Fight apathy, embrace passions (A Wyvern’s Tale)


We are currently living in a technological golden age. With the tap of a finger, we now have access to information that once would have required hours poring over dozens of thick dusty volumes to unearth. Social media offers us the ability to rally thousands, sometimes even millions, with a single Tweet, Facebook post, or Instagram.

This is an incredible amount of power to wield, and gives our generation an incredible advantage over those in the past when it comes to the ability to voice our opinions and protest injustice.

However, it appears as though as our capabilities have increased, our motivation to act has diminished. And after much reflection, I feel as though the cause can be condensed into a single phrase: an epidemic of apathy. Now, it is not merely enough to acknowledge that our generation is apathetic. We must look deeper and, as with any other illness, determine the origin. And more often than not, when it comes to why members of certain generations behave the way they do, educational practices are patient zero.

For example, history classes teach what, where and when things happened, and sometimes even why, but rarely ever do these classes teach why they matter to us. Just last year, I learned each and every word of the Preamble to the Constitution, memorized countless Civil War battles and the exact dates upon which they occurred, and gained the ability to list all 14 points of Woodrow Wilson’s creatively named 14 point plan. All the while, not once learning the name of my state senator, not once learning the structure and makeup of my local government, not once learning how to apply the knowledge I had gained in AP US History to my life. (To be clear, this is a critique of a system, not of Mr. Jones, for whom I have the utmost respect and whose vast knowledge and relentless devil’s advocacy should be used as a template for teachers everywhere.)

History teachers love to combat the inevitable musing of brave, albeit misguided children who ask, “Why should I care about something that happened hundreds of years ago,” with George Santayana’s painfully pithy words, “Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it.”
Faux profundity (and the fact that Santayana stole the quote from Edmond Burke) aside, the saying instills the dangerous idea in children that caring about, or “remembering,” something is a sufficient catalyst for change. Of course, it is not. Throughout history, profound social change has been achieved not by sympathetic apathy, but instead by, as Henry David Thoreau put it, “civil disobedience.”

Before the United States gained its independence, there was the Boston Tea Party. Before the abolition of slavery, Thoreau himself refused to pay federal taxes in protest of institutionalized slavery in America. Before India freed itself from British colonialism, Mahatma Gandhi led a movement to, as he put it, “cease to cooperate with our rulers when they displease us.” Nelson Mandela would later follow this same model to combat apartheid in South Africa.

The effects of this dogma of apathy have been made plain and clear today. Politicians offer their thoughts and prayers following mass shootings, all the while opposing gun control legislation. On social media, millions of people lend their condolences following devastating natural disasters instead of lending money, or even a hand.

Even within our community, apathy is frighteningly prevalent. Just last Friday, over 40 students committed to attend the FridaysForFuture protest at the Capitol building in Hartford. Four attended. Including the organizer.
The protest was inspired by Swedish 16 year old Greta Thunburg who, after becoming fed up with her government’s lack of action on the issue of climate change, began skipping school on Fridays to petition in front of the Swedish Parliament building. Her actions quickly garnered international attention and inspired students in over 100 countries to walk out of school and protest, just as she did. While the actions of Greta Thunburg and those who follow her lead offer a beacon of hope, the response from KO students is cause for concern.

As a community, we must take a hard look at what we prioritize. Why is it that only four out of 359 high school students attended the protest?
Is it because the form was too much work to fill out? Or because “I will miss too much work?” Or simply due to an overall ambivalent sentiment toward the subject?

As a society, and more pragmatically, as a KO community, we must work together to cure this epidemic of apathy. We must not only remember and acknowledge our past mistakes, but take action now to remedy them.

Our generation must follow in the footsteps of the Frederick Douglasses, the Susan B. Anthonys, and the Martin Luther King Jrs. before us.
It is our responsibility to make our voices heard. And when the time comes, in the words of Margret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.”