistic Studies department called “The Da Vinci Code: Cracked or Crack-pot,” and a Lenten prayer service. After debating until the last minute I finally settled on “Whale Rider,” which I loved and would recommend to any-body. But at the same time, I wondered if one of the other events would have been better. Perhaps if the incessant demands on our attention were reduced and we didn’t feel so skewed, student interest and participation in extra curricular activities such as those mentioned above would increase. Until then, we will continue as the so called apathetic youth.