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'Political views: Apathetic'

01 January 2013, 12:29

It's something I come across far too often in conversations, though its presence is more evident on Facebook. 
"Political views: Apathetic"

(Note that the choice of "other" as a political view is often a stand-in for 'apathetic'--perhaps because these people are too embarrassed to admit to apathy, or they simply don't know the meaning of the word. After all, how could their views be so radically different that they couldn't be at least partially explained by existing descriptors and maybe a sentence of elaboration?)

"I don't really care for politics," they'll say. Some are even infinitely proud of this statement, noting that all politicians have something to hide, and we'd all be better off staying well away from them. This view has its merits and, especially in South Africa, we can't blame anyone for feeling disdain at the current political climate. However, often this sentiment reveals something else: intellectual laziness.

Let's be clear: There's a big difference between having political opinion and taking political action. Even the most opinionated of us rarely do anything to meaningfully change the state of affairs in the country--save an 'x' on a piece of paper every half-decade. However, claiming that(in addition to being uninterested in doing anything) you haven't even an opinion on politics is completely bizarre. Why?

Because it's not true.

Every adult of functional mental capacity feels a certain way about different issues, including political ones. It's a fact of human nature, a blessing and a curse, that well thought-out arguments must still collide against knee-jerk reactions. We can't help but have an opinion. From negligible issues (chicken or beef?) to life-altering (pro-life or pro-choice?), we can't help but feel compelled to one side or the other. (Yet, of course, we can still change our minds with time).

Herein lies the problem: When someone admits to having no political views, what they are admitting to is an unwillingness to reflect on the issues at hand and understand how they weigh up with their pre-existing beliefs and values.

It's an admission of a lack of self-knowledge.

We can't all protest every weekend, or join high ranks of political parties. But, at the very least, we owe it to ourselves to know where we stand. Whether we then take action--that is a question of apathy. 

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