Guest author Keith O’Dwyer finishes his series on political apathy started in this post, just in time for Election Day.
“The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment.”
-Robert M. Hutchins
The next major concern for American democracy is in the form of indifference towards politics. It becomes easy for people to lose interest in politics and focus simply on the day to day of life and one’s personal affairs.
The problem of having no interest in the matter of politics is that political decisions affect nearly every aspect of life. Federal legislation and administration on just one matter, for example oil policy, can have consequences on a range of matters such as environment, traffic, cost of goods and services, economic growth, foreign policy, taxation, and potentially even your pay. That is simply one area of government policy. Local administration and legislation is even more likely to affect your day to day life. For example, a city that chooses to zone for a new stadium could end up affecting traffic, local economy, access to healthcare, taxation and allocation of tax funds, environment, and infrastructure stress.
If one chooses to not be active in politics, it means resigning many aspects of life to the control of anyone else.
A factor that can affect all citizens, regardless of whether active, apathetic or indifferent is the lack of unbiased and investigative journalism. While leaning biases can be negated by reviewing multiple sources, many do not spend the time to do so.
An additional problem is talk show news (such as Bill O’Reilly or Rachel Maddow) which many use as a source of news but is heavy in opinions that are sided. If one has not had time to appropriately examine or review events such programming can establish an opinion without true and appropriate reelection.
Worse still is the growing consolidation of the ownership of news networks. As more networks are represented by fewer groups, the ability to shape opinion increases as the interest in investigation and combating bias is lessened.
Being a truly informed, educated and active voting member of a democracy heavily relies upon an active, investigative, and informative press. Citizens need to support and use a variety of news sources. It is also the responsibility of media consumers to question biases, assumptions and sources of material.
If the public continues or grows in its apathy, indifference and malnourishment then democracy in the nation is bound to disappear even if the ability to vote has not. Taking small steps to being active even in local politics can have great impact. If every person makes the opportunity for their voice and their voice to count, far more can be done to improve life everywhere. To fail or to choose not to means resigning to the mantra of:
“Is it ignorance or apathy? Hey, I don’t know and I don’t care.” –Jimmy Buffett