The Origin of Working-Class Apathy and What We Can do to Change it

Perhaps the person sitting next to you on the bus is facing a serious challenge for which you know the perfect solution, but because of the dissolution of community and its replacement with a culture of staunch individualism, you fail to connect with or even contact the eyes of her nor any of the other conscious beings who populate your direct environment. Individuals as such fail to identify and act upon shared challenges and enrich the common living space with an atmosphere of respect and solidarity.

Despite the fact that this situation describes a radical departure from the conditions selected for by biological and cultural evolution, individualism and concomitant apathy have become part of the assumed nature of the operations of urban society. Anthropologists have historically analyzed cultured as if it existed in suspended animation. Instead, we would like to link individualism and apathy to specific elements of economic class structure which we identify as their beneficiary and source.

Having been lost into centers of unaccountable private bodies, the organs of community control over their own affairs have left the masses in a state of powerlessness and apathy. Sentiments expressing the desire for a better society are uttered in isolation and gain little of the traction they need to trigger the reward-centers in the minds of the people and motivate them to continue carrying out a protracted struggle against their oppressors.

At least in the American cities of the Northeast, the intentional disengagement from basic grassroots social engagements are publicly displayed badges of honor. Ironically, both the individual and the scattered working class are harmed by carrying out this ethic.

Internalizing the Oppressor

By adopting a social disposition which benefits the ruling class, the workers have internalized the interests of their oppressors. As one carries out self-analysis, they may observe the ways in which their emotions are rendered through the lens of society to nourishment or detriment of certain sectors of that society. Having internalized the interests of the ruling class, we subconsciously leverage our vulnerabilities against one another. The individuals consume and waste products thus maximizing the re-absorbition of the exchange they receive for their labour back into the coffers of the ruling class.

Rather than sharing something they no longer need, working class people would rather sell out their natural allies telling them to “go buy their own.” Every time members of the same community fail to engage and collaborate on their identical challenges, they facilitate the power and control Wall Street has over their lives. We refer to this phenomenon as the hijacking the human faculties to facilitate the subconscious self-reproduction of a oppressive capitalist domination.

The Youth

If children reared in an atmosphere of lawlessness and oppression, children whose potency has been frustrated, do not manage during their youth to take the path of authentic rebellion, they will either drift into total indifference, alienated from reality by the authorities and the myths the latter have used to shape them or they may engage in forms of destructive action.” – Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

The future we are afraid of is already burgeoning within the hearts and minds of the kids. Anybody working in the schools is aware of the constant struggle trying to battle the system from within. We need people with critical consciousness working in schools and other public sectors of societies. Tell children the truth and give them the tools they need to build solidarity and literal class consciousness. Increase the agency of childhood by encouraging cross-grade socialization and collaboration on projects. If we give the youth a genuine sense of pride, step back and watch what they do with it, they will exceed our expectations.

Whereas alienation has been cultivated within the minds of the passing generations during the process of their education and socialization,  social dis-engagement has become an unquestioned aspect of our waking existence. It is time that we identify the source and beneficiaries of our apathy and judge our daily interactions on their efficacy in raising the social awareness of the working class.

What we can do?

There are plenty of opportunities. Apathy is not a natural condition but rather has been forced on us by social conditions designed by the ruling class. Ultimately we are working toward fundamental changes in the social structure and the relation of classes of people to the means of production etc. Of course there is no easy answer, but we know we need a diverse array of tactics within dynamic strategies.

As you aim to resolve the contradictions embedded in society,

1) Objectify and discard apathy

2) Use the commons as the commons. Reclaim any and all public spaces to develop the social consciousness of the masses

3) Encourage existing civil society groups like churches to denounce escapism and use them like they have in the past as centers for organizing and carrying out political action. Remind the congregations that the old testament prophets were all people who spoke truth to power and pointed out corruption wherever it was found. (“Is there no balm in Gilead?”)

4) Interact with people in an unexpected way that makes them think.

5) Allow connections to form and be a humble mediator of differing parties.

6) Mention to the workers that they ought to own the factories they toil in. Let them know that wage-labour is little different than slavery. Even if they don’t get it at first, it’s important to repeat and expose the people to key messages.

7) Take care of your physical, mental and spiritual health so we can be there for comrades in need.

8) Respect the youth as well as our elders.

9) Make time to spend time with like-minded people pre-figuring the world through the changes you each would like to see take place.

10) Organize yourselves in action committees, but don’t neglect guerrilla politics — In whichever institutions you happen to be a part of, strive to gain as much political influence as possible as individuals and maintain regular communication with your covert network of activists throughout the concrete jungles

We are in for a long protracted struggle. Meditate. Remind yourself always that the truth will prevail. And “most of all,” without being too hard on yourself about the concessions you need to make from time to time, “see to it that you do not lend yourself to the evils you condemn.”

E Pluribus Unum: The Perils of Color-blind Racism

‘E pluribus unum’ is not sensible to us anymore. Whether you take it from the beginning of time, life or human civilization, reality has been marked by a constant progression from unity to increasing diversity of forms and ideas. Experience dictates that the ‘many’ emerge out of ‘the one,’ not the opposite.

Everything is essentially unified on both sides by sharing the same ultimate origin and destination. There is no side-stepping this fact or escaping this width of this umbrella. As the universe carries out its behavior, we run into the potential of insulting reality by glossing over its magnificent diversity with a feeble construct of artificial homogeneity. It stands to reason that we can get the most out of life by acknowledging and respecting our real differences and not by feigning blindness to what makes us individuals and groups deserving of unique sovereignty.

E unum pluribus.

On the other hand, the myth of ‘e pluribus unum’ limits the agency of diversity in ruthless system of global capital linked with flourishing inequality and the suppression of national sovereignty. The principle implies that our origins are different while our experiences are the same. Perish this thought. On the contrary, our origin is of course identical while our lived experiences, cultures, genders and ethnicities are different. There does not appear to be any natural or imagined coalescence of beings into a living unity which does not threaten to erase the true diversity which testifies to the glory of the mysterious circumstances of existence.

But why does this matter? The court system pretends to be objective on issues of race and gender thus preventing a defense from bringing up the relevance of these factors before a jury. Because racism and sexism are systemic [built into the momentum of the systems through which society operates] elements relating to the diversity of individuals need to be made salient in order to prevent stereotype-consistent judgments from surfacing in and out of the courtroom. Virtually all recent social science research supports the claim that stereotype-consistent behavior manifests in society regardless of the egalitarian values of the actors and that the best way to combat implicit bias is to make racial and other potentially confounding factors salient during the process of judgement and reflection.

An ethic of ‘e unum pluribus’ allows peoples to recognize their identical common origin while allowing the space and freedom necessary for individual and mutual self-realization. There is a growing need to change the power system and make it more subsidiarity. This process can be facilitated through internalizing and carrying out the principle that diversity is fundamental and cannot be glossed over by un-elected private tyrannies located at the upper echelons of society.