Prevalent politically apathetic attitudes need to be put to rest

Published in the Daily Illini April 16th, 2012

There is no such thing as having too much cynicism in the arena of American politics. If our political world were condensed into a basketball game, it would resemble the Malice at the Palace, the incident in 2004 when player Metta World Peace, then known as Ron Artest, left the court and ran fifteen rows into the crowd and assaulted a fan.

Similarly in our politico-mediaverse, there seems to be no such thing as “out-of-bounds.” What really happens when Rush Limbaugh’s deplorable ideas and merciless attacks flood the airwaves? He continues to throw the same punches on his show the very next day.

It seems that such rhetorical absurdity is growing more and more accepted, and instead of fighting to make our national conversation more reasonable, the populace reacts just as they are expected to — with apathy.

Not caring about politics is dangerous, for sure, especially in America. We are much less politically informed than the rest of the world and people generally don’t become aware of the systemic injustices until after it has personally screwed them over.

Reasoning like a true American, there must be someone, or something, to blame for all of this. And the culprit may have something to do with that annoying little cultural fog people call post-modernism.

The term inherently confuses, and the truth is that nobody really knows what it means, but hey, something had to come after modernism. The overall sentiment that I gather is that it’s a more pessimistic form of the IFC series Portlandia, an ironic caricature of Portland, Oregon where the ‘90s counter-culture has become the mainstream. It’s a paradoxical conclusion for a generation that did everything they could to go against the grain.

If post-modernism were a color, it would certainly be gray. The basic world view it communicates is that the world is more complicated than you realize, and it usually just ends up with the CIA helping to overthrow a government that disagrees with us.

In this cloudy haze of cynicism nothing, no matter how outrageous, is too absurd. For example, Dick Cheney openly admitted on national television to committing war crimes. The key word here is national, because I suspect if he ever leaves the United States there is a good chance he will be arrested and tried.

So when our generation rolls into town, we won’t be apathetically prepared for the worst like the post-modernists. We must quite literally expect the worst. And the distinction is important because instead of repeatedly focusing on the problems of our society, we should be re-imagining solutions.

But the post-modernists have one thing right: nothing is impossible. After all, the former bad-boy of the NBA Ron Artest changed his named to Metta World Peace, which is probably the most valuable message one could condense into a name.

The only cultural phenomenon that comes close to re-thinking the way to do things is Occupy Wall Street, obviously. In only two months it achieved a majority of Americans’ support, partially based on the fact that it was not the same type of hierarchical, top-down political engine that we are sold to as “change” through the mainstream political outlets.

For the post-modernists, privilege can be so boring, especially when you know about all the atrocities our government commits to ensure we have it. But when those privileges are taken away, packaged as “balancing the budget” and “austerity,” the process starts to come full circle against those who least expected it. At some point, something’s gotta give.

So here we are today on the cusp of something that is extraordinarily original. If the post-modernists could name this new cultural movement, you know they’d like to just add another “post” to the beginning of the term. But deciding what’s hip isn’t up to the old-timers. Occupiers are more creative than that.

Jean Michel




selected writing

Jean Michel is a film and theatre director, writer and artist based in New York City.
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