Mindy Belz is the editor of World Magazine, and has covered the wars in Bosnia, Sudan and Iraq. She has also written for the magazine for over twenty years. She has her fingers on the pulse of global affairs, and is an ideal source for a look back at 2011 and a look ahead at 2012.
In this riveting interview, Chuck, John and Mindy discuss the rising discontent of young people worldwide, examining common elements between last year's protests of the Arab Spring and the "Occupy" movement which has swept the United States and Europe.
Mindy, who has covered the protests in the Middle East since their inception, and has also spent time "imbedded" on the college campuses in Afghanistan, giving her a uniquely intimate perspective about what's going on. She sees the movement fueled by a generation which has, through the internet, gained access to a wider world beyond the limits of their oppressive regimes, and which longs for empowerment.
During the interview, John Stonestreet draws attention to Time magazine's decision to name "the protestor" as Person of the Year.
"It really wasn't a person at all," he says. "It was just the idea of protest. We started with the Tea Party and then we saw this uprising around the world, particularly in the Middle East...then we ended with the "Occupy Wall Street" movement. There seems to be this understanding, this gut feeling that things are not going right."
"What all of these [protests] have tapped into," explains Mindy, "is a level of discontent among a young population that feels increasingly less understood and...enfranchised in terms of its economic, and in many cases political connection to the wider world."
Drawing attention to the role of technology in all this, Chuck and John point to disparate effects of the shrinking globe in different cultures--how some have used technology to promote freedom, while some have used it to promote dysfunction and crime.
"As you see outside the West," says Stonestreet, "these younger people using technology as a way to improve their society, you almost see the opposite in the West. I'm thinking of an article from Theodore Dalrymple who said he worries whether British society is strong enough now that evil can be suppressed. We saw technology being used both ways [this year], and it had a lot to do with the cultural character."
"I don't think we can say that technology is necessarily either a good or bad thing. It's a tool that both good and evil players can use...There is seething discontent, and there is now an ability to mobilize it through Twitter and Facebook. The question is, can you move to the next level of organizing politically and culturally in ways that would make significant changes?"
In many ways, Mindy believes that such technology, especially the internet, is the greatest enemy of oppression in our age.
"Access that the internet has given [young people under Islamic domination] to the wider world tells them to expect more," she says. "In Afghanistan I interviewed this gentleman who showed me his Facebook page. This is a guy who lives in a tiny village, we're sitting in an internet cafe that does not have electricity. We're getting onto the internet via solar panels. He's got Afghan friends who live in Denmark and Finland and all over the world. He's showing me cousins and friends of cousins who are unveiled, and he's living in a village where all the women go about completely veiled.
"And so, you begin to see the door opened, and here is someone who is slowly being exposed to Western ideas that I would also say can lead to Christian ideas. We need to continue to find ways to support and encourage them in places like Afghanistan."
Pointing to upcoming elections in the United States, Mindy reiterates the importance of the younger generation in the movements that shake our day and age.
"[Young people] are entering mainstream society at a difficult time, and I think being able to address them without trying to give them false hope, without telling them that the government will take care of them...will be exciting to watch in this election cycle. I will be interested to see if the candidates get down to that level."
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