Editor’s Column – John Mayer: the Anti-Ghandi?

Jeff Fein

It’s catchy. It’s poignant. It’s a Grammy winner. But is “Waiting on the World to Change” a defining song of our generation, and, if so, should we heed its call to…wait?

There are two schools of thought here, and both arguable. The first states that John Mayer has given us the song we’ve all been “waiting” for, the one that expresses the despair of a realistic young person in these desperate times. The second contends that he’s a whiny b–ch.

Sophomore Mark Falcon, himself a musician, told me he thinks “Waiting” is a great political song “because it says we aren’t apathetic to political culture and we do care.” Falcon appreciates Mayer’s ability to describe without prescribing. “Most songs that are political complain and come off as angry,” he said. “[Mayer] is just saying, ‘this is the way it is.'”

In a way, the song does help to further the discourse regarding the state of our nation. It also paints an aptly bleak picture of America’s political climate. This week, a pentagon report confirmed that friends of Dick Cheney basically made up the intelligence linking Iraq to Al-Qaeda and 9/11. With such truly disturbing news floating all around us, lines like “now if we had the power/to bring our neighbors home from war/they would have never missed a Christmas/no more ribbons on their door” hit me hard every time. (Then again, so does “Your Body is a Wonderland.”)

Other Colgate students feel differently. Junior Liz Whitehurst, an active member of Amnesty International, said that Mayer’s message is “pretty much the opposite of what Ghandi said: ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.'” John Mayer: the anti-Ghandi?

Whitehurst pointed out that, despite Mayer’s claim of being “misunderstood,” “young people don’t even vote.” Indeed, only 24 percent of eligible voters aged 18-29 cast their ballots in the last election. Maybe the other 76 percent were waiting for something to happen.

What does Mr. Mayer himself think of his newfound political voice? In a recent interview with Northeastern University’s student newspaper, he had this to say: “…five years ago, the political climate was incredibly different, and now it’s kind of rolled into somewhat more of a lifestyle situation that a songwriter could write about easier. You know, I think the days of political singers singing about political things has passed us.”

That statement begs two questions: 1-What on earth is he is talking about? 2- How did Northeastern get an interview with John Mayer when we can barely get an interview with Chopp?

Thoroughly confused, I sought out professional help in the form of Les Roberts. Roberts is an epidemiologist who lectured at Colgate this week on a statistical study he headed examining the number of Iraqi civilian casualties that have occurred since the U.S. invasion in 2003. The number he came up with, a figure that meets virtually no resistance among other health scientists but is widely disputed in the press, is 650,000, twenty times-twenty times-the casualty count sited by the Bush administration. Roberts is taking the real figures to campuses around the country.

To Roberts, Mayer is saying “‘We don’t own this, this is not our world. But when our generation comes of age, things will be different.'”

“Personally,” he said, “I don’t have that kind of patience.”

I’m with Roberts. “Waiting” is fun to sing in the shower, but waiting won’t get us anywhere. As an alternative, we can go the Ghandi route and realize that our actions, particularly our treatment of natural reasources and who we vote for, really do have reprecussions.

And if we really want to affect change, we seniors can take the next year (or longer) to work for an NGO or the campaign of a presidential candidate we truly believe in. On a smaller scale, we can get involved in COVE groups affecting all kinds of positive changes in the local community.

If you don’t want to listen to me, listen to Fredrick Douglass: “If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning.” They are, in short, waiting on the world to change.