Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Unbelievable apathy

It has always surprised me how people can be so apathetic to things that affect them directly without realizing that it requires relatively little action on their part to correct them. I am thinking about the Venezuelan society in particular, but I can see many equally disconcerting examples in the U.S.

Recently some friends of mine started fighting 'the man' in their school, because of a large number of inequalities in the treatment of Fellowship vs. non-Fellowship students (to make a long story short, fellowship recipients have less rights, and more problems than 'normal' research supported students), this inequality became more evident when comparing it to how other schools treat the same cases. After researching the issue, they found out that the whole problem can be traced to the difference in definition of a single word!!, "employee," because after all if you are a 'student' you cannot be an 'employee.' This very basic problem, actually affects a myriad things around campus, it generates inequalities in retirement funds, tax treatment, insurance premiums, and to a huge number of people (fellowship recipients and non-recipients alike). I hope you now you see why I have so many problems with labels.

Surely enough, today they are taking 'the man' with very good chances of success. And this is just a couple of grad students, armed with the right tools--reason and facts--that generated the right plan of action and did not accept no for an answer. And it only took them two weeks to get to the people than can exert the changes. But it strikes me as odd, that after hearing the myriad complaints from multiple people all across the school, for many years, such a simple problem had not been addressed before. And the answer is the failure to make the problem yours, to expect that someone else has to fix the problem, instead of forcing them to do it.

It is in this context that I see America today, I see the multitude of problems cropping up, I see electoral fraud (scary facts if you research them [1]), I see cronyism, the complete deterioration of the media, the increase in corporation power, I see the fast deterioration of democratic institutions all over. But I don't see the action, save for a small number of individuals that have made it their job to keep people informed, but people is not reacting

The only thing that you have to do is act, create your own plan of action, don't wait for someone else to do it for you. Choose a problem, dedicate half an hour a day to research it and join efforts with similar minded people to analyze what can be done (see the example of Otpor!, it really works). If Americans don't start paying more attention to their own country, in a few years, this beloved democracy will be no more.

Me?, I have Venezuela to worry about.


  1. Evidence of Electoral Fraud in the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election: A Reading List, and please get over the bias label, you know what I think about that one.

Update: My friends had their first important meeting today (two rungs down from the school president), extremely well armed with facts and figures, and a recent read of my 'bias' article. They described to me how hard was to get through that one, but by the end she was surprised, concerned, and supportive. Most people don't realize that such injustices are just due to the administration not 'knowing' the effect of their practices, if someone had just taken the time to inform them before, these would not be there. Of course, an administrative practice of many years, around which a whole structure has been created, is hard and expensive to change, so now the real work starts.

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