BY AMINAH GALAL
The world around us has become an increasingly dreary place. Thousands are dying on a daily basis, millions are living well below the poverty line, and our own country’s economy has hit rock bottom. Education and health care are continuously being placed in the back seat as world leaders seem to be ruled by the motto, “more is not enough.”
Corporations are controlling governments and the gap between the rich and the poor is the widest it has ever been since the Great Depression. People are being robbed of their civil liberties and their rights, and universities have become slaves to the corporate dollar.
Tuition has been on a constant rise for the past decade, while services, classes, and faculty are being cut. It is this type of situation where frustration should drive people to do or say something; to stand and demand change.
At the very least, one would assume that college students, the supposedly most “radical” age group of the human race, would not withstand these conditions silently. We are a generation that should be angered by the state of society, a generation vexed.
But as I look around our own college campus, it is almost as if a large number of our peers are living in a different reality. Often, people have remarked that UC Irvine is one of the most apathetic college campuses in California.
When I see protests against tuition hikes bringing out less than 300 people, on a good day, and attempts to pass legislation in student government to obtain $170,000 from Emergency Funds to host a concert -while movements such as Occupy Wall Street are growing in New York, Oakland, and UC Berkeley- I could not help but say the same thing. Many UCI students are apathetic.
But what does it mean to be apathetic? The basic definition of apathy, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is the “lack of feeling or emotion; lack of interest or concern.”
For the most part, if anyone hears about what is going on in the world, or specifically our education, they do feel some emotion, whether its anger, frustration, hopelessness, or maybe contentment. And many would be concerned, at the very least commenting: “That is horrible” or quite bluntly, “this sucks.”
It is not that college students are completely apathetic, emotionless and unconcerned, but that we have been conditioned to think that there is nothing we can do to change our reality.
Everything surrounding us, from media to societal norms, teaches us to channel our emotions and feelings towards things which make no concrete difference in reality.
We are shackled down by the material world and what we have been told we should and should not care about. We may not follow the motto of the 1% where “more is not enough,” but we are taught to follow a micro version of the same motto. We are taught that we must get our education, to get a well paying job, to buy the newest car, the biggest house, and the newest gadget.
We are told we must overwork ourselves from Monday morning to Friday afternoon, and then use that money to entertain ourselves from Friday night to Sunday night, and then repeat. Material gain in itself is not a negative thing, but it becomes just that when society makes it a sole priority.
For some, these shackles have caused them to be only concerned with themselves, where they would rather party or shop than advocate for justice.
For others, it has caused them to gain a sense of hopelessness in being able to change anything.
It is not that as students we are not concerned or are emotionless, it is that we need to take our struggle to a higher level.
We need to start our path of wanting to change the world with changing ourselves.
If we throw away our attachments to material pleasures and desires, and control it rather than have it control us, only then would we be able to continue and successfully demand our rights.
We are a generation vexed, and a generation that must change itself in order to build a new world. Because, as Malcolm X said, “if we do not start standing for something, we are going to continue falling for anything.”
AMINAH GALAL is a fifth year History major at the University of California, Irvine