We all admire the friends and family members who have dedicated themselves to their passions and their causes. Maybe it’s the environment, animal rights, or a religious lifestyle. Maybe they’re determined to care for veterans or frequently seen at LGBTQ events. But for many of us, the number of so called causes to choose from can be overwhelming. So much so that we react to the abundance of choice by not committing ourselves to anything at all. And this looks a lot like apathy.
Politics can be much the same way. Just as there is an abundance of charities and organizational causes to support, so too are there a myriad of issues involved in governance. If you’ve chosen a cause then perhaps you’ll make note of the political goings on in that one area of interest, but even for lawmakers the sheer volume of work can be difficult to dedicate full attention to.
And so many people practice something called ‘cognitive dissonance,’ which is basically the path of least resistance, the one which involves the least amount of thinking and detangling, i.e. simply voting the party lines and trusting that someone else has already done the vetting for you. But people who vote this way become apathetic to their political process, only turning out a few times a year to enter names on a ballot, and otherwise stay uninvolved or disenchanted by the minutia of lawmaking.
However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from this past election it’s that we cannot afford to be apathetic. Not in voting practices, and not in our everyday lives either. We need to care about how things are done, we need to be more than just indifferent to the world’s goings on. Because if we stop paying attention and things fall apart, then we are implicitly responsible.
I’ve always kept up to date with current events, always had an interest in reading through diverse media sources, buts that’s not really enough anymore. Knowing isn’t the same as doing. I need to pay closer attention to things, even when it’s hard, but I also need to put my knowledge into action. I don’t want to lose the drive that I have now, don’t want to let the humdrum of daily life lure me back into a state of apathy.
So here are two solid apathy-fighting plans that I’ve come up with thus far:
In January I will be attending the Women’s March on Washington. I will lend my voice to the multitudes of other women and allies who’ve determined to join together on the first day of the new administration. I will help send the message that “women’s rights are human rights” and that a true American democracy protects people of all races, genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and religions.
In the coming days, I will also be more diligent about speaking up against comments or jokes that I believe create hostile environments for myself or other people. In the past I’ve often dismissed these comments, especially because I know how often people say things in jest that they don’t really mean or believe. But the more I brush off those comments without saying anything, the more likely it is that those same un-funny jokes will continue to permeate the social environment for years to come. By not saying anything, I’m implicitly saying that I think it’s ok to continue. So in order for things to change, I have to speak up. I will no longer allow the social and cultural disenfranchisement of this nation’s minorities to continue without protest. I will verbally object whenever something makes me uncomfortable.
What will you do to fight your political apathy? If you have any other suggestions for concrete things I can do to stay in the game, let me know in the comments.