Apathy is a disease to politics. If left untreated, it can destabilise government, dishearten the concerned or at worst, threaten to shatter the very foundations upon which our democracy was founded. The term apathy can be defined as a lack of enthusiasm, interest or concern in an issue that demands attention but with regards to politics, it is much more than this. Apathy is the inability or unwillingness to generate any sort of political opinion, ideal or aspiration, and the problem is spreading like wildfire.
So what are the root causes behind this epidemic? For starters, apathy is often hereditary; as the men and women of the Generation Y reach childbearing age, those who championed a blasé approach towards the Iraq war and global warming are more likely to raise offspring who share a matching political indifference. More worryingly, apathy is also contagious; the tendency of not caring is enhanced if your peers are similarly lackadaisical- after all, if no one else cares then why the hell should you?
The decay of our generation’s political conscious has been further fuelled by the relentless nature of our consumerist and media infested culture. The corporations behind the inescapable advertisement of our generation have almost succeeded in nullifying any train of political thought- when such an emphasis is put upon how you look, what you buy and what you’re up to these days, who really has the time for politics? The brainwashing nature of consumerism has made political discussion somewhat of a schoolyard taboo.
Whilst consumerism has debilitated political debate, the media has turned our icons into fist-pumping reality TV stars, pill-popping musicians and over-indulgent athletes- hardly the stuff of political folklore. Even for the select few political heroes who have survived the unforgiving nature of schoolyard trends (a certain Marxist revolutionary springs to mind), their message has been almost lost along the way. In the case of Che Guevara, most adolescents will recognise he was some kind of revolutionary, but they not do know what he stood for and what he revolted against. But it doesn’t matter- the fact that Che Guevara symbolises cool is adequate enough. This thought is encapsulated by one of Banksy’s less renowned graffiti’s. In short, our political heroes of old have been diluted or replaced with MTV icons, and with it a degree of political aspiration has been lost. Politics has become uncool because consumerism and the media have made it uncool.
Of course, such a discussion cannot take place without recognising that a lack of interest is not entirely unjustified, and without acknowledging the faults of the politicians themselves. A growth in political dishonesty and sleaze, accompanied by the growing tendency of the media to salivate over scandals has led to increased disillusionment between the government and the people. With regards to the younger generation, the recently unexpected rise in tuition fees has only worsened this matter. If a generation automatically associates government with sleaze, then political compliance and engagement can be extremely difficult to encourage.
Yet young people cannot escape without a share of the blame. Whilst it is clear that this concoction has hindered the process of engagement, it is worth noting that we have so voluntarily become disenfranchised we have barely stopped to think of the potential consequences it might yield. Apathy is practised by those who have sheltered themselves in their own little corner of the world, and indulge themselves in their own false sense of security. By only caring about their own interests and agenda they fail to recognise that by ignoring the events around them they are in danger of losing everything they value. Once the consequences have taken root it is all too difficult to reverse the situation, at which time all the apathetic people will demand that something be done about it. As a generation, we cannot let this continue. Apathy is the western embarrassment of the 21st century, and given the scope of its repercussions, we must no longer deem it excusable.
Contributed by Adam Salisbury