This week I attended a birthday dinner for one of my close friends. There were exactly ten of us; including two gay men, three vegetarians, and one vegan. The meal was completely vegan also. We discussed the Trump presidency while we all sipped on red and white wine. Such a wonderful night, with wonderful company. However, as I was looking around the room and listening to such strong and independent opinions on things such as abortion and the infamous Muslim ban, I began to think about the core issue, and blatant paradox. It was our world we were discussing. Yet, none of our views and values aligned with the current political and social sphere. Why?
All ten of us came from different backgrounds. However, the one defining trait that binds us all is the fact we are all Irish, Erasmus students. Ireland has never quite had an outstandingly progressive history. Yet, I believe that over the past decade or so, Ireland has experienced a shift in their values when it comes to social issues like gay marriage. 2015 was an incredible year to be Irish. We were the first country in the world to legalize gay marriage by means of popular vote. That is truly remarkable. There is a lot of tension on the island today, over issues such as abortion. However, the general consensus among Irish young-people in regards to the issue is quite positive. We are just an island, though. A minute population of about 4.5 million people. We find ourselves on a little chunk of rock, surrounded by the Atlantic ocean. Despite the connective power of the digital age, Ireland, in many ways, is still cut off from the rest of the world. I think this was a major factor in our progressive decision regarding gay marriage. Our lack of direct neighbors gave us the alone time we needed to look inward at ourselves, the values we hold, and the future we want for our children.
There are upwards of 190 million students in the world right now. Ireland has quite a high number of third level students nowadays also. I think this contributes largely to our progressive attitudes. I remember distinctly on the UCC campus last year, there was hundreds of student campaigning for “Repeal The 8th”. That was a year before the incredible political phenomenon it has become in 2017. Irish students have always been progressive. It ties into the fact that once we get to third level, we acquire a new form of freedom. The freedom to decide. We are surrounded by incredibly open minded people, from all different backgrounds. It gives us all a chance to take a look back at our owns backgrounds and decide our own values. College is a wonderful time to figure out who you are as a person. I read an interesting statement on Tumblr the other day. A young American woman spoke about how her father remembered the “long hair and the sex and the push against an older, less tolerant generation for freedom” of the 60’s. She highlighted how our generation nowadays are prone to the same rebellion that was widespread in the 60’s. I see this rebellion in Irish students. College is an incredibly safe environment to express your attitudes and opinions. It’s too safe. It’s a bubble.
This “bubble” was another topic of conversation at our dinner party. We all have such loud opinions on current issues, however, the social and political environment is dominated with completely different values. So, are we living in our own little bubble? I feel as though college is a wonderful place to build your person. However, what happens when the safety of a campus is taken away from us? What happens when we enter the modern world, and are faced with awkward situations that completely objectify our integrity?
Social media also contributes to the formation of this bubble. It’s incredibly customizable. When I open the Facebook app, immediately, I’m faced with articles concerning animal welfare, space exploration and saving the environment. Why? Because I chose to see it. I chose the organisations I want to follow, I chose the type of news I want to hear. In a way, I created my own personal bubble where I select the type of media I want to consume. I created a window to the world – a world that I believe in.
It scares me to think about the state of the world today. The French elections are approaching and the question of a possible far-right leader is on everyone’s lips. In my mind, the idea of a far-right leader is completely unimaginable. However, that is because I have created my own ideas of what the world looks like. Maybe the world is completely different. Maybe the idea of a far-right leader, a ban on Muslims, the building of a wall, is not so ludicrous.
It is an interesting thought, however, a concerning one. A lot of my friends and I are at the cusp of adulthood. We are about to enter our final year of college. Our final year in this “bubble”. The real world may not be everything that we hoped it would be. I guess only time will tell.
Anyway, that’s what’s been on my mind lately. Hope you’re having a great day, and an even better week.
Thanks for reading!
Image belongs to http://cargocollective.com/zabari/Living-in-a-Bubble