Summary of “The Port Huron Statement” – Humanities Essay (100 Level Course)
The first passage, an agenda for a generation, begins with the author diving into an explanation that we as children of the United States grew up into the best and most comfortable world. We began to look on to the rest of our world with a bitter taste and in so our complacency grew. Even so, our ignorance could not be sustained forever, and things like the cold war and the atom bomb shattered our perfect worlds. Because of our nature and our societal comforts many of us chose to respond to these harsh realities by ignoring them directly and focusing more on the our own consciousness of these realities.
“While these and other problems either directly oppressed us or rankled our consciences and became our own subjective concerns, we began to see complicated and disturbing paradoxes in our surrounding America. Because we are the upper class, the ones who seem capable of causing change we feel responsibility and burden to, yet “the message of our society is that there is no viable alternative to the present”. All classes fear the loss of control in our general world but the upper classes feel it to a greater extent because they not only feel the responsibility, but they also have more to loose if stability in America was lost. “Men have unrealized potential for self evaluation, self direction, self understanding, and creativity”. It is those who realize this potential that take on the burden of responsibility towards the state of their society.
The author then begins to talk of brotherhood and man’s relation to his fellow man and how it is vital to survival. “Human interdependence is contemporary fact; human brotherhood must be willed, however, as a condition of future survival and as the most appropriate form of social relations”. In establishing brotherhood we are kept in check with the interests of our peers and other members of our society. It keeps those from become too involved in the materialistic needs of the individual and the individual’s desire for power. In an ideal democracy all members of a community would be involved in working towards the interest of the mass of that community, neglecting no one and no class. The economic system ideally is similar in that it works to involve all individuals in the best interest of the majority.
Some Americans are content in their un reflective consciousness, choosing to believe that life is good, but if it changes there is not much they can do to change it. It is mostly the older upper class that feel this way, as much of their time is gone and they have little of their lives ahead of them. It is now the American students who are doing the most and taking on the most responsibility towards change in their nation. Because many of the youth are enrolled in Universities, they are learning of their nation and its problems. Because students are the younger generation, they feel the responsibility to govern and change their inherited world, as it is theirs to maintain for the rest of their lives. “The significance is in the fact that the students are breaking the crust of apathy and overcoming the inner alienation that remain the defining characteristics of American college life”. The apathy is a product of social institutions, and part of the student’s resistance to it is a result of it being a product created for them. In reality, the function of universities in the students life is not to teach students of the injustices, but is to implant the information and methods necessary for those students to have a decent and comfortable life in their later years.
In the society beyond student life the author believes that people are scared and feel the instability that is the real world, pressuring themselves into jobs they do not like and lifestyles they would not have chosen because of the underlying fear of poverty and uncomfortable living. Many feel the burden of mankind’s problems is to great and that they could not play a significant role in solving any of it’s problems. “The apathy here is, first subjective – the felt powerlessness or ordinary people, the resignation before the enormity of events. But subjective apathy is encouraged by the objective American situation”. Man is contradicting himself in being choosing to ignore the problems of his society, all the while thinking and pondering about them. The author believes that change can be achieved as the civil rights movement was based on justice, and achieved “a passage out of apathy”. One of the problems causing Americans to resist the desire to become active in calling for change is that in many instances there is no one or no specific thing to completely rise and resist against. Some of the problems of America are more intricate and difficult to untwist, making the masses useless in changing it. “Central to any analysis of the potential for change must be an appraisal of organized labor”. When ones problems are on a personal level for a great deal of individuals it is easier to call for change, but when those issues do not play a giant part in the life of the individual it is harder to find support in changing it. “Labor should be formed to run against big city regimes on such issues as peace, civil rights, and urban needs”. Much of the burden for change lies in the role of the university, and in order to make it effective, the students and faculty must share common interests and the education must arm to students with tools that will come into play in helping them defend and seek betterment of their lives and the lives of the mass body of people.