Who cares about the apathetic?

A few weeks ago, when Don Imus was fired, I spoke to my 19-year-old co-worker about what had happened (recap: “nappy-headed hos,” suspension, firing) and she asked, “Who is he?” OK. That’s understandable.

A few weeks ago, when Don Imus was fired, I spoke to my 19-year-old co-worker about what had happened (recap: “nappy-headed hos,” suspension, firing) and she asked, “Who is he?” OK. That’s understandable. After all, Imus was someone who was relatively unknown unless you followed his shock-jock radio show. So, being the know-it-all that I am, I proceeded to explain to her who he was and how and why he had been fired. She paused, then asked, “And…so?”

I just looked at her. She couldn’t be serious. A man was fired for insulting people, and he lost his job because advertisers had pulled their ads from their timeslots. (If you want to read more of my opinion on the subject, feel free to poke around dailyvanguard.com.) Not cool.

Taking a deep breath, I asked her if she even watched the news, to which she replied, “No.” Did she have the internet? No. Read the newspaper? Any newspaper? No. Mouth agape, I asked her how she could stand living in such a self-involved bubble. I can understand not watching television news, because, let’s face it, it sucks. It’s depressing, they cover stories that don’t really matter (how many “dog stolen from car” stories do we really need to be informed about?), technical snafus abound, and people are paid for chronically misreading and mispronouncing words rolling on a monitor. Pay me $40,000 a year and I will not be mispronouncing words, guaranteed. And I’ve been told I clean up quite nicely. (Hey, human resources at KOIN, KATU, are you reading?)

The internet is a wonderful tool. You can get breaking news at any time with an available connection, you can find anything on anyone anywhere if they so much as hiccup. And while newspapers are apparently a dying breed, they remain another wonderful means of gaining information. She could even read a newspaper for free where we work because someone is always leaving theirs behind. So my co-worker really has no excuse for not keeping up-to-date on the goings-on of the world. We live in a society where information is so much easier to access than at any other time in history. Her response to this diatribe? A shrug of her shoulders and “I just don’t care.”

This makes no sense considering that we, the 18-to-30 set, are born of peace, love, doping, activist hippies. Our parents were the ones who hated “The Man” (capital “t,” capital “m”). They were the ones who chained themselves to doorknobs and put flowers in the barrels of guns to protest, well, everything. They cared. Maybe a little excessively, but they cared.

Then we have our generation. We get 1,000 protestors on May Day. We have maybe 1,500 for war protests, and that’s on a day with no rain. And this is Portland. We come in right behind San Francisco in liberalist, communist, socialist, anarchist wannabes. So where have all of the people gone? The real people, the ones who really do care about what is happening in the here and now, who know who is currently president, who know what is going on with trade, the economy, international relations, education, and not just wanting an excuse to toke up.

Researchers have done study after study to find that today, people who fall in the 15- to 25-year-old age bracket are apathetic to politics and current events. Gee, ya think? Did we really need a study (or studies) to tell us that? All one needs to do is visit the closest high school or university and talk to a few of the students there. Conversations will range from tomorrow’s party to “do these pants make my ass look fat?” Rarely will it tread into religious, political, economic, international or philosophical territory. Unless you are lucky enough to fall into the crowd that does, that is.

The Committee for the Study of the American Electorate says that 25 million Americans who used to vote now don’t. As of 1996, voter participation has fallen below 50 percent, the second lowest since 1824. In the 18- to 24-year-old age bracket, voter turnout in the 1996 presidential election was only at 30 percent. Granted these numbers aren’t the most recent, but it is still a well-known fact that today’s dotcom generation just doesn’t give a damn unless it directly affects them. Or if it’s made easy for them to care.

There are those who choose to stay informed out there. They have the internet, they read their newspapers, they follow what is going on in the world and they can hold a halfway decent conversation about what they think and why they think that way. But they’re the minority. What I’ve written is nothing surprising, and it is far from revolutionary. It has been written about in college newspapers and dailies nationwide ad nauseam.

But as it is, I am left to wonder: Who will read this, if anyone? Is producing a college newspaper, or anything that passes along information, worth producing if readership is low? Why bother with something that few people respond to or care about? Maybe because not sharing information would almost be blasphemous, and then we’d all be ignorant, not just those who choose to be.

I have no explanation as to why some people just choose to stay in the dark about what is going on around them, and neither do the researchers who have conducted study after study saying that people are ignorant and are perfectly happy being so. With that said, for those who don’t care and choose to know nothing: don’t vote. Leave that to those of us who make an effort.