The Anteater Spoonful: Political Participation
Naser: So where does this interest in politics come from?
Armin: Well, it’s not so much interest, as a necessity. You know it goes hand-in-hand with trying to live and survive and just the primal things in life. I would never go into politics, but I realize it has a direct influence on everything that goes on in my life and the lives of everyone around me.
Naser: Right, I agree, I’m not a fan, but I realize that if you’re not aware, you can’t be a factor.
Armin: Well, that’s the thing about politics, if you’re not aware of it, if you’re not participating, it’s not only that you’re not participating, but you’re relinquishing your power. You’re giving it up so that someone else can decide for you. If you don’t participate it actually comes back to hurt you, more than you’d expect.
Naser: Exactly, you’re forfeiting your voice. It’s actually essential that we do get involved.
Armin: But, I feel like at least in the people that I hang around with, maybe my age group, there’s a sort of disdain for anything that has anything to do with politics. You know, it’s just not interesting. It’s just boring and tedious and bureaucratic, and they don’t want anything to do with it. But one day all those people will grow up and realize, all those years ago, we could’ve done something for the better, we could’ve acted. I mean, personally, I think America has the most beautiful system to date, with all its flaws and with all the messed up things.
Naser: Essentially, it’s based on a great idea.
Armin: Essentially, it’s the best system in the world right now; even in Europe there are big structural holes.
Naser: Right, but the problem really is in the implementation of the American system. The public doesn’t voice its opinion as it should, and the powerful do as they wish. What I think we need isn’t a revolution, but an education.
Armin: You’re absolutely right. I just feel like the sooner our generation wakes up to the fact that our opinion really does make a difference, it’s a great step forward.
Naser: Yeah, it’s unfortunate; we don’t properly take advantage of the system as we should. But there are reasons to be apathetic. We still have this static two-party system, which is overwhelmingly influenced by powerful special interest groups, and constant corruption of the democratic system just gets people fed up.
Armin: Well, here’s the thing: for there to be change, it either takes a lot of people or a lot of money, and that’s the most fucked up part of America. Those representatives that are elected by the people but don’t actually end up representing them.
Naser: Well it’s a popularity game, most of the time they’re not exactly the best for the job, a lot of the time they’re just the most charismatic.
Armin: Well yeah, people are very shallow in their judgments.
Naser: They’re not aware of the policies they should be basing their votes on. The ignorance is at such a level, and it’s so overwhelming that I think it leaves the politically aware unmotivated. Like, what am I going to do? I’m going to pay attention to this issue, and this issue, and this issue and it’s going to be pointless, because the majority pay attention to the (R) or the (D) next the representative’s name.
Armin: Right, well, that in itself is a chain reaction. If the little-bit-more-aware people keep thinking that way, it’s just going to get worse and worse. That’s really how we’ve ended up here. The problem I think is that people come of age realizing that, okay, there is this infrastructure for me to participate in politics, and the immediate reaction after that is apathy, disdain, resentment toward the whole system. I’m 21 years old, I’ve only been able to participate in the whole system for the last three years and I (I being the general youth with awareness, but also with huge amounts of distrust for the system) contribute to all the problems I see around myself in my own lifetime. I feel like the hole that I’m in, the hole that we’re all in, is dug during our lifetime. So, I feel like I’m powerless, because the problems are so huge that there’s no way for me to get out of them. But, the truth is that the hole is actually a consequence of many generations feeling that way, that’s why it seems so implausible to actually do anything reasonable and fix anything. Generations have passed with this apathy.
Naser: Still, I think more of our generation especially is starting to become aware, and I twhink they’re reaching a point where a lot of them are fed up with this notion that they’re powerless.
Armin: But I mean, here’s another thing to think about. Will you be okay participating, doing your own part, the small part you can do, knowing that probably in your lifetime you’re not going to see significant change in American politics?
Naser: Well, to actually have change, you have to move forward with this mentality of seeing the means as the end.
Armin: Right, all I’m saying is that it takes a lot of time. You have to act without having a tangible result in mind every time. If you’re aware of what’s going on and you decide to act, but you expect immediate results, then you’re going to be disappointed.
Naser: Well, I think a lot of the apathy comes from this idea that I’m just another brick in the wall. You have to take your own steps, you’ve got your own morals, you’ve got your own values, you have to believe in your own power and take action. You have to think and move independently. I think a lot of people can actually have an influence if they just focus on taking their own steps. I mean we sit here and complain about what’s going on, but were not willing to do anything. Maybe you’ll sign a petition if someone comes up to you, but very few are willing to take actual action.
Armin: That’s where we are, though, the least amount of work for the most comfort.
Naser: Right, that’s American ideals right now.
Armin: Yeah, leave me out of it, I’ll just do my thing and everything’ll work out fine, but that’s starting to break down as more problems emerge. It’s become necessary that we get involved.
Naser Dashti is a second-year political science and sociology double major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.