Political Apathy and the Status Quo

Columbia, Missouri — With the recent midterm elections resulting in a voter turnout rate of only 36.4 percent, it’s becoming quite apparent that a plague of political apathy is taking the United States by storm. In fact, according to the New York Times Editorial Board, this has been the worst voter turnout in 72 years. With our leaders’ approval ratings plummeting, the American people may be beginning to feel that now, more than ever, their interests are simply not being represented.

CBS News recently released a report unveiling that the youth vote (ages 18-29) only represented a meager 13 percent of the national electorate this year. Historically speaking, a lower midterm voter turnout is usually expected in between presidential elections, however the lack of activism and interest among America’s youth was especially unprecedented this year. This underscores the growing divide between the few individuals on top of society enforcing major economic decisions and the remainder of the population that deals with the consequences of those decisions.

Some would argue that an increasing plethora of distractions is keeping the younger generations from finding much motivation to partake in the political system. According to Penelope Romero, a typical middle-class midwesterner, “these distractions [are] not allowing them to see the issues of reality.” Upon further inquiry, it was agreed that online media and social networking have become somewhat of an affliction to political awareness. Entertainment masquerading as “news media,” or what some call “infotainment” gives people, especially youth, a false sense of being on top of national issues.

The function of social networks is also heavily debated in the realm of politics. Penelope Romero continues to say that “They are very useful to political activism, and should continue to be used that way. You just can’t negate the fact that they are also major sources of distraction for today’s youth. The youth will not learn to look at what’s really happening in the political world unless the teachers show them. Who are the teachers? Parents, internet, TV, schools, etc?”

This opens up the question of what or who is the purest and most unbiased source of political knowledge available to incoming generations? Many will look to their preferred cable news network (i.e FOX, MSNBC, CNN), yet the increasingly partisan and idealogical lens through which stories are reported is not conducive to a pure political understanding. Some will unquestionably adopt the viewpoints of their parents and peers, yet how can this be any better if those opinions are founded on a basis of misinformation and rigid ideology?

Schools and Universities are little better. Noam Chomsky, professor emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has discussed the influence of big money in colleges and the slow and steady shift of Universities to corporate business models. This also involves the indoctrination of youth to become ever more passive and apathetic to the unjust economics being thrust upon them. The most prominent method of indoctrination is the heavy burdening of student loan debt that an increasing number of youth are struggling with. This ties them securely into the capitalistic society and money-centered mentality. Chomsky continues to say that “…another technique of indoctrination is to cut back faculty-student contact: large classes, temporary teachers who are overburdened, who can barely survive on an adjunct salary. And since you don’t have any job security, you can’t build up a career, you can’t move on and get more. These are all techniques of discipline, indoctrination, and control.”

Indeed, the issue of procuring pure and unbiased political knowledge is a daunting task in the United States today. There are a few online publications that feature “alternative news” and several illuminated individuals devoted to spreading truth, however most of these sources are being put under the label of “radicalism” by those on top who wish to keep the populace indoctrinated and apathetic. So far, these methods have worked quite effectively in subduing the political activism of Americans, but when they haven’t, there is always voter suppression and gerrymandering to fall back on.

Beyond the superficial partisan squabbles of Democrat vs Republican or Liberal vs Conservative, there is an underlying trend of misinformation and pure, unabashed ignorance within today’s youth. This indoctrination is all that the younger generations have ever known, and so it is unlikely to be questioned or scrutinized in any broad sense. However, there is hope. Every now now then a movement springs up that could be considered truly populist in nature, such the Occupy Wall Street movement fighting for economic equality. Even in a society where critical thinking and individual thought are happily traded for a herd mentality and the bliss of obedience, there is still something moderately functional in our conscience. Something that speaks loudly when an injustice is brought to light. It is up to those who are brave enough to question the status quo to drag those injustices, kicking and screaming, out of the shadows where they can be seen by all for what they truly are.

To quote from Apple: “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble-makers. The round heads in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them. Disagree with them. Glorify, or vilify them. But the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

Special thanks to Penelope Romero for consenting to an interview for the inclusion of quotes in this article. Your input was very much appreciated.

Works Cited:

“The Young Voter Turnout in 2014.” <i>CBSNews</i>. CBS Interactive. Web. 9 Dec. 2014. &lt;http://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-young-voter-turnout-in-2014/&gt;.

Stableford, Dylan. “Voter Turnout for 2014 Midterms Worst in 72 Years.” <i>Yahoo! News</i>. Yahoo!, 12 Nov. 2014. Web. 9 Dec. 2014. &lt;http://news.yahoo.com/voter-turnout-2014-midterms-worst-in-72-years-143406756.html&gt;.

“Political Apathy Threatens Our Nation.” <i>The Nation</i>. Web. 9 Dec. 2014. &lt;http://www.thenation.com/blog/176252/political-apathy-threatens-our-nation&gt;.

Edwards, Dennis. “POLITICAL APATHY AND THE YOUTH VOTE: A SURVEY OF UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS.” <i>POLITICAL APATHY AND THE YOUTH VOTE: A SURVEY OF UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS</i>. Web. 9 Dec. 2014. &lt;https://www.coastal.edu/business/cbj/pdfs/articles/spring2005/edwards.pdf&gt;.

“Jacobin.” <i>Jacobin The Death of American Universities Comments</i>. Web. 9 Dec. 2014. &lt;https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/03/the-death-of-american-universities/&gt;.

Duality

I was recently lucky enough to attend a theatrical production of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Located at The Talking Horse Theater here in Columbia Missouri, the performance was technically a final dress rehearsal prior to the initial opening. It left me pondering the various themes presented in this classical work, particularly the nature of duality within all humans. The characters Jekyll and Hyde are both respective personifications of the “good” and “evil” found at the heart of every man. Portrayed as polar opposites as if on a spectrum, Jekyll is described as a gentlemanly, higher class member of society. Hyde, on the other, is a primal, self-motivated and ultimately malevolent individual. These dual facets of the same character are repeatedly at odds in terms of passions and motivations.

Only towards the end of the production does one begin to realize the overlapping of both extremes and understand that “good” and “evil” may not be so clear-cut after all. After attempting to suppress his “dark” side, Dr. Jekyll begins to reveal an impurity within his own character, and only strengthens the personification of Mr. Hyde. It soon becomes apparent that Jekyll is in fact a combination of good and evil, while Hyde is purely evil. Despite a desperate attempt, it is impossible to fully separate Jekyll’s pure “goodness.” Thus, the idea of a harsh distinction between “good” and “evil” breaks down.

Talking Horse ProductionsEvery personality is merely a conglomeration or result of one’s past experiences—both the good and the bad. Each trait within an individual is determined based on the overall past conditioning that is unique to them. Personality and ego arise from environmental factors. In terms of who a person truly is, there can never be an absolute determination. Our “self” is multifaceted, and in terms of polarity we embody the entire spectrum, not simply one end or the other. Therefore it is incorrect to use the labels “good” and “evil” to describe an individual entirely or debatably even individual characteristics.

Duality within human nature can be expressed in many ways, but these expressions are merely perspectives, or certain lenses through which society looks to categorize itself. The real nature of who we are cannot be determined by looking through a monochrome lens, or one of absolutes. Humanity is not so simple as to be separated into black and white, because truthfully, the universe paints our souls with a kaleidoscope of colors.

With a broad perspective, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde challenges the preconceptions of duality that are common in society. By portraying both the characters of Hyde and Jekyll in polarity at the beginning of the production and then slowly bringing into light just how greatly their opposing characteristics truly do overlap, the audience begins to understand that both personifications of “good” and “evil” are born in unity within the individual Jekyll himself, and thus within humanity as a whole.

Talking Horse ProductionsDr. Jekyll and Mr. HydeR.L. Stevenson

Fog of Glory

Throughout colonial Boston Massachusetts, until about 1770, Pope’s Day was celebrated to commemorate the discovery and thwarting of a Catholic plot to overthrow King James in 1605. Occurring on the 5th of November, this anti-catholic celebration served as a way to unify the colonists religiously and through their mutual hatred of the Catholic church. The event often included violence, rival mobs, and the burning of effigies to signify disgust in the Devil, Pope and even Tax Collector. It was an unofficial holiday upon which the “have-nots” and poor workers of town would gather, demanding coins from households and brawling in the streets.

In Boston, upon this day of celebratory madness, two rival mobs would generally form: a North End Mob and a South End Mob. Meeting in the middle of town, these two mobs would commence to brawl, the winners partaking in the burning of the effigies. During the time in which the Stamp Act emerged, other mobs developed in opposition to the act, proving to be a vital patriotic aspect of the coming Revolution. The 5th of November, leading up to roughly 1770 in which processions for the Boston Massacre superseded, was defined by protests to the many parliamentary taxes enacted by the British. After the Revolutionary War, Pope’s Day ceased to be celebrated.

This historical event was significant in that it highlights the violent, maddening and overall bloody nature of conflict in the colonies during the 18th century that is often insufficiently mentioned in textbooks. Akin to an outright civil war, the events leading up to the Revolution were hardly peaceful. The mobs, brawls and death at the hands of colonists within their communities paints the decade in a grim light. The transition from British rule to Independence did not arise without sacrifice. Revolutions in general are often glorified to reflect the societal change as beneficial and to prove that the many glaring sacrifices were not made in vain. The families that were torn apart, the children that were killed needlessly and the disruption of economic order are hardly discussed in detail.

Of course, it’s impossible to guess where the United States would be today if the Revolution had never occurred. Most likely, its citizens can thank their freedom and economic opportunity to the very revolution that was carried out in blood and death. What’s important to realize is that the details and possible motives of any major societal change are never completely pretty. November 5th in the original colonies is just one example. Pope’s Day is merely a window into the true passion, desires and animosity of the colonists. However, we can use it as a way to see clearly and factually what the fog of glory has obscured from the mainstream belief.

Remembering the “who” and what” is never enough. Always search for the “why” and “how” and the cause and effect. Only then can the truth of any event be unveiled.

Sources:

“Pope’s Day (1765).” Pope’s Day 1765, a Large Anti-Catholic Celebration Held in Boston Eacy Year during Colonial Days. Web. 3 Oct. 2014.
Deming, Brian. “Pope Day in Boston Before the Revolution.” Suite. 14 July 2009. Web. 3 Oct. 2014.

Farewell to Writer’s Workshop

A farewell is constructed for a dual purpose: reminiscing on what’s behind and painting an image of what lies ahead. It signifies more than closure—It breathes life into a new beginning. My fellow writers, comrades, and life-wanderers, I come before you today in spirit, in joy, and in gratitude for your contribution to my future. From the beginning of our journey, I’ve seen you all as more than classmates. I’ve seen you as brothers and sisters. Something curious about writing is the honesty it demands; the authenticity it sucks from our faculties. I’ve seen this from all of you: that sheer truth between the letters on the page. It creates a bond that can only be called spiritual. It’s understanding. It’s compassion. But more than anything, it’s acceptance for each other’s individual experiences and emotions. Thank you for being my friends.

To honor the beginning after the end, I come before you today as a reminder for what life is really all about. We are not merely humans having a spiritual experience. We are spirits, living a human experience. There is more to life than the pursuit of a superficial lifestyle. This class, with my friends, is proof of that. Ambition is not a vice, but it should be forged with our spiritual future in mind, not only materialistic goals. Experiences like this class build the foundation of inspiration and motivation that allows us to pursue life creatively and passionately. It allows us to commune with the muses, and feel for ourselves the undiscovered country within life. As I say my adieu, I leave intending to inspire you, my friends, to pursue the future that matters most.

Embark.

Satirizing Fat America

Throughout the entirety of the western world, corporations and entrepreneurs are heralding the mass adoption of a single moral philosophy: self-indulgence. The lynchpin of these ethically hedonistic nations is none other than the United States of America, where morbid obesity is on the rise. In response to this unfortunate and reprehensible trend, I propose to form a coalition of socially aware and morally concerned individuals to combat self-indulgence in our fair land.

We shall be called the NFFDPA or Network of Fat Fighting Diet Promoters of America. Our obligation to the health of US Citizens is a unifying philosophy our members can rally around. Petitioning Congress and proposing health-conscious policies to the leaders of our great nation is the primary objective of the Network.

The first mandate on our agenda will be to convert all sidewalks between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to treadmills. Sidewalks are normally considered a form of public transit for pedestrians and are typically used to get from one place to another. However, our mandate will change everything. Instead of moving from place to another, pedestrians will remain in a single spot, walking onwards in vain. We believe this plan will work based a recent study unearthing the low IQ scores of American pedestrians.

Our second mandate will be to ban food entirely. Despite the logical errors in our reasoning, the NFFDPA acknowledges that this will successfully solve the problem of obesity within a few months. The rate of obesity has climbed dramatically in the past 20 years, but we believe this trend can be curbed with debatably extreme measures such as a nationwide food ban. Failure to comply with this policy will be classified as a criminal action, and will thus be punishable by law. Criminals may face life-long imprisonment and disembowelment.

The NFFDPA implores Congress to take action and fight self-indulgence in America, one fat cell at a time. With our fairly reasonable plan, the US will be purged of bad eating habits and hedonism. Both mandates should be passed by any and all legal means necessary. Some population decline may occur.

The Art of Speaking with Style

The might of literature is far reaching and ever-prominent, although the spoken word harbors an unappreciated power. With the ability to immerse an audience in a lyrical and utterly mesmerizing spell, the human voice is an integral aspect of emotional communication. Varying degrees of subtlety can transform both cadence and diction, in turn weaving different stories and conveying greater emotion. There are three fundamental components to any decent speaker: authenticity, assertiveness, and perception.

Manipulation by means of eloquent speech is certainly possible, however the true strength of tongue arises in authenticity, or the honesty and integrity of the speaker. The bearer of a hidden agenda will find intrinsic weaknesses within his verbal expressions. The power to capture the minds of an audience is fairly easy, however capturing their hearts requires something more profound and much more personal. 

Robust language is an excellent compliment to a gentle rhythm. Securing the attention of listeners is a basic, yet vital step in conveyance, and is best accomplished through the use of an assertive technique. An audience responds to the stability and audibility of a voice, thereby giving the speaker leverage in his conquest of hearts. Words must be chosen with precision, each catered to implying a certain truth, or setting the stage for future engagements. Language must be considered the vessel of the speaker’s passion, and so each word must be advantageous to the cause. 

Mastering the art of speaking also requires a perceptive and versatile mind. Listeners can be quite fickle with their loyalty to even an assertive voice. Vigilance is required for any truly engaging communication, and the speaker must be able to perceive the emotional tide of an audience. As positive sentiment reinforces the fortitude of the speech itself, over-confidence could quickly become a deterrence, blinding the speaker, and resulting in a loss of control. This detrimental misstep can be avoided with awareness and a clear head. Likewise, perception will allow the reader to act in response to a grapple with ill sentiment. 

The most gratifying effect of an efficient speech is the success of determining an audience’s reaction. Understanding the intricacies of the human voice, and with proper mastering, its influence over the human psyche, is perhaps one of the more valuable assets to any charismatic speaker’s tool belt. And of course, having a cool voice like the next Morgan Freeman always helps. 

Under the Cedar Tree

I was surrounded by a thicket so dense I could almost feel the rhythmic throbbing of hearts in every tree. The needles beneath my feet padded every footstep, and my tread was silent. I could hear the birds chirping their songs of joy and sweet content, careening through the skies like angels patrolling the heavens. Dawning bright and glorious, sunlight crept through the branches. I reveled in these sporadic windows of light and warmth. I felt the thrum of life in every direction, and it was invigorating. Good morning Serenity, I thought to myself.

There was a friend hiding somewhere in this forest of cedar trees. My friend and your friend; a friend to us all.  Sometimes I could hear her calling from a limb above my head. Or maybe she was whispering from just behind my back. Every time I looked up or turned around, her kind cajoling ceased to invite me. Her presence wavered in and out of my consciousness elusively, like a guttering candle in the wind. I danced on the threshold of frustration, and somehow I felt that this would be the greatest impediment to my quest. Most could never find their friend in the forest. Some searched, but always in the wrong direction. This friend did not like to hide, for it was not her nature. The wanderers of the forest had merely forgotten how to look.

My passage through the thicket was halted when I met a wounded tree in my path. This broad cedar bore an impressive girth and towered above its neighbors. How lucky I was to witness this goliath; still a King of the Wood however marred his flesh had become. I gazed upon a charcoal wound spanning the diameter of his trunk, stretching from the base to several feet above my head. The King had been a victim of fire, in similarity to how the wanderers had been victimized by life. I had garnered many scars of my own throughout this search for a friend. The forest had dealt its blow in numerous ways, and I grew wary of the endless suffering. Deciding to break from the pain and momentarily renounce my title of seeker, I sat down beneath the cedar tree. Crossing my legs, I thought: There is no place like here and now. 

A lesson can be found within the needles and bark of trees, like the one I was leaning my back upon at that moment. These envoys of wisdom toil with the natural forces of the greater wood, collecting garish wounds in the process. However, they do not suffer from such adornments. The King at my back lived on, healing ever so slowly with lasting remnants of his scar. Yet he did not fight back, for all trees know that scars are inevitable. This unconditional acceptance was captivating and held me in sway. This compliance with the whimsical and unpredictable nature of life was compelling. In an act of capitulation, I turned inwards and yielded to the throes of existence. It was then that I found my friend. She had never been hiding, but merely resting below the surface of where I chose to search. My quest to seek the hand I wished to hold was over, and it ended under the cedar tree.

Hope is a Fickle Thing

The total obliteration of hope within the human consciousness is an uncommon occurrence. There is a strength of will and mental fortitude within the human psyche that keeps our soul and very spirit on top of its game. The nearly indomitable belief that a better outcome is always possible can be likened to faith in the most powerful of senses. However, hope can still be trampled and forgotten, or merely overridden by a plethora of fear and depression.

In this sense, the realization of hope can be quite fickle. It is usually present within our hearts, although humanity has a way of forgetting their most beautiful mutual characteristics. When we are placed in a situation of extreme stress and anxiety, a certain blindness can overcome our good sense. We succumb to the tyranny of emotional turmoil and lose faith and conviction. But hope in the deeper sense is usually present, although sometimes it takes the likeness of a gem buried beneath the rubble.

I’ve noticed an intriguing paradox concerning the concept of hope. One can deny the impetus of this force, and even believe, in all honesty, that its practical uses are few and far between. However, this cannot stop an individual from hoping entirely. We all wish for better times and a brighter future, even when the fruits and bounty of life are served to us on a gold platter. The choice between faith and action is not a necessary decision, no matter the rhetoric some may jaunt.

Hope and faith, in actuality, are the result of positive action. This equation cannot be lived in a one-sided manner. Hope stems from action, and this action, in turn, produces a new infusion of hope. Faith alone may guide us in times of strife and confusion, for it is the fire within us that dreams of what could be; the passionate desire for an idealistic outcome. Yet, this expectation and feeling of desire for a certain thing to happen must be acted upon.

Indeed, hope is a fickle thing, but fickle in the sense that it is always in the process of burial and renewal. We all have that flicker of something beautiful within us; that core of innate longing for an outcome that goes beyond mere survival. A very testament to the will of humanity, hope is our light. It is the mutual drive that propels our society, consciousness, and dreams ever forward.

Heroic Humanity

Looking at humanity from a detached point of view can be enlightening, yet quite frankly, confusing. At first glance, we seem to be a selfish and fairly materialistic folk. Consider our vain treatment of appearance and the standards of society we deem so important to adhere to. How about our ineptitude in liking someone for who they are, rather than how they compare to us? Some would consider this human nature, with anything greater being a true anomaly. While I am still a dreamer, one who hopes and believes in a better future, it can be difficult to ignore the grim aspects of humanity.

Despite our seemingly inherent egotistical tendencies, there is a deeper character in most humans. This character finds expression in the facets of life that often go unmentioned or undiscussed. This is heroism, an utterly selfless act of compassion that defies our normal self-preservationist mind frame. It is completely voluntary, often involving a particular risk, and is carried out without need for material gain or recompense. Being a hero is more than doing your duty, or following through with something you have been charged to do. Being a hero is about acting without hesitation or fear for your own safety.

The very basis of heroic humanity is founded in altruism. This principle can become a belief or practice, one of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others. Coupled with courage and decisiveness, heroism becomes a true possibility. My goal in life is to be a hero, both in the official and unofficial senses. My goal is to inspire, love, and protect those I care about, as well as to do something truly remarkable for a complete stranger on a daily basis.

Humans are capable of suffering, both enduring and inflicting. We are capable of truly horrendous wars, murder, genocide, and hurt. We are unforgiving when it comes to defending belief and tradition. Despite our total lack of appreciation for our shared humanity, we are always in some form of conflict, either internal or external.

Yet, we are also capable of so much more. We can coexist if we find common ground. We can discover what it means to be a hero, and live our lives in betterment of our brothers and sisters around us. It stands evident that there is something within our hearts, something nameless and profound, that has the potential of uniting us in a brotherhood of humanity. This phenomenon is called love; the very clay of creation. From the words of John Lennon: “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope some day you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.”

Be a hero.

The (Un) Discovered Country

There was once a Mother and her many children. Together, they lived and coexisted in a large and frightening world. In the beginning, there was only love and appreciation in their relationship. The Mother provided for her children by growing crops and raising animals. In turn, the children were charged with harvesting the crops, domesticating the animals, and above all, loving their Mother. Throughout many great epochs, this system worked and flourished. The children toiled happily to build a life and the Mother provided everything she could give.

Eventually a time came when some of the children wanted more from their Mother. They worked harder in order to prove their worth, and the Mother provided even more. However, She told them, “I am growing old, my children, and I must have your care in order to keep providing. I must have your love, cooperation, and peaceful intentions.”

For a time, the children heeded Her wish. They cared for their Mother’s well-being and reaped the fruits of their labor. However, this system couldn’t last forever. Several of the children wished they could have even more, at the expense of their siblings. They wished to grow strong and powerful. The Mother did not approve.

And so the time came when these few children asked their gracious Mother for more, once again, in order to fuel a war against their brothers and sisters. As sad as She was, the Mother could not deny Her children what they needed. She provided resources such as iron, steel, and uranium. What could these harsh materials ever be used for? The Mother labored at the coercion of her many children and slowly grew weak with each newly unearthed resource.

And so the war began. The children, for all of their self-justified reasons, were killing each other. The Mother weeped for Her losses, and struggled to keep providing. The children were intent on destroying each other, and She was slowly beginning to grow tired of watching the madness. Her faculties were becoming old and worn out. But still, She continued to love. When the war ended, and the remaining children were few and far between, they appealed to their Mother once again. The bloodshed had left them in far worse shape than they ever could have imagined. This time, they wanted food, water, and peace.

The Mother knew that She could provide little in Her terrible state, and least of all peace. This last request was one that the children must discover on their own. And so She whispered again, deep in Her throes of agony, “Even though I am ravaged, torn, and abused, I will always provide for my children. There is a country where you can find sustenance and joy. No matter how destroyed I have become, this country will always exist. It lies not in front of your eyes, my children, but in your hearts. The voyage to this place requires facing your inner fears and imperfections. It is the true voyage of self-discovery. It is a microcosm of greater possibilities.”

The children weeped for their Mother and regretted their foolish behavior. They watched as She slowly withered and could only provide less and less. They were to blame, the children who failed to provide love and nurturing. Distraught, they ceased any standing quarrels and made a vow. They would no longer wage meaningless wars against each other. They would dedicate themselves to their Mother and to finding this undiscovered country of hope and peace.

Why do we live in such madness?