My editor came to me asking if I would write a column. I told him sorry, but I’m busy. He said he was hurting for writers and that my help would be greatly appreciated. I can’t, I said. He begged, looking at me with big puppy dog eyes. I said no. He offered me beer.
So here we are.
At first I thought it was a little strange that I’d turn down someone’s offer to print whatever I write and pay me for it. I love writing; it’s my “thang,” my life’s blood. I usually jump on the chance to see my name in print and for a good round of ego-stroking. Above all else my writing is my voice, and I try to use it every chance I get.
Let me explain a little something about voice and how important it is. Here at UCSB, there are some 17,000 undergraduates. That’s enough warm bodies to fill a moderately sized city. Throw in graduate students, faculty and staff, and we have our own little nation. You’re one out of that huge number of overly tanned faces drifting around in-between Engineering and Snidecor Hall chatting on a cell phone, drinking your smoothie or staring at your shoes with something between confusion and awe. You’re just another face in the crowd, and I hope that scares you.
What transforms you from being just another sack of organs into a human being with a soul is finding your voice and using it. If you’re not shouting out at the top of your lungs about what pisses you off or what makes you happy, then you’re letting some anonymous coward speak for you by scribbling “profound” half-truths on the sidewalk in chalk. If you let this happen, then what use do you serve?
Things don’t happen unless someone speaks up. However, just as important as the act itself is finding the right way to do it. Maybe you’re not a writer, but you might start a club or an organization. You can volunteer, make movies, write music, send in a letter to the Nexus, whatever. Find some way to express yourself and do it well.
With your voice there comes great responsibility. First: know what you’re talking about; be informed. An ignorant voice is as dangerous as a loaded weapon in the hands of a two-year-old. Second: don’t be afraid to spread the word on the good things in life. People all to often get focused on just causing wounds in the existing social structure. No one wants to talk about fluffy bunnies or pretty flowers, but these things are important too. By knowing what’s good, we can make more of it. Plus, who can resist a cute little puppy? Third: never silence someone else. The people I worked with over the summer taught me that being silenced is on a level alongside rape and murder. It’s your choice to listen and respond, and that’s it.
Only one group on campus has any right to be voiceless at this time: the freshmen. You’ve been transplanted from a world of shut-up-and-listen to one where people want to know what you think. But even this excuse is wearing thin, and it’s only a matter of weeks before you’re just a statistic in someone else’s slide show. UCSB has over 300 clubs and organizations, and you can find lots of information about them in the Office of Student Life. There will also be an activities faire in October. So get out there, find your voice and use it wisely.
I’m done using mine for now, but I want to leave a happy image. Over the summer I had the pleasure of sitting in on a lecture by Professor Armbruster-Sandoval, and he showed two student films on activism. One was made by a friend of mine. After watching the movie, I was in tears. Seeing people who care so much is a beautiful thing, and once you’ve experienced it, you’ll know. So Brendan, you can keep your beer after all; I hope more people decide to start speaking up.
Junior Steven Ruszczycky is a columnist for the Daily Nexus. Lucky for his editors, he’s a cheap drunk. He dedicates this column to Tosha, Marie, Gary and Jenn.