For many people, college has the strange effect of changing their worldviews. So many students enroll in college, so firmly grounded in a belief system that nothing, in their minds, can change the way they see things. For others, the prospect of starting over in college can present a wonderful opportunity to challenge the way they view life.
The whole change in worldview is fine and dandy, especially when it comes to a greater understanding of the people with whom we share this planet. Being in a bubble of a place like Princeton, however, also has the effect of changing people's view of the world, or more properly phrased, taking away that view of life outside Princeton.
Of course, there is the omnipresent New York Times for the current events freaks and, of course, the New Yorkers on campus who want to stay informed on the doings and happenings of their city and its metropolitan area. Yet if you were to ask any non-New Yorker or New Jerseyite what is new in the world, chances are that they would be able to tell you the latest sports stats from ESPN before they can discuss the new bill proposed by their hometown's city council.
I, unfortunately, am guilty of this, and I have no excuse, since I am right up the turnpike from my hometown of Philadelphia. One problem, however, has gone on for far too long, and it does not garner as much attention as it should, especially in a place as introverted as Princeton (with many students to match the profile). This crisis happens to be the ghastly murder rate in our urban centers, particularly in the city of Philadelphia.
As of the beginning of this week, the city's murder total for the year stands at 128, a rate of 1.1 homicides per day. The absurdity of this situation has many contributing factors: Among them are the poor leadership in the city, budget cuts to the district attorney's office and the proliferation of firearms and the ease with which they are obtained.
The problem cuts deeper than this, and considering the generation of people most affected by this predicament, I feel as though it deserves the attention of the student readership of this paper. Most of the victims and perpetrators of these crimes are in our age bracket, and the same problem that I mentioned in my last column applies in this situation: the self-importance of our generation. The same inclination of people here in Princeton to be more concerned with course selection, Thursday and Saturday nights on the Street and final exams is the same mindset that plagues those in the inner city whom these crimes affect. The common thread is, "I have to look out for myself right now," and that leads to not only self-absorption but also to complete and utter neglect of other people.
The way it works out in the case of the inner city, however, is that this mindset is compounded with a lack of respect for other human life. I am sure that the last things on the mind of a gunman are the family that his or her victim is leaving behind or the future that could potentially have been seen. This is the "me-generation" at its utter worse, with the lack of interest in others' lives translating into the senseless deaths of so many people.
Unfortunately, what is written in this column may fall on blind eyes because crime in inner-city Philadelphia, Los Angeles or even a place as close as Trenton does not directly affect us or disturb the bubble around this campus. It should disrupt not only the shell in which we live, but also the consciences of at least each American-born student here. With tragedies as devastating as the shootings at Virginia Tech, whose circumstances warranted an appropriate response from students here mourning in solidarity with their peers, it is sad that not even a smidge of attention is given here to topics like urban crime among our generation.
While some organizations like the Black Student Union have specifically addressed themes like the homicide rate in Philadelphia, the topic risks being pigeonholed into an "urban" or "black" problem, whereas issues like global warming and conversion to vegetarianism gain campus-wide attention, if not discussion. We, as the next generation to take the reins in our society, however, need to take a closer look at ourselves as a whole. Our lives should be more than just what happens to us and our supposed intellectual equals. If we fail to come to terms with the danger that our self-absorption and neglect of the other pose, we run the risk of facing the same fate as Narcissus — self-destruction through our own vanity. We also would be setting a poor example for the generation after us, as the sense of community that used to bind us all becomes the sense of self that clouds our vision of what really is important in the world.
We cannot expect to solve global problems if our view of the world continues to be as parochial as it is. It's time for us to wake from our slumber and witness reality: The reality that is the plight of our very own generation. Walter Griffin is a freshman from Philadelphia, Pa. He may be reached at email@example.com.
Reader Comments (0)
No comments yet. Be the first to post your opinion on this article.