Scrolling Headlines:

Amherst PD to encourage registering off-campus parties with implementation of Party Smart Registration program -

July 23, 2016

UMass Board of Trustees votes 11-2 to raise tuition and fees an average of 5.8 percent -

July 14, 2016

Mike Stone announces retirement following 2017 season -

July 13, 2016

‘Warcraft’ delivers a likeable mess -

July 5, 2016

Former UMass field hockey coach Carla Tagliente accepts job at Princeton -

June 29, 2016

50 Activists attend meeting as UMass Board of Trustees approves motion of divestment from fossil fuel companies -

June 16, 2016

Four former Minutemen depart from UMass hockey program -

June 14, 2016

Boston Calling 2016 delivers rousing farewell to City Hall Plaza -

June 2, 2016

Sufjan Stevens unearths quirk at Boston Calling -

June 2, 2016

The Collegian live tweets Boston Calling -

May 28, 2016

UMass baseball finishes season with sweep over George Mason -

May 22, 2016

UMass women’s lacrosse falls in NCAA quarterfinal -

May 22, 2016

‘Green Room’ is a bloody blast of survival horror -

May 21, 2016

DaLuz: Boston Celtics stuck trudging in the mud -

May 18, 2016

Despite tallying double-digit hits, UMass baseball falls to Fairfield Tuesday afternoon -

May 17, 2016

Radiohead returns to the top with gorgeous, illuminating ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ -

May 16, 2016

UMass women’s lacrosse advances to quarterfinal of NCAA tournament -

May 16, 2016

UMass baseball outlasts Rhode Island in series finale behind strong pitching of Brandon Walsh -

May 15, 2016

Eileen McDonald’s overtime goal advances UMass women’s lacrosse in NCAA tournament -

May 14, 2016

12 UMass students face possible arrests in connection to an alleged bad LSD trip -

May 14, 2016

Politics matters – for everyone

Flickr/robnguyen01

On Tuesday, millions of Americans headed to the polls to cast their vote for president – but many did not know why. Evaluations of the voting system and the likelihood of one’s preferred candidate winning the election aside, many people simply go through the motions without even the remotest idea of why voting, or politics for that matter, is relevant to their own lives. Many consciously believe that it doesn’t matter. Nothing is farther from the truth and no attitude could be more dangerous to the future of our country and everyone in it.

Though I am neither interested in nor qualified to be discussing why voting in itself matters and what each individual person’s impact is, I would like to demonstrate to students and Americans in general to bear in mind that politics matters and impacts all of us whether we care to consider it or not. Politics is one of the rare areas of thought that enjoys a status of such universal magnitude, but, unfortunately, it is also an object of apathy.

Politics is defined as “a term generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs, including behavior within civil governments” (http://old.enciclopedia.com.pt/articles.php?article_id=843). Such a vague definition reflects the apathy with which most people regard politics. To those who do not grasp that politics is a consequence of ideas and culture and will reflect those of a given population, as well as to those who fail to grasp the general principles of the politics that rules their own lives, it is merely a trivially important concept.

It is considered as being important only to political science majors and politicians. As such their conception of politics is even vaguer than the definition above, which becomes obvious every time they refer to politics and politicians with a tone of derision and passivity or dismiss discussion of it as dry and useless. Politics becomes a tedious act of memorizing how many senators and representatives there are, the process of a bill becoming a law, the order in which the original 13 colonies ratified the United States Constitution and what clichéd platforms the major parties endorse. These data are related to politics, but most people treat them as a disintegrated, jumbled mess of trivia disconnected from our lives. Politics becomes a sport, the elections mere games, the parties competing teams and the people spectators. When a team wins, fans celebrate. When it loses, they get disillusioned and grow out of their favorite sport. With either outcome, politics is reduced to being “just a game” with no long term practical or moral implications, so people forego consideration of the consequences of a given candidate’s policies and evade moral judgment of the parties and their platforms.

This apathetic and sloppy attitude towards politics gives momentum to its worst elements, which the apathetic or disillusioned have conceptualized as the essential nature of politics. When people regard a candidate’s policies as morally or practically relative, they sanction the worst policies of the worst candidate and fail to differentiate the best policies and ideas of the best candidate from the sum being discussed. They implicitly support the system they claim to either hate or not care about.

To challenge this inadequate and dangerous approach to politics, I offer another segment of the previously cited definition, which regards politics as consisting of “social relations involving authority or power.” While this evaluation is also somewhat vague, it addresses something more essential to politics than its varying structures: the effects it has on people. The politics of a country and the people that run it affect the social and economic relations of its citizens; the authority or power sanctioned by the country largely determines the extent to which such relations are reflected.

While some elements of our “relations” with others would remain the same regardless of which party has the most power in a given year, the freedom with which we can form and enjoy them can vary greatly and our ability to control them may change gradually as the reigning policies slowly march towards or away from social and economic freedom. Concrete examples of the effect of politics on our lives abound – the amount of money one sees deducted from paychecks, the price per gallon at the gas pump, the amount of paperwork one has to fill to start a business or cut down a tree and the range of options one finds for healthcare providers are among the many concrete, everyday parts of our lives that are affected by politics and thereby by all of us who choose whether to support or challenge the ideas and policies of our leaders.

The fact that most people fail to identify the connection between the soaring rhetoric and the specific policy goals and methods that it endorses does not in any way detract from the fact that there is a connection. Granted, such a monumentally important subject deserves more thorough treatment than one can give with limited space, but the problem itself is easily identifiable: To those for whom politics is a list of facts, a sport or a game disconnected from the rest of their lives, it is an inconvenience and a bore, not to be touched by anyone who has no time for trivialities. One can hardly blame them for such an attitude given what politics has been reduced to, but even so, the effects of it are with us every day. It is for this reason that, on every day of our lives, all of us would do well to bear in mind the words of Pericles: “Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.”

Nathan Fatal is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at nfatal@student.umass.edu.

 

 

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