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 Productions — Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde — R.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.

Mizzou — Environmental Leadership Office

The University of Missouri is rich with resources and amenities, offering its students a wide-ranging variety of organizations to become involved on campus. Every interest and concern is addressed through the use of these programs in order to better the lives of each individual student among the collective whole of the university. One such organization is the Environmental Leadership Office which collaborates with MU students to pursue environmental issues on campus and abroad. Providing support and leadership opportunities, ELO connects and empowers students to spread the concept and implementation of a sustainable Mizzou.

ELO Ambassadors are tasked with motivating students in Res Life to pursue a greater interest in environmental efforts. Several well-known student organizations are directly advised and hosted by ELO, including the Bike Resource Center and Mizzou Bike Share programs. On top of this, the organization recruits volunteers for Tigers for Community Agriculture and even spends considerable effort supporting the Campus Farmers’ Markets. While the importance of protecting the environment on campus is increasingly recognized, the Environmental Leadership Office continues to broaden its ranks of openminded and concerned students.

Amy Eultgen is the ELO advisor at Mizzou and holds an undergraduate degree in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology. Throughout her scholastic years, she worked for the ELO and managed the workings of the Bike Resource Center. Amy believes the greatest achievement of the organization to be:

“…getting students engaged and connecting them with all of the environmentally friendly and sustainable practices on campus, so not only promoting our own programs and our own events, such as the Farmer’s Markets we have, but also connecting them with the Sustainability Office…”

This reflects the deep conviction of the Environmental Leadership Office to connect those Students who truly value and understand the necessity of not only a greener campus, but a greener Earth. There are various components to building a sustainable Mizzou, the greatest of which are the interest and engagement of Campus residents. People comprise the backbone of any successful organization or movement and this knowledge is obviously well-regarded and understood throughout the program. Amy continues to detail the mission of ELO as:

“… just trying to act like a liaison or like a central hub for students who have questions about ways to get involved, and connecting them with Sustain Mizzou.”

The Environmental leadership Office is located on the second floor of the MU student Center in the Center for Student Involvement. Interested students, or those who would like to get involved, are welcome to visit and partake in building a greener campus. Through many different resources, there is a way for everyone to become proactive in creating a safe, beautiful, and more environmentally aware Mizzou.

ELO Website — Meet the ELO Team — Sustainability Office

Inevitability

The smell of rain permeates the air as I kick at the dust on the side of an old country road. I see where the early drops have already fallen, leaving specks of slightly darkened soil. A man sits on the curb across from where I’m standing, looking at the rusted heap of metal that was previously a bike. I can see his age in the wrinkles of his hands and the riddled liver spots adorning his lined face. I can feel the age of his soul in the bright understanding and gentle humor of the situation in his eyes. The raindrops fall with increasing intensity as I stand and observe. The dust on my shoes is wiped away and I feel the matted hair sticking to my brow. I have an umbrella in my hands, and I raise it up to shield myself. The mechanism sticks and I struggle to pull it open as a gust overtakes me.  The old man looks to the heavens pensively as if thanking the clouds for their life-giving gift.

Without even a glance to the ruined bike, he stands to his feet with more balance than I would expect. Embracing the inevitability of the situation, he raises his arms to better feel the rain. He remains there, enjoying the forces that which he cannot control and finds peace in the moment. I look to him curiously and cease my struggles with the ill-fated umbrella. I let it fall to the ground and look up, feeling each drop caress my cheeks and run down my arms in gentle rivulets. I give in to the unchangeable tidal forces of all that is, and effectively, to the forces in my life that are better accepted than opposed. And in that moment, I am the world.

In life, we will confront obstacles. They will be seemingly unmovable, impermeable obtrusions that bring about stress and dissatisfaction. A perfect situation is all we can hope for, yet perfection is a level that will never be achieved. Circumstances will always be riddled with inadequacies and tidbits that are less than desirable. It is the inherent nature of mankind to oppose the forces in life that we cannot control. It is the nature of humanity to fear that which does not fall into our dominion. In other words, shit happens. It’s going to hurt, and possibly alter your life, but it’s going to happen nevertheless. Life is multi-faceted, meaning that nothing we encounter is ever simple, black, or white. This is the nature of suffering, the immutable strife we incur internally.

Amidst this conscious strife, there is a beauty and bliss in simply accepting the shit life throws in our direction. This does not mean we couldn’t or shouldn’t alter our circumstances for the better, but sometimes the option doesn’t exist. Sometimes the best we can do is realize that suffering is an integral part of the journey. Suffering is an inherent aspect of our spiritual growing up, you could say. Like the old man who embraced the rain because he was unable to escape it, so should we embrace the hard times that persist outside our control. Within this acceptance, we will find an unexpected bliss. I guess what I’m trying to impart is that sometimes it’s foolish to resist the winds of life.

Sometimes it’s best to fly alongside.

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Special thanks to my friend Topher Otake for inspiring me.

Treason

We found each other with a smile

that stirred the primal and divine.

Because your insipid—

choice was in me, I’m on cloud nine.

The breath of love is a fog

that shrouds all rhyme and reason.

I know not yet the origin

of this love that committed treason.

I left my mind cowed and betrayed

and kindled my fire within.

My heart is the drum that I beat

To the sound of our love herein.

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.

The Secret Truth

Amidst the facade and fictional overlay of the world, there is an underlying truth. This is not a reference to the validity of factual knowledge, but more so to the truth in perception. What is the true nature of all that is? We ask these questions in every waking moment of our lives, but normally not through conscious methods. We question subconsciously. We are unaware seekers, eternally blinded by the fog of ignorance, yet still questioning what we perceive in some deeper facet of our minds. There is an aspect of humanity’s primal nature rooted in the bliss of ignorance: the conditioning of our minds on the basis of prior bias and prejudice. Environmental factors, over a period of time, result in a developing pattern of thought that tends to stick with us for life. This pattern is the epitome of ego. It leads us into an existence founded in ignorance.

The struggle between the security of ignorance and the piercing clarity of truth is well documented. Humanity is not entirely oblivious to it’s superficial perception of reality, even though most do not choose to acknowledge it. In Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave,” a few subjects are chained where all they can see are shadows of real objects on the wall in front of them. Their backs are to the entrance of the cave, and so the subjects did not know of anything more ingrained in truth than the faux images. They were ignorant of the honest reality of the world.

This struggle is again expressed in a modern film, “The Truman Show.” The lead character, Truman, is the star of a television show that he believes is the real world. His family, friends, and any other humans he interacts with are merely actors. His hometown, Seahaven, is only a giant set. Truman believes everything is real while his actions are unknowingly being broadcasted to the entire nation. The movie introduces Truman at a time when he is only beginning to realize there is something not right or authentic about his life. The film documents Truman’s ascension into the real world and into knowledge similar to that of Plato’s cave dwellers.

“We accept the reality of the world in which we are presented.” This quote emanated from the directer of “The Truman Show.” Truman Burbank lived his life in a television show since birth, knowing no other reality. Acceptance of the world as he saw it was ingrained in his mentality. He firmly believed that the lifestyle he was living was normal. In Plato”s “Allegory of the Cave” the subjects in the cave watched the shadows believing they were completely founded in truth. The actors Truman grew to love and trust are metaphors for the shadows the subjects in the cave accepted as real. There were times when Truman was informed he was living a life of lies in a television show, but he was unable to understand them in his ignorance. Similarly, when a subject in the cave was told that more to life existed than the cave itself, he could not believe it, proving that ignorance is blinding. It was not until he witnessed the true reality or world for himself that his eyes were opened. This struggle and eventual realization is synonymous with that of Truman’s.

In the film, the viewers of “The Truman Show” religiously watch the events in Truman’s life, basing their own lives around his decisions and actions. Like Truman, they are controlled by the puppeteers, or directors, of the show. Once Truman escaped into the true world, the viewers found other shows to watch. It can be said that people in a media-driven society are prisoners like those in Plato’s cave. We watch television as they watch the shadows of the puppets, and base our lives around such. For example, commercials espouse certain products, advertising them profusely. We give in to this pressure and purchase them accordingly, only reinforcing the metaphorical prison we all are enchained in.

Plato would agree that both his “Allegory of the Cave” and “The Truman Show” are merely paradigms of an overall human condition. We all are slaves to ignorance and a limited perception of “what is.” Each of us believes in a monochrome reality, one in which our vision of the world is truth, and anything else is in opposition to that viewpoint. Like the prisoners in the cave, we cannot see the truth, and therefore we cannot fathom the existence of it. This inhibition can be transcended, but only through courage and introspection. The truth is paramount, but unless the ignorance of accumulated conditioning and a superficial perception are overcome, we will forever be blind to the beauty of what truly “is.”

Wake up. The truth is within you.

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.

Shades of Gray

You are the captain of a ship that has sunk. There are thirty people trying to stay afloat on a lifeboat, which is only meant to hold twenty. It will sink momentarily, unless something is done. There are two distinct choices: Since the boat will need rowed to shore, you could throw the ten weakest people overboard, thereby ensuring the safety of at least some lives. Or, you could allow everyone to stay, sinking the boat, and most likely dooming everyone aboard. What do you do?

…..

Morality and ethics are far from absolute. For each individual, the bridge between right and wrong is different. In some cases, the contrasts are only marginally at odds, although others can be more drastic in their differences. There is an aspect of the human psyche that is prone to viewing reality in black and white. This dualistic world view separates life into two distinct categories: right and wrong, moral and immoral, or good and bad.  

Not every dilemma has an answer. There may never be a perfect solution for each intricate equation we face in life. The assumption that there can only be two choices is inherently flawed. For the sake of delving into the philosophical realm of ethics, legalism and rigid boxes are fine and dandy. Nevertheless, I must disagree that this is a realistic or practical outlook. In many circumstances, it is never easy to analyze or pinpoint the “right” path to take. Of course, there are still times when a moral choice is clearly black or white, but one must realize that this outlook doesn’t apply to every situation.

In the end, it must be understood that moral dilemmas in life cannot always be answered by adhering to a civic code. We must follow our conscience, and judge dilemmas based on circumstances rather than how they apply to a strict ideology. Our intuition should be a great asset in these situations. Sometimes, all we see is the black or white, when truly, the matter is only painted in shades of gray.