Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Consumer Apathy Index

If Americans are so unhappy with their government, why don't more of them vote? The usual answers that we receive from the media -- ignorance on issues, loss of faith in democratic process, etc. -- have never really satisfied me. These sound like the comfy rationalizations for people who can't be bothered to make a side-trip before work to cast their ballot.

I have a much simpler answer: they are basically happy.

Let's face it: most of the issues that are decided in government are not affecting most citizen's day-to-day lives. Notice I did not say, "does not affect most citizens." Everything government does will indeed affect everyone, especially when it comes to the tax bill we pay for it all. What it doesn't do is directly, immediately impact the way the average citizen is living his daily life. If a citizen doesn't participate in the political process, he may pay a higher tax bill in the Spring . . . but he will most likely still get up in the morning at approximately the same time, go to the same job, come home to the same family, and watch the same TV shows. It is possible to watch three back-to-back seasons of "Survivor," paying no attention whatsoever to politics, and never notice a change.

I suspect this is also why government programs rarely get axed. Government programs, by their very nature, focus funds on specific people and issues in order to make direct, immediate impacts on people's lives. If you raise taxes, people grumble; but if you cut a program, you are certain to totally piss someone off.

Most people lament this state of affairs: "How awful. Americans are stupid cows. They don't care about anything important anymore." And I suppose this is true, to an extent. But I choose instead to focus on the underlying blessings that have allowed this to happen. We, as a nation, are so freakin' rich and peaceful that we have almost no concerns past who's going to make the playoffs. That we are apathetic is certainly a problem -- but it's a good problem to have. The very luxury that breeds this kind of apathy is also the same luxury that gives us enough time to notice and to care.



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