American youth no longer buy into US capitalist ideology
Published: May 16, 2024 09:18 PM
Protesters confront with the police at a pro-Palestinian protest on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the United States, on May 6, 2024.(Photo: Xinhua)

Protesters confront with the police at a pro-Palestinian protest on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the United States, on May 6, 2024.(Photo: Xinhua)

My first semester as a university instructor came during a period of uprising. It was during the summer of 2020, Americans rose up against police. Civilians had been murdered as our government let COVID rage unabated, without providing us with worthwhile healthcare. In 2020, Americans were protesting for self-defense and preservation. 

The modern world is connected to the point where we are all affected by one another's fates. However, this year, American campus uprisings are specifically about defending others, those far away in Palestine where the US has been indulging Israel amid the latter's continuing atrocity against Palestinians. Our most recent semester just ended here in the US with student activists teaching all of us a great deal more than we could teach them through sit-ins and other protests on college campuses across the country.

As the police state in the US first descended upon unarmed, peaceful student protestors with snipers, chemical weapons and batons at the sinister behest of college administrators their goal was likely to have a chilling effect on other would-be dissidents. No one wants to be beaten, killed, imprisoned or have their nascent careers ruined. 

All of the violence perpetrated by police on these students was immediately delivered to others over screens in vivid, gory detail. The result was not a shut-down of activism in support of Palestinian liberation. What followed was an explosion of students on other campuses starting their own encampments to demand that their universities also divest from investing in Israel's apartheid state. 

Students have shown that they care more about Palestinian lives than they do about their own, and when they have seen their own colleagues get persecuted for protest it has only rallied more to the cause. 

The cause of ending American and Israeli atrocity against Palestinians is certainly a moral one. Students have demonstrated a sensible, socialist sensibility, and they realize that their large universities are giant businesses. They're aware that these universities often first gained their wealth through stealing the land of North America's own indigenous peoples and the enslavement of Africans we trafficked, and who now continue building their coffers through real estate holdings both here and abroad as well as through financing the production of weapons used on Palestinians. The students have made clear financial demands of their institutions that can have a measurable positive impact on the lives of millions of innocent people. 

They also understand their own culpability in genocide through the institutions they attend and are organizing to stop the flow of blood money to illegitimate regimes which are killing and displacing millions in Palestine. 

Many of the largest encampment protests have happened at some of US' most elite universities, attended by students with wealthy and powerful families. Yet, tens of thousands of those privileged young people are choosing to work across class lines and use their privilege to advocate for Palestinians. 

Social revolutions are always made up of myriad of forces and constituents but successful ones require at least some significant buy-in from so-called elites willing to betray their own class in service of liberation for the oppressed. This type of socialist thinking is emerging even among the children of the elite as, in a manner reminiscent of Gramsci's description of revolutions of the past, "unspeakable suffering" and "unspeakable misery" awaken a "collective will."

Central to America's capitalist mythos is the idea that our massive levels of inequality can be ignored or excused because those who work hard and do the right things will be rewarded. With personal and education debt at all-time highs, housing costs at historic levels, income stagnant, job prospects and security slim, all while American corporation profits soar, young generations see no reason to buy into American capitalist ideology.

Beyond that, they understand that our vast wealth is spent to keep the rest of the world subjugated so that we can exploit their markets and resources. Gramsci comes to mind again as it has become clear that young people have been long indoctrinated by educational, family and cultural institutions to have illogical fealty to American capitalism. However, events have overcome ideology. 

American exceptionalism and the myth that capitalism is just and will provide for the majority of people can simply no longer stand up to the facts on the ground for American students, both here and abroad. With American hegemony clearly no longer possible, the young people of this generation are rejecting the idea that we should dominate the world. They want to save it by living among our neighbors in peace. 

The author is a Chicago-based columnist covering US politics & culture. He is also a university English & critical journalism instructor. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn