A recent AFP article looks for answers to this question by talking with activists from the Vietnam War-era and students involved in opposing the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
There are of course many reasons for the decline of activism at universities, which have historically been a hotbed for anti-war activity.
Mounting economic and academic pressures on today’s youth, intimidation by authorities, online distractions and conflicted views about the “good” war in Afghanistan, not to mention other causes such as health care and slashed school budgets clawing for attention, have conspired to snuff out anti-war activism on campus, experts and students say.
Tom Hayden, one of the founders of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in the 1960s, pinned it squarely on the privatization of conflict.
“Students were the bulwark of the anti-Vietnam war movement because students were being drafted, full stop,” Hayden said. “Ending forced conscription radically diminished the possibilities of future student anti-war protests.”
The article also points out that young people today are “marching with their fingers instead of their feet.”
Some, including myself, question how much pressure this type of activism really puts on those in power to change course.
A new generation of antiwar veterans is beginning to set itself apart in its opposition to America’s wars abroad and at home.
As K-pop fans and Black organizers and artists are demonstrating, joyful, powerful movements draw more people in and reflect the kind of world we want to live in.
If soldiers train for armed combat, why wouldn’t activists train for toppling the political-economic structure that’s killing our chance for a just future? The stakes are just as high.