A Different Pair of Shades
by Mike Trivella | University of Notre Dame
With my last article for NextGen I thought long and hard about what I wanted to write, but my thoughts were so far flung that I could hardly find any coherent topic I could dedicate a page and a half too. Perhaps it was my desire to write something truly masterful, or my illusions of grandeur that I could actually write something that good, but I simply was incapable of putting words to the page. I was utterly surprised, then, that the combination of Immanuel Kant and the Bosnian war finally gave me the breakthrough I was looking for.
You see, in my History of Modern Philosophy class we are currently discussing Immanuel Kant, the acclaimed German philosopher who revolutionized the philosophical inquiry for meaning in the world by positing (more or less) that we can learn a lot about that world if we first explore the perspective from which we view the world around us. This may seem somewhat obvious today, but back then philosophy was focused almost entirely on the way the world impacts us, not on the impact our perspective may have on the way we view the world.
As for the Bosnian War, I spent much of yesterday afternoon reading scholarly summaries of the events taking place in Bosnia following its independence from Yugoslavia in the early 1990′s. In a country where Bosniak Muslims, Croats and Serbs all lived in close proximity to each other, the collapse of Communist Yugoslavia and subsequent rise of independent, jingoistic republics ensured that the transition to democracy would be bloody. Neo-fascist gangs of Serbs and Croats regularly bombed Bosnian villages, driving out the villagers, raping women and executing men and boys in the process, all in the name of Serb and Croat nationalism. I thought Behind Enemy Lines was hard enough to watch, but reading about this trip into hell was even worse.
While you might wonder what genocide and a philosopher who died two hundred years ago have to do with each other, I think that in a strange way they both relate to the mission that the founders of NextGen set out to achieve. We live in a world filled with information, and we spend what seems like half that time trying to dissect that information. We live in a world where we are bombarded with millions upon millions of different people’s perspectives, in the form of articles, blogs, posts, tweets- and the list goes on and on.
Yet not all of these perspectives are objective, pragmatic or factual. Much of what we see today that gets printed or published is completely subjective, narrow-minded and blatantly blown out of proportion. One only has to look at the bitter disagreements going on about such things as health care, government debt and foreign policy in this country and the vitriol spewed in the process. And sometimes, as the example of Bosnia shows, these bitter disagreements over which perspective is best can even lead to tragedy.
So yes, it appears that a lot of what we see that passes for actual “information” in this country is nothing more than a bunch of biased and baseless junk. That is why the NextGen project was so important. NextGen was about providing a platform that voiced the views of the generation, as we waited to take over as leaders of our country. Words have the power to influence our actions, and intelligent, well-thought out words can serve to create meaningful debate, offer viable solutions, and perhaps most importantly show that disagreement does not have to degenerate into a shouting match.
At the same time, we must always try to remember something a little like what Kant had in mind. We all wear a different pair of shades through which we view the world. As much as we would like to think otherwise, our pair is not always the best or most correct, and much of the time another person’s perspective offers a lot.
By now, I realize that I am probably on the verge of rambling- but I only have one more point to make. We are so fortunate to live in the United States of America, a place where you can mostly live without fear, with food on your plate and a great life beckoning if you make the most of your education. I feel that day-in and day-out many of us take these gifts for granted. Perhaps it is inevitable in a capitalist society to demand more and more, looking for the next best thing to use up and throw away, but in the end what really matters but the bare essentials of life? We need to stop thinking about me, me, me, and more about others.
In the end I can live without my clothes from J. Crew, my smart phone, my car and all the other belongings that I don’t need yet have accumulated in my life. On the other hand, I cannot live without family, without friends, or without at least attempting to bring people closer together. Peace is always the most elusive of goals but just imagine what could happen if we all took off our rose-colored shades and put on someone else’s pair. Just imagine. In the words of a man more poetic than I, “You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”Mike Trivella is currently a junior at the University of Notre Dame. Majoring in Accounting and minoring in Philosophy, Mike splits his time between classes, working out with friends, balancing debits & credits, pondering the true essence of the universe, and as always watching the New York Football Giants.