Tag: apathy

More therapy for the dismal: Paul Loeb’s piece on political cynicism

(Crossposted at Voices on the Square and at FDL)

There is a passage in Derrick Jensen’s newest book, Dreams, in which he bridges the gap between his usual anarcho-primitivist plain talk and the more “expert” advice of scientists such as James Hansen and populists such as Bill McKibben.  It goes as follows:

We all know what we must do to curtail global warming.  We must dismantle every oil refinery, every pipeline, every oil and natural gas well.  We must dismantle the infrastructure that is killing the planet. (p. 249)

The first step in such a process, were it actually to happen, would be to phase out the pumping of the oil, the coal, and the natural gas.  I pointed this out some time ago in a blog entry over at Docudharma/ DailyKos.com.  If we really wish to mitigate the disasters that global warming will bring us, we need to keep some of Earth’s fossil-fueled heritage in the ground, rather than pumping it into the atmosphere.  

The problem, in real life, is that nobody’s talking about such a solution.  Oil, like oil-consuming infrastructure, is a commodity, as are petroleum-based instruments such as cars, airplanes, furnaces and so on.  The solution proposed above would be a wholesale divergence from the capitalist system, which accumulates capital (i.e. money and the good things it buys) through the circulation of commodities.  The change that’s needed, in other words, is a change nobody dares to advocate.

Enter Paul Loeb, published in some reading circles as Paul Rogat Loeb.  Loeb wants to explore what makes some people activists, in order to assure that there be more activists.  Certainly if we are to have a movement that will push through the changes that are needed to curtail global warming, we will need more activists.  

I found Loeb’s most recent piece (written with co-authors Alexander Astin and Parker J. Palmer) in a glance at the blog Docudharma, where it had been cross-posted.  It’s titled ““My Vote Doesn’t Matter”: Helping Students Surmount Political Cynicism.”  The problem, of course, is that students today have good reasons to be politically cynical, especially if the solutions to their problems are not on offer.  We are not going to get past the cynicism, then, by encouraging participation in a system which does not cater to real human needs.

Moreover, we can establish a rational cause for the cynicism that infects American politics.  In the frontstage of American politics is a spectacle, sometimes regarded as “Kabuki theater,” in which candidates offer rhetoric calculated to woo the votes of the public.  In the backstage is the world of meetings in Washington DC, in which deals are made between actors of various ideological persuasions and financial needs.  The ultimate source of “cynicism,” in this regard, is the belief that what happens in the political frontstage might have very little to do real policy as formulated backstage.  Here I will explore, with Loeb and his co-authors, what it would take to change this situation.

Young Voters Are Apathetic? Look Closer.

Some incumbent Democrats in danger of being voted out of office are attempting to lean heavily on the youth vote this election.  I applaud anyone’s effort to reach out to that particular group, though I have to say the act seems tinged with desperation rather than genuine, lasting outreach.  Voting demographics must be cultivated and allowed to flourish with time, not reached for when desperately needed.  Considering this attitude, I find it unsurprising that few politicians can rely on such a crucial group.  Instead of throwing one’s hands up or lecturing in hopes of creating guilt and shame, I argue that politicians, pundits, and columnists need to look at the subject very differently.

Apathetic Open Thread

There is an old joke truism:

A survey was taken in the U.S. that asked “What is the greatest problem in the country today, ignorance or apathy?”

Fifty percent of respondents said “I don’t know”

Fifty percent of respondents said “I don’t care”

hat tip to Snafubar

Free The Tigers! Spare The Tigers!


Captive Tigers in China Waiting For Slaughter

A few days ago I was worried that tigers might be becoming extinct, so I wrote an essay about it.  The idea that tigers were becoming extinct was making me ill: it brought on feelings of anger, sadness, despair, grief, longing.  I found myself thinking about it.  Constantly.  

Societal Murder

Last night, as I sat at my computer, an unholy stench came into the house and offended my olfactory nerves.  It smelt of sewage, and something worse, but it seemed to come from outside.  We have skunks in the neighborhood, and raccoons, so I assumed one of them had died or otherwise made some kind of mess.  As it turns out. it was something far worse, and profoundly sad.

A few minutes ago I learned that Ernie, the crazy hermit who lived across the street, died some time between Wednesday and yesterday.  I’m betting Wednesday or Thursday, judging by the odor.  The coroner had to be called in after a neighbor called the police to check up on him.  Ernie had been a shut-in, one of those mental cases that collects shit, unopened mail, and assorted garbage over the decades.  It was likely Ernie’s corpse I smelled last night as the process of decay took hold-though according to my mother it was more likely the stench of Ernie’s collected feces.  Funny thing is, the coroner didn’t arrive until after midnight, and by then I was asleep.  I tend to be woken up by sirens and flashing lights, but I guess the sleep of ages had taken hold of me because I dozed right through it.  They all must have come right around the time I turned in for the night, which was after eleven.

I imagine this shall make the newspaper: “Crazy old guy dies in his own filth on Cleveland’s West Side.”  What a depressing train of thought.  This man, who probably should have been institutionalized decades ago, instead lived in the same house he lived in with his mother and became that most awful of social outcasts, the sort that just becomes the harmless yet deranged individual that maybe a neighbor treats with compassion and sympathy, but everyone else ignores.

How low have we sunk as a society to let this go on?  How many Ernies shall die, undiscovered for days, weeks, months-perhaps even years, having spent their entire lives in squalor and the hell of mental illness?  How long will the Ignored be forced to go without the care they need, before we wake up and start providing it?  They are the Outcast, the Ignored, the Least Among Us.  They are the people Jesus implored us to look after, for we are judged by how we treat them.  Jesus…what would He say to us if He were to return today?  This country, which lies to itself that it is a Christian nation, what would Christ Himself say of us?

But we’re not supposed to ask ourselves these questions.  We’re not supposed to acknowledge just how cruel, unforgiving, depraved, greedy, selfish, without compassion, apathetic, materialistic, and oblivious we are.  Because if we do, then we accept that at some point we must take responsibility for our crimes, and for those who cannot take care of themselves.

In the meantime, Ernie-and all those like him-go on, needing help but not getting it.  We let them die; we let them expire alone, unloved, uncared for.  We are all guilty of this form of societal murder.