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My Daughter
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Monday, February 21, 2005

Apathy Weds Pollyanna

Americans are now beginning to pay the price for sleeping through history classes, ignoring important information in the alternative media and neglecting to participate in their own political process. Apathy is no longer an adequate term of description for the steady erosion of the public’s involvement in the political life of the United States. I find it quite remarkable that we live in the largest non-participatory democracy in the world.

Traditional forms of party politics, political values and identities have little purchase on an evidently disenchanted public. Popular mistrust of authority is confirmed by the growing alienation of people from the system of elections where a significant proportion of the electorate believes that voting is a waste of time. And in light of this, I find it quite disturbing that it remains so—for it is not in people's nature to be long content with their condition.

But we are ignoring our influence on our destiny with our apathy, and we do so at our own peril. Over the years, we have amassed evidence pointing to a powerful “Pollyanna principle” — that people more readily perceive, remember and communicate pleasant information, as opposed to the unpleasant. Positive thinking predominates over negative thinking. In recent research, it has been further discerned that there is a tendency toward “unrealistic optimism about future life events.” Researchers who study human thinking have often observed that people overestimate the accuracy of their beliefs and judgments. So consistently does this happen that one prominent researcher has referred to this human tendency as “cognitive conceit.”

Sure, we all have things to be happy about, but there seems to be a huge amount of self-delusion and denial going on as well. We stand at the dusk of oil-based civilization, and the U.S. is preparing for the approaching night by extending its military might throughout the world and instituting a police state at home. Does no one care? Have we become so overspecialized that we no longer even address our own future? Have we all become ostriches with our heads in the sand? Are we engaged in a morbid self-aggrandizement of importance in our dominion over all things? Or is it a sullen acceptance—a kind of last call for humanity?

Never forget that the iron law of oligarchy always obtains; few people will always run everything, no matter what the institution or what the country.”
—James Madison

1 comment:

Dan said...

It's not fair to say that Americans are apathetic. Or maybe, there are different types of apathy. Almost 40% of Americans now work more than 50 hours a week. Americans are very hard working in regards to their personal accomplishments. Such selfishness justifies and encourages political apathy.