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February 3, 2014

Landmines on My Mind. ~ Lizzie Kramer

land mines screen shot

My inner warrior sprang up when I viewed the recent stay in school Australian PSA.

It pictures teenagers going to the beach and then getting blown up with the slogan at the end “This is what happens when you slack off”.

I wanted to yell and scream like the anarchist I am at heart about how “the man” is trying to keep us down. How governments all over the world just want to keep their masses silent and numb.

People following their passion generally don’t let other people tell them what to do, which is the government’s primary function.

But then I remembered that having a convulsion and popping a down dog of rage in the middle of Starbucks, probably would just get me in some sort of legal trouble. Even though part of me revels in the idea of being a lonely revolutionary, stuck in a jail cell, I like the outdoors too much for that sort of existence.

As an 18 year old—not currently enrolled in school and taking a gap year—I wasn’t tempted to go back to school when I saw the video.

The message that I got was to be conscious of the moment in front of me, instead of going into a government land mine testing site.

Because, let’s be honest, it wasn’t in skipping school where the Australian teens went wrong. Plenty of successful, happy, and innovative people have skipped school or followed a path that wasn’t necessarily conventional. I think the Australian teens went wrong when they lost sight of the moment, giving way to anticipation. They were Icarus flying too high. Their mistake wasn’t in skipping school, it was in not reading the sign on the fence before making the decision to jump it.

This is precisely why this video enrages me so much. Instead of encouraging teenagers to follow their passion and enjoy the moment, it is putting more pressure on a generation that is already over-stressed, over-stimulated and far from being in the here and now. It contains the message that you’re “slacking off” if you’re doing what you love, if you’re doing what feels right by taking in the opportunities of beautiful days.

It’s out and out telling the most impressionable demographic to not follow the beauty of their passions because they run the risk of getting obliterated.

And that risk is clearly too big, so we better stay in school, sit down, be quiet, and do our damn job. Otherwise—uh oh—we’ve got landmines.

But we—as a society, as a world, as the Earth—need people who are following their inner compass. Now more than ever. Even if, and especially if, that means skipping school.

The intended message of the video would be true if it were true that sitting still and keeping quiet would keep us safe and make us happy, but what it doesn’t tell kids is that we can follow the rules and still get blown up. You can follow the rules and still get hurt and cry and fall down, and if you don’t know why you’re following the rules, then the hurt is likely to be magnified by confusion. Obeying unconsciously is more dangerous than disobeying consciously.

What would happen if our entire population followed the “conventional” rules?

I think we already know the answer to that, because we’re living in a world that is a direct product of following the rules blindly. I’m more afraid of perpetuating a meaningless existence in that world than I am of getting blown up. We don’t have to do what we’re told, we just have to be present when we break the rules. The real danger is when we “slack off” in the presence of our own lives.In my experience, that’s when things actually blow up.

People who “follow the rules” still get into car accidents, get sick and have horrible things happen to them. Unfortunately, in nations not as “free” as the one that I happen to live in, children who are innocently following the rules, doing what they’re told in an effort to stay “safe” and hoping for a better life literally get blown up by landmines on their way to school.

In being conscious, we reduce the risk of these horrible things happening, which gives us the freedom to do what we love.

The danger in life isn’t living, it is in living unconsciously. The danger runs not in questioning, but in obeying blindly.

We need to do what we love and do it with unharnessed passion for the moment, because the risk that we all take by living is dying.

And we’re all going to die anyway.

The good news? Those of us who are reading this are alive. We’re alive and well-off enough to have a computer in front of us and literate enough to read the words on the screen. We are free enough to be in control of our destiny’s, of our lives.

Are we taking advantage of this? Are we living life to the fullest?

Can we see the words in front of us and hear the music playing on the stereo in the background at Starbucks? Can we taste our own saliva on our tongues and feel our breath as it moves through the body? Can we feel the warmth of a computer on our lap and the hair falling into our eyes? Are we awake?

If we aren’t, is it because we’re afraid of landmines? Or is it because we’ve been told to be afraid of landmines? Are the landmines even real?

So, Australian Public Service Announcement, you didn’t teach me not to slack off in school.

You taught me not to fall asleep and fall into the landmines that are set up, real or imagined.

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 Assistant Editor: Guenevere Neufeld/Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo: via You Tube

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Lizzie Kramer