Why should I care? Apathy explained

Last spring, I recollect a handful of students muttering discontent at some of their peers. Over the fall and now the spring term, that discontent is finding more ears. What are so many concerned about? In the past months, many claim that apathy has taken hold on the campus of Williams College. “Apathy” has become the new buzzword. At the dinner table, in the newspaper, even in my own suite – apathy is one of the great concerns on this campus.

Taking the opportunity to sit in on Housing Committee and College Council meetings over January and listening in to various student teach-ins at Goodrich, many Ephs have sounded out their concern over the apathy of their peers. But why? Why should I give two thoughts if my neighbor knows as much about the outside world as George W.?

Are not the people who are sounding out the criticism over apathetic peers just whining? Why does everyone have to be involved? Let’s start pealing this argument through. Do not different peoples have different priorities? What would the, say, math or art history or anthropology major need to watch the State of the Union for? Can we not say that all of us have varying degrees of disposition towards politics? I think we do. We are all very different, so why should all of us be concerned about politics, society at large, and the world beyond the Atlantic? So why do we all need to be involved? I did my volunteer work in high school so it would look good on my application. I pay my taxes. I’m going to get my degree and make six digits. I’m a good citizen, so how dare you get after me just because I forgot to register for the primary.

Many consider us – the students of Williams – to be the leaders of the rising generation. First of all, I resent the fact that a mantle has been placed on me that I do not accept. Secondly, why do I need to be a leader? There are enough people here who are involved in that stuff. What happens in Cairo or Calcutta or Caracas does not affect me. Unless India and Pakistan go to nuclear war or if Bogotá is captured by FARC, why should I care what happens over there? I am just being realistic now. I have to worry over my exam next week. How can I find time to read up on McCain-Bush race in South Carolina? If there is some little kid starving in Somalia and I have all I can eat at Baxter, am I supposed to feel bad? I did not choose to have a comfortable life – my parents and their parents worked hard so I wouldn’t be the one starving.

Not everyone finds the general election significant enough to devote time to. Obviously I have things that are of much greater concern than watching the State of the Union Address. Plus, what the President says really does not concern me. Is universal health care all that big of a deal? If a person does not have health care, it must be credited to his inability to find a job better than flipping burgers. I am a college student, not a political pundit. Why should I have to live up to the stigma that all college students need to be “political?” This is a new generation, new times, new priorities. I’m keeping my priorities straight: good grades, good social life and pristine A & F look. I’ll worry about politics when I’m older.

You also need to consider that all my friends are “apathetic.” I don’t want to be stigmatized as the “intellectual” one of the group. It is just so easy to forget to vote or read the platforms of all the major candidates. Whenever I do read the paper, all I gather is that Americans don’t vote and our economy is moving great. We have an endowment of 1.2 billion dollars. And obviously if the stock market is doing fine, then everyone else must be feeling the boom also. As for voting, well one more person not voting is not going to change anything. Politicians are controlled by special interests anyway.

I am not like those who like to take the high road, speaking down from a preverbal pedestal. Let’s be realistic. Basically my argument boils down to this: me. I have to worry about how I appear, how intelligent I sound, how others think of me, how I’m going to graduate with honors and go to law school.

I don’t have time to read a periodical that is concerned with such peripheral things as international news and politics. I’m just telling everyone how it is.