Millennial Activism: The Quiet Revolution

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Andrew Sullivan’s coverage of the Iran election mess has been fantastic. One of his posts touched on something I’ve addressed before in many a blog post, and that’s the comparison of Millennial activism to the Boomer activism of the 1960s.

Sullivan put forth the observation that Millennials are revolutionary – causing healthy societal turmoil when needed – and doing so quietly, with the use of technology. Tom Friedman – eat your heart out:

It’s increasingly clear that Ahmadinejad and the old guard mullahs were caught off-guard by this technology and how it helped galvanize the opposition movement in the last few weeks. That’s why they didn’t see what those of us surgically attached to modems could spot a mile away: something was happening in Iran. If Drum is right, the mullahs believed their own propaganda about victory until reality hit them so hard so fast, they miscalculated badly and over-reached.

The key force behind this is the next generation, the Millennials, who elected Obama in America and may oust Ahmadinejad in Iran. They want freedom; they are sick of lies; they enjoy life and know hope.

This generation will determine if the world can avoid the apocalypse that will come if the fear-ridden establishments continue to dominate global politics, motivated by terror, armed with nukes, and playing old but now far too dangerous games. This generation will not bypass existing institutions and methods: look at the record turnout in Iran and the massive mobilization of the young and minority vote in the US. But they will use technology to displace old modes and orders. Maybe this revolt will be crushed. But even if it is, the genie has escaped this Islamist bottle.

Maybe that’s what we’re hearing on the rooftops of Tehran: the sound of the next revolution.

Somewhere around 2008 folks began to understand what this quiet revolution meant. No longer do revolutions solely consist of walking the streets of our small towns and big cities with placards while chanting. No longer do revolutions solely consist of conducting sit-ins and supplanting order with chaos. Instead, this new revolution transforms the subculture from within. Millennials actually trust institutions to make change. And in Iran, perhaps this whole election debacle wouldn’t be so alarming to us in the West if the youth hadn’t turned out in such record numbers. But they did. And they were able to partly because of their knowledge of and proficiency in using technology.

Yes, this is the same technology many a critic has lambasted as ineffective, because it seemed so passive to them. Perhaps they should take a note from the past year and a half and read Sullivan’s coverage of Iran’s election this week.

This is a quiet revolution. But be assured – the transformation will be breathtaking. And Sullivan’s right – we owe a big thank you to technology.