29 May 2007

It’s Not All Kumbaya, I Promise

So I’ve been having trouble figuring out how to tell the stories of all these incredible young people and how their combined efforts become a global movement of empowered young people that is redefining an entire generation. Why, you ask? Because I know it all sounds a little “campfire, lets sing a song accompanied by acoustic guitar and make necklaces out of grass while eating lots and lots of granola bars and drinking protein shakes made of beat roots in between shots of wheat grass.” I get that, but the further I get into this tour the more I wonder why it has become that way.

It’s not that kumbaya, and even if it is, what’s wrong with that? What’s corny about young people who are doing good in their communities? What’s cheesy about people who think creating change is positive and cool? When did our society turn in such a way that wanting to change the world was cliché? It’s not that way here in Brazil, and it wasn’t that way in Argentina. This seems to be an American mindset, and that is upsetting.

I was just watching Miss Congeniality (hey, Sandra Bullock is funny and I’m in a foreign country. Lay off) where every Miss America contestant says they want World Peace, and this is laughed at by Sandra, who’s the “cool, undercover FBI agent” until she gets to know the girls and sees that they are sincere. Then they play some dramatic music, she cries and tells them she has been “changed forever.” I found it oddly relevant to this project in the sense that it seems the “good” and the “positive” constantly has to prove itself to the “cool kids” and the troublemakers (like big tobacco and Wal-Mart). Why is that?

These people I’m meeting aren’t beauty queens. They’re real. Their vision and drive is genuine. Yes, some of their stories are very “rags to riches,” but that should inspire, not illicit eye-rolls. Others have nothing and will likely never have a whole lot, yet still fight every day to create a better life for themselves and those around them. For a while I thought I needed to change the way I told their stories to make them seem more cool and mainstream but the reality is, our frame of reference is what needs to change.

How did we get to this point where Paris Hilton (who violated her parole after DRIVING DRUNK) going to jail garners public petitions to keep her on the streets while an account about young people taking action to fight problems in their community is seen as a “human interest” story, poked and prodded as if to say, “oh well isn’t that cute?” Darn rights it’s cute! Way cuter that Paris’ stupid dog.

These young social entrepreneurs aren’t cliché or corny. Their work is inspiring. Look at them as role models. Rather than see them as the exception, make them the rule. I guess what I’m really trying to say is, become a Sandra Bullock. Challenge the way you see the world. It’ll be worth it, I promise.

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