Teens: Tribalism, Folly and Sporadic Bouts of Inspiration
How the pandemic sparked a call for youth activism
It’s coming up on a year and a half since I first typed a Google Meet code into my phone and joined an online class. Much sooner than I could have imagined, a general malaise set over my social circles, and a bedroom that once served as respite from everyday life became solitary confinement as the COVID-19 pandemic raged. Meaningful connection with friends more or less stopped, and the days and weeks began to blend together.
In a broader sense, we saw tribalism and folly rearing their ugly heads, fueled by a tremendous amount of misinformation. Anti-vaccine groups grew in members, no doubt fed by the free time people had to be on social media. I’m still shocked at the politicization of vaccines, particularly with the role the Trump administration played in disseminating disinformation. Especially as someone planning on going into a field of science for my future career, I found it extraordinarily disheartening to see such widespread denial. At the outset I was hopeful that people would be more conscientious when it came to the source and quality of information they consume, but these last 18 months have certainly shown a tendency of people to do the opposite.
A silver lining, however, was the opportunity for independent learning and self-study. During sporadic bouts of motivation, I found myself able to take advantage of the borderline excessive free time I had, and study anything I wanted. From set theory to lambda calculus to the compositions of Scriabin and Czerny, I was able to explore interests in a way that felt natural in that I could self-impose as much or as little rigor as I wanted to any time I sat down to work. That is unquestionably a skill that I want to take with me moving out of the pandemic.
Going forward, I hope to see that the shambolic response from the international community to climate change will shake us into being more willing to take radical measures in the battle against such an obvious rising human threat (as unrealistic as it may be). I see youth activism playing a central role in this. Many young people got involved in activism and community mutual aid. The necessity of staying up to date with politics and epidemiological news forced many to be more aware of their local and national communities. I’m hopeful that the steps set in motion by this will continue, and that a myriad of concrete changes can be achieved. These last 18 months have been full of ugliness, but it’s precisely that fact which makes now the time to push in the right direction.
Lucas Blakeslee is a junior at Santa Fe High School.
Editor’s note: Thank you to Nina Bunker Ruiz, Santa Fe High School teacher and former Tumbleweeds editor, for providing essays. We welcome articles and personal essays by students. Please contact Claudette Sutton, firstname.lastname@example.org, with your ideas.