On “Being Political”

I really do want to get back to some actual math that I’ve found interesting recently, but there is one last thing that has been turning in my head recently. It is on the ethics of a certain attitude that has developed in our culture. It is the apathetic attitude toward things labeled as “political.”

My family is a largely non-political family. In fact, they are so anti-political that certain members aren’t familiar enough with politics that they probably would have to take a 50/50 guess at what party Obama belongs to (or Bush, to emphasize that it isn’t a confusion of being close to center).

Don’t get me wrong. I hate “politics” as much as the next person. I hate the lies for political gain. I hate talking around issues instead of about them. Heck. I hate the idea of endlessly talking to stall doing things. I hate that you have to satisfy a constituency instead of thinking what the best option would be. I hate that religion has incredible amounts of influence on decisions that should be rational. And so on….

So here is my claim. It doesn’t matter if you hate or love politics, in any case it is unethical to use this as an excuse. What do you think about the fact that gay marriages could be repealed? Oh, that’s just a political thing. I don’t really follow that. What about the genocides in Darfur? Well, there isn’t really anything we can do about that. Oh, you went to that protest? That was pointless. It is political and the politicians aren’t affected by protests. The examples are endless.

This idea that because something can be linked to politics (or that it is something that politicians will have to vote on) is hopeless to change and hence a waste of time and money to try to change is unethical. It has become an excuse to stand by and watch inhuman things happen without feeling guilty. The main problem is that people that do this are completely unaware that this is what they are doing. It isn’t really their fault. This idea has been culturally accepted, and culturally reinforced when we see all the scandals and lying going on.

I guess my main point is that this cultural acceptance needs to start to turn around if we really want to see positive changes. The next time you hear someone turn something down or refuse to comment or act on something for this reason point it out. The best way is to head-on point out that there is a moral issue that is not political that they are standing by and letting happen and just using that as an excuse. I mean, what can’t be considered “political”? The statement, “That’s all politics,” is really void of meaning when you think of it that way.


3 thoughts on “On “Being Political”

  1. IMHO, gay marriage and the Darfur crisis are completely different issues.

    Mass protests in California against the banning of gay marriage could actually result in something positive (like a new referendum). Gay marriage in California is ultimately a Californian problem which the Californians will sooner or later sort out. If people feel that the problem should be left to the politicians, then they are giving up their right to “shape” society. If citizens stop caring about domestic issues, they are, in fact, giving the politicians a carte blanche for them not to serve the people they should be serving.

    The Darfur crisis is not a domestic issue. If it’s morally wrong to intervene in other countries for economic benefit (e.g., Gulf War I), intervening in other countries for so-called humanitarian reasons is morally questionable as well. Of course, it would be wonderful if all genocide would end, but anyone who supports the use of force to end such genocides should be willing to wear a helmet, pick up a gun and go fight as well. Otherwise, it’s the same old thing… the poor and the minorities acting as Uncle Sam’s global police force.

    To cut a long story short: I don’t expect people to lose sleep over international issues which do not affect the U.S. directly, but I will be very worried when citizens stop caring about domestic issues, as they’re basically stating their indifference to their own civil liberties.

  2. True. I guess I should have chosen my examples more carefully. I don’t think it really affects the claim that people who write off issues as “political” are in general just creating an illegitimate excuse to not even try.

  3. I don’t disagree with you. My comment’s point was simply to emphasize that there are various levels of indifference.

    To be realist, I don’t expect people to worry about what does not affect them directly. However, (like I said before) ignoring important issues which directly affect one’s society is wrong… and labeling them as “political” is dangerous. It’s natural that most people feel detached from the slimy world of politics. Labeling certain issues as “political” is thus not only an act of indifference, it’s an way of fostering further indifference. When will it end? One’s civil liberties are not exactly a birth-right. If the population stops caring, authoritarianism follows.

    And that’s what I have to say about it. As an engineer, I don’t like to engage myself in long philosophical discussions when the topic is detached from the physical world 😉

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