A Heightened Concern for Our Future

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After reading the longwinded article in last week’s Villanovan entitled ‘Concern for Our Future’, my concerned for our future has peaked. Not because of Stephen Serpe’s prophetic words (hardly), warning about ‘voter apathy’, but because of the collage of stupidity that he felt needed to take up more than half a page (eating into the space that other kinds of stupidity would otherwise be occupying in our University’s gem of a publication). I am not going to waste time entertaining each bewildering point. Rather, I will address the sheer stupidity of the ‘rock the vote’ or ‘you have to vote’ mentality, which-to Serpe’s credit-has been so thoroughly laid out that you can actually line up each fragmentary slogan that makes up this mindset and see that there is no logic or continuity to be found anywhere in such empty rhetoric. However, I tread in dangerous waters speaking ill of the empty rhetoric that we so love, especially around election time when empty rhetoric-the sustenance of American liberal democracy-is what brings us out of our political cocoons every four years or so. My specific appeal is not to those of you who consider yourselves politically informed,-relishing in every wavelength of mass media misinformation that you passively allow to soak into your every political pore-you are too far gone. Instead I appeal to you who at the very least feel frustrated by the mindless slogans, and who have even just the slightest inkling that ‘Decision 2004’ is just a show. Look backstage at the this election and you will see a very select group of corporate leaders watching fondly as their little Johnny and Georgie perform their song and dance-singing catchphrases and dancing around real issues. As Andrew Bacevich of Harvard puts it in American Empire, “through tacit agreement the two major parties approach the contest for the presidency as political kabuki in which the players know their roles and everyone sticks to the script.” At this point in history, to deny that American politics is anything more than an interface for the neocapitalist market system is an error that will prove fatal. The road leading to the unchallenged dominance of the US (outlined in the National Security Strategy) is paved with corporate interest, and the best interest of corporations is to control a frightened bewildered herd whose consent of injustice and exploitation is easy to engineer. The most coherent words I have seen on television in years have come from a KFC commercial: ‘right wing, left wing, it tastes the same to me.’ When you look outside of ‘The Political Spectrum’ set up by media news programs, you realize that the spectrum represented is always the same and very narrow. ‘Here on such and such a program we have typical X on the right and typical Y on the left. For the next 60minutes we will watch them butt heads using the same mindless rhetoric that we always hear on this program.’ Those who tune in regularly to such programs are trapped in this tiny spectrum of misinformation and find it very difficult to step outside and consider the far more intelligent points of those that are considered by the mass media to be ‘dissident intellectuals’ because their views do not fit the neatly formatted spectrum of the media. It’s a distraction folks. Those who have become disenchanted with voting, the two party system, or the meta-narrative of liberal democracy as a whole, have been dumped into a bin labeled ‘voter apathy’. Well, listen up. I’m among the disenchanted, and I am sure as hell not apathetic. I am a Catholic, so my vision of community and human flourishing does not resemble anything close to liberal democracy’s image of freedom. I am a Chalcedonian Christian, so my ethic regarding the integrity of human life, oddly enough, closely resembles that of Jesus. I am not a Republican or a Democrat. If I did belong to any political party, it would not be much of a party at all, maybe consisting of the types who happen to be milling around the bookshelves on the second floor of Falvey Library. In short, the American ‘we’ is almost never the American ‘me’. None of this means that I am apathetic toward American politics, and much of it means that I spend most of my time educating myself-through actual books, articles, communities of faith and service, art, and music-with the hope of finding a better way of living life than that proposed to me by any mainstream political party, Bartley Hall, or AOL Time Warner. No Mr. Serpe, I am proud to say that I have not learned that America is about choosing the lesser of two evils, because sooner or later we will all have to deal with the evil of two lessers. This does not have to be ‘just the way things are.’ We do not have to settle for the choices given to us by ‘the powers that be.’ To raise the percentage of those who vote a mere 15-20% to 70% would be a monumental task and would still not change the fact that we would not be choosing between Candidate A and Candidate B, but would still be choosing between Candidate A1 and Candidate A2. Say what you will about Americanism and Patriotism, but even a reluctant vote for ‘anybody but Bush’ is a vote in favor of a system of democracy that does not work. You are casting your vote for an illusion. Yet, I know my words are wasted, and you will most likely run off to the voting booths, blowing your political wad like a pubescent teenager with one mere jerk of the lever. But hey, whatever makes you feel American, or makes you feel like you did your part, or even worse makes you feel exonerated from the annals of American politics when you can simply say ‘I voted for the other guy.’ I will end with a quote from Noam Chomsky, probably one of the most prophetic and therefore misunderstood world-historical individuals of our time: ‘The issue is whether we want to live in a free society or whether we want to live under what amounts to a form of self-imposed totalitarianism, with the bewildered herd marginalized, directed elsewhere, terrified, screaming patriotic slogans, fearing for their lives, and admiring with awe the leader who saved them from destruction, while the educated masses goose-step on command and repeat the slogans they’re supposed to repeat and the society deteriorates at home. We end up serving as a mercenary enforcer state, hoping that others are going to pay us to smash up the world.’