Built in Apathy
The world seems overly politicized doesn’t it? You can’t go online without being confronted without some type of breaking news or scathing opinion. The world currently seems locked in a battle for its political future. Is it really though, or is it just surface politics? Just last week, a lot of media attention was spent on a spelling mistake in a tweet and a D list celebrity pulling a publicity stunt. What did not receive as much attention; mass civilian deaths caused by the coalition air force in Syria and Iraq, a string of catastrophic terror attacks in Afghanistan, and Trump personnel’s apparent ties to ISIL in Indonesia. Our focus seems to be on the unimportant parts of the political world because our connection to it is more about identity than any real ideology. You are either one side of the line, or the other; and even being on the same side does not mean you are allies. Solutions are not needed here, only critiques. Thus it has turned the political battlefield into trench warfare, with neither side going anywhere anytime soon.
This essay is not about pointing the finger and saying you are not looking in the right places, because that would be a continuation of critique without solution. It is about the apathy that causes our current political climate. I attended my cousins high school graduation a few weeks ago. The valedictorian speech was finished off with a quote from Karl Marx, which when it was announced who the quote was from, most of the graduating class reacted, half groaning and half laughing. This sort of peaked my interest as to their reaction.
I asked my cousin about it the next day. He said that it was an inside joke for some of their class, they would send each other memes about seizing the means of production. They would also send each other memes about killing commies. They were not really committed to any political movement he said, it was all just for fun.
This anecdote is just an example of the built in apathy of our society. When I was graduating I felt the exact same way. I believed the old maxim that there is no point in paying attention to politics because it never changes anything. That idea changed for me, but it remains for a lot of the people I know.
What creates this apathy in our society? There are a lot of things that create it, but I can only point to its roots from my middle class origins. It comes from comfort. I am from Canada, a country where things are very easy for a lot of us. Free health care, one of the safest places in the world, easy access to education, and a lot of opportunity to go into a variety of professions. I did not have to care about politics because things were already set up for me. I didn’t have to go any deeper than surface issues, because those were the only issues that effected me. Life gives us a lot of things to worry about, and we propel some of them to gigantic proportions. When politics is not threatening taking away our comfort, we have a lot of other issues to worry about. Most of North Americans are afforded this comfort to have this apathy towards politics. After all of the hype leading up to the United States 2016 election, only 60% of the voting eligible population showed up to vote.
“ I don’t vote for presidents, the presidents that change the hood is dead and green”
The Vince Staples line is a paradox. It is true that no president has done that much to change economically repressed black neighborhoods. That does not mean they could not change those areas though, they have the power to, they just choose not to. The line isn’t wrong, but it has the possibility to be. Vince does not care though, he is not waiting for that to magically happen, he is taking it upon himself to see that change happen. He has funded a YMCA program in his home town of Long Beach called the Youth Institute. It will help kids learn film making, graphic design, music production, 3D printing, and product design. His critique is not hollow, he is opening doors for youth to get into creative avenues that they might not have been able to do other wise. Vince’s line may be apathetic towards presidential politics, but that does not mean he does nothing in reaction.
If we dig a little deeper, we can find the real root cause of our political apathy. It is too easy to blame it as a by product of our culture. The real road block to getting over our political apathy is the reality that we do not want to change ourselves. The problem is not that we think political action does not change anything, its that we know that any real change in this world would require changing how we live. Instituting any type of political change could mean loosing those exact comforts I talked about earlier. Sub-conscientiously, we know that some of us benefit from the system that is currently in place, so why be in a rush to tear it down? It is like wanting to be fit, but not wanting to cut out the sweets; We want to see the world change for the better, we just don’t want to have to change ourselves. Political apathy is not built into the system, its built into ourselves.
Admitting that about ourselves is the first step towards solving it. The system will not change unless we want it to change, which will require a metamorphosis in ourselves. Our built in apathy means that instead of any real progressive or radical idea, we settle to fight it out over surface politics.
Is our political system corrupt and useless for the most part, yes. But only because of our alienation towards it, we allow it to operate in that way. You can reject it though while still operating with in it, still trying to have an impact. We need to stop waiting for the elites to agree to the change we want. We need to start looking for answers outside of the liberal-conservative quicksand, that only offers you more ego fueled politics and none of the solutions we need. Most of all, we need to dig deep down and get rid of that apathy that has been rooted into most of our personalities. Things can change for the better, because they constantly have been. If we want them to keep changing for the better, we need to make that change within ourselves first.
But let us cultivate our garden ~ From Candide, by Voltaire