Because everything is not OK

The distance between the idea and the action can be very small.

Walking through campus after dark is like turning on a whole new light. It can actually be quite alarming – the campus that is so familiar during the day can be completely different during the evening. If you look closely, people are converging on the Mall, the West Bank and the Knoll: excited, passionate people with guns. Luckily, these guns are loaded not with bullets, but with staples, and these staple gun-touting folks are not violent or a threat to the community. In fact, they are the ones who build it. They are activists, and they are everywhere.

Here at the University, the campus is abuzz with people who are working for real, tangible change. They are your age. They are in your classes. They have not been born with any special activist gene, and they weren’t groomed from birth to change the world. They all have passion, however, and they will do something to better our community. I’d wager a guess that everyone reading this can see something they want to change. The distance between the idea and the action can be very small. Even if the problem is on a global scale, you can take steps to educate yourself and those around you and work toward change.

Everything is not OK, and we know this. Sexism, racism, homophobia, ageism, religious intolerance; these are not OK. Taxing the earth’s wealth of natural resources until the oil fields practically bleed and we cannot realistically fathom our grandchildren sustaining our current quality of life – this is not OK. Apathy and indifference toward what is supposed to be a participatory democracy, currently run by those who can afford to – this is definitely not OK. International free trade relations that prey on impoverished countries in order to increase the wealth of America’s top 1 percent and make it easier for Americans to continue a consumerist, unsustainable lifestyle? Sorry, not OK by me.

Those are some big issues that affect each one of us every day, whether we are aware of it or not. Ladies, do you carry pepper spray and walk four blocks out of your way so you can walk home in a well-lit area? That is a product of the bigger issues of violence and sexism. Do you have to hunt squirrels because you spent all of your grocery money on $3-a-gallon gas? That is a symptom of an extreme imbalance in the economy and the environment. Do you find yourself unwilling to vote because you don’t see the difference you will make? None of this should be happening. It is time for Minnesotans to arm themselves with knowledge and the belief that each person can and should be a part of the public sector.

Getting involved is easy, but it can be challenging to find your niche. With this in mind, the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group is taking steps to make sure that everyone can make a difference. MPIRG, as the oldest public interest research group in the country, has been making waves since 1971. For 35 years, MPIRG has created positive social change. MPIRG is a nonpartisan organization that works specifically for the public good. With this rich legacy, we are in a unique position to be a resource for activists everywhere. Part of our mission is activist education and student empowerment. We believe that students should take charge, and we’re prepared to teach you how.

On Oct. 8 and 9, MPIRG will be hosting a statewide student activist conference; two days full of speakers rich in experience with strong roots in the community. It is absolutely free, and is an invaluable opportunity for anyone who ever wanted to know anything about organizing. The conference will be held at Macalester College in the Olin-Rice Science Center from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. Everything is not OK, and it’s time that we took it upon ourselves to save our own little corner of the world. Contact MPIRG at (612) 627-4035 or visit www.mpirg.org.

Ani Loizzo is the senior student grassroots organizer for MPIRG. Please send comments to [email protected]