Today has been a strange day at the office. My day job (the name and nature of the place shall continue to go unspecified) hurled yet more contradiction, aggravation, and inanity at us in a way that has further convinced me that I live in an augmented reality program. I told a co-worker that I just don't care anymore. He said that is the wrong way to live. I replied, "it is remarkably easy," to which he retorted that "easy living" is usually a sign that you're doing something wrong (paraphrase).
Of course I see his point. Caring is perhaps the most critical action to undertake in order to bring meaning to existence. It can be that one nice thing you do a day, that cause you devote even a modicum of time to that just might make the world a better place.
But it seems to be just as easy to "care" as to not care. I have a few favorite examples of this. One of them is the glut of magnetic yellow "support our troops" ribbons that emerged on cars everywhere after the invasion of Iraq. Now I certainly have nothing against the act of supporting our armed services. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I have always been a strong supporter of the military and that one of my closest friends is a veteran. My problem with the ribbons is twofold. First off, as an English scholar, I can tell there is an unspoken, understood phrase that goes before "support our troops" and that is "you had better." This makes the caring and support for our service men and women into a purely political statement. Secondly, I wonder just how the driver of the car in front of me chooses to support the troops? I mean, aside from slapping that ribbon on their car? Do they write letters? Have they adopted a unit to send care packages to? Have they gone to a funeral for a fallen soldier that they didn't know but were somehow connected to by extension? I'm not saying that they haven't. I just have my doubts.
You can just easily see the same kind of principle at work on the other side of the political fence. Take your average "peace protest." How many of those people consider themselves to be "politically and socially active" just by showing up to one of those things? I once was in an art supply store. Two college age kids staffed the place while chatting with a few of their friends. One of the visitors said, "Hey there's a protest rally in Washington D.C. this weekend. Want to go?" "What's it for?" the kid behind the counter asked. "To free Leonard Pelltier," he was told. "Yeah, sure," was the decision. The college kid took maybe a beat to think about it. The tone of his response sounded like one of "guess there could be a few awesome tailgate parties and cute girls."
Finally, I'm just as guilty as anybody. I am a supporter of Bono's One Campaign. I wear a white bracelet from time to time, I bought a Red t-shirt from the Gap, I donated to get antiviral drugs to HIV patients in Africa, and I have written a couple letters to Congress to supporter thrid world debt cancellation. Have I been to Africa to get my hands in the dirt and help? No. Even if I had the means I'm still not so sure that I would do it. I am outraged by what BP has done to the Gulf of Mexico. What have I done? I added a "boycott BP" logo to my Twitter feed, signed an online petition against further drilling, and I avoid BP gas stations like the plague. Do I do anything positive? I am down in Louisiana, scrubbing oil off of pelicans? No.
Apathy is a contagion. It hops from person to person like any germ. It spreads from brain to brain like any viral video on the Net. It can start with a bad customer service experience at a store, be reinforced by an overall sense of futility at your stupid day job, and really explode after taking a look at the overwhelming amount of problems our world faces. It might even be part of a larger plan, a subroutine in a larger control mechanism. The superimposition of a rigid societal and religious framework is enough to make most free-thinkers feel like they're up against it and that to act contrary to expectations is tantamount to ramming your head into a concrete wall. So why do it? Because if enough people don't care, it will be easier to push forward certain agendas. So hands up. What do you do?
"I don't care" comes very easy to me. Yet if that is too frequent of a response, what will be left to care about? The only way to halt the cycle, to "break free of the matrix" as it were, seems to be through tiny, altruistic acts. That and staying educated about what's going on. That kind of education is one of my goals here with Strange Horizons and it is an education for myself as much as anybody. I hope that you, dear visitor, may find it as such also.
Speaking of caring, President Obama is to address the nation one of these nights on the status of things in the Gulf. Here's to hoping he actually does "kick the ass" of BP.
Thought I'd add my playlist from "Nothing Left But The Cockroaches:"
"Wild Boys," Duran Duran
"The Playboy Mansion," U2
"Zeroes and Ones," Jesus Jones
"Zero," The Yeah Yeah Yeahs
"American Idiot," Green Day
Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets