The Huffington Post featured a story on Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities (HROC), a program held at Arcadia University on Dec 7. In her article, “Finding Hope in the Next Generation,” Karin Kasdin writes about attending the three-day intensive program and being “awed by the youthful determination” of the 23 attendees.
Twenty-three Millennials and one Baby Boomer watched a video of a recent HROC delegation to Rwanda. From half a world away, we watched 10 Tutsi survivors of the genocide and 10 Hutu perpetrators and relatives of perpetrators participate in the HROC workshop where they began the hard work of restoring normal relationships. During the course of their training they took their first tentative steps toward building a future together on a foundation of forgiveness and trust. Twenty-four of us cried all through the credits. A few participants had been to Rwanda for HROC. A few more plan to participate this summer. One young woman had volunteered in Tanzania. Most of these young people were pursuing careers in the areas of conflict resolution, restorative justice or related fields.
You get to know people fairly well when you are cloistered in a single room together for three days. The young adults with whom I shared this experience are committed to spreading the message of peace. Neither jaded nor disillusioned by their own experiences of trauma, they are marching forth to bring light into the void. They are the standard bearers of hope in what often seems like a hopelessly dark world. I was awed by their youthful determination to make a difference.
Arriving home on Sunday night, I was paradoxically both energized and completely spent. Not ready to verbally share the emotionally-laden experience, and unsure of whether or not I ever could, I settled in to read the Sunday New York Times and stumbled upon an article titled, “How to Live Without Irony,” with the cheery subtitle, “Life has become a Competition to see Who Cares the Least.”
The author, a professor of French at Princeton, stipulated that for the “members of Generation Y, the Millennial generation-particularly middle class Caucasians—irony is the primary mode with which daily life is dealt.” She explains that irony is the most self-defensive mode, as it allows a person to dodge responsibility for his or her choices. Furthermore, ironic living works as a preemptive surrender and takes the form of reaction rather than action. “It bespeaks cultural numbness, resignation, and defeat.” She was obviously not talking about the young people I met.