Monday, February 4, 2013

Please Place Your Muse in the "On" Position

Howdy, all. So apparently we skipped January because fuck January. There was stuff happening, but my muse took an extended break. S/he's still not back yet, mind you, but if I don't start writing again this will go the way of all my blogs: the trash heap.

So what are we angry at today? Today, we aren't angry. Just tired. (Why yes, we are using the royal we. Because we feel like it. Yes it's perfectly correct. No, you can't do crap about it other than run away.)

Of what are we tired? Apathy.

I (first person singular now; keep up) had a discussion a few months back with a lady of my acquaintance who told me that in her opinion the greatest weapon a government could wield is fear. And that it was not only the greatest, but the most common, the "go-to" weapon of choice.

I disagree. Fear is a powerful tool, yes. Many governments and systems make use of it extensively, because there's nothing quite like scaring the utter bejeebus out of someone to make them fall in line. One problem: fear inevitably yields backlash. There are dictators that have been in power for decades. But historically speaking, those who rule by fear alone have inevitably fallen or been thrown out of power.

Apathy on the other hand, is the world's most controllable weapon, capable of both the blunt application that fear can have, as well as precision surgical strikes that can wipe out uprisings within weeks. It simply takes a little more time to manipulate, a bit more practice. But while a population can become inured to fear, apathy is the gift that keeps on giving.

Stop and think a moment: how many people do you know that didn't vote because they don't care, or don't believe it matters? How many of those people do you know that changed their minds due to the fear tactics laid out on one side or the other?

The first answer probably sounded like a lot. The second probably sounded like not much. Why? Because of apathy.

I've touched on the relative importance of Congressional elections versus the Presidential election. But while we get our knickers all up in a bunch about the one guy or gal that's supposed to be the CEO to Congress' Board of Directors, we don't actually seem to give two craps about the Board. Hell, I voted for the wrong guy by accident because I was so focused on state questions and the President that I completely forgot which guy was which. Because I'd barely hear of either one, I was tired, I hadn't the time to research, on and on, ad nauseam.

Lets take a second and put that in perspective: this is one of my favorite rants. I care about kicking congress collective ass so much I've been writing about it for four years waiting for an election just so I could get up there and yell at them.

And I missed the boat. And I spend hours a day thinking about this crap. Y'all? Some of y'all probably did a decent job representing yourselves as citizens, and some of you did us all the favor of staying home when you realized you had 0% of a clue about any of it. But some of you did what I did and researched everything but Congress and possibly screwed up.

I mean, we elect these people and we hate them. How can that be possible?

Apathy. Still thinking maybe fear is stronger?

Here's another one. Anyone actually like the Big Brother-esque crap possible because of the Patriot Act? It was signed into law through fear. That wave of carrying fear lasted about two years, and then the backlash kicked in as people realized "holy crap, that gives the US intelligence community war powers pretty much forever, whenever, with minimal operative restrictions!"

President Obama continued the key portions of it in 2011. With an Autopen, which was the only fuss that was raised. Bet you a nickel you either hadn't heard that, or had forgotten about it until just now.

We're a culture of bread and circuses. The media we ingest has been bent to the point that the average consumer will only ever see news and entertainment that fits their worldview, because the media can't make any money telling a consumer something they don't want to hear. The internet has created hyper-niche reporting, the ability of a consumer to set their news interests so narrowly that they have no idea if they're getting even a fraction of what's true, so long as they get what entertains them.

The president comes on the television to talk about something that's happening and people change the channel or switch on Netflix. Just over five times as many people watched the Superbowl than watched the Inauguration. And that's the average taking the blackout into account.

We just...don't seem to care. I've been railing and ranting for months, and no-one seems to care. My professors get up in front of a roomful of people and work to instill critical thinking. Half to three quarters of the class absorbs the information long enough to pass the quiz only because a college degree increases your chances of getting a better salary.

Reality television is most of what's on. The rest is a mix of comedy-drama, sitcoms, contest shows, movies, and a tiny handful of programs that have educational value, usually targeted at children under 7 or formatted to be as entertaining as possible so the education sneaks in on waves of humor and fun.

When was the last time anyone sat down and watched NOVA because it's just freaking cool? When was the last time any of y'all grabbed a book on a subject that fascinated you and had no applications in your life? Just reading to learn something beyond the trivia level?

When was the last time you went on a Wikipedia crawl and followed the sources back? When was the last time you used Google to learn something for the sake of learning or to find an academically sound range of opinions?

When was the last time you read a fiction book that made you think deeply about the way you view the world? When was the last time you read a non-fiction book? When was the last time you watched or listened to or read the news and actually took the time to sit through a whole local or national program, or grabbed an edition of a magazine or news paper?

When was the last time you even engaged in abstract thought?

When, my friends, was the last time you gave two craps and actually did something about it?

If the answer to all of the above sounds in your head like, "Well, yeah, but..."

You can feel ok about yourself. There are thousands, even millions, of people living happy and productive lives and never thinking beyond the confines of their lives. That's ok.

If you really and truly could give less of a shit about who's the president than who won the local highschool game, or what's on the box tonight, and none of the rest of what's going on makes any nevermind to you? That's ok.

But if you aren't happy, productive, or even if you're just uncomfortable with the world around you and you continue to sit on your ass because that one show is on, and NOVA is really boring, and the news is always bad, and why should you learn anything that's not helpful to you, and the politicians are corrupt anyway, and...



Then shame on you. Get your ass up and give two shits about what the hell is going on around you. Write, educate, explore, learn, and study. We need people who do that as much as we need those who just really don't want to. And unfortunately, a lot of us are not so much the kind of people who honestly don't give a crap, but the kind who do give a crap and have become lazy. And to those, I say:

Stop being a lazy ass and come help me fix this world.

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