Democratic Underground

The Death of Curiosity

April 8, 2005
By Joseph Hughes

My girlfriend Casey and I were talking last night and she recounted a story from earlier in her day. In one of her classes, when discussing a medical condition, the lecturer asked the students if anyone knew who Diane Rehm was. Casey was amazed that she was the only one who knew the famous National Public Radio host.

While this story is by no means a scientific sampling of people in my general age group (early-to-mid-20s), it does point to a trend I've been aware of for quite some time: many people my age have simply lost their curiosity. They've lost their desire to know what's going on. To stay on top of the news. To be aware of the world extending beyond their general social circle. And that's sad.

Have we gotten so used to the status quo that we are no longer interested in non-mediocrity? I thought this time of our lives was meant to be spent shaking things up, questioning authority, figuring out how messed up the world around us really was. Instead, I fear that we've folded up shop, accepted the reality-as-Bushworld-has-described-it and settled in for the long haul toward old age.

Do we still read newspapers for anything other than the daily crossword puzzle? Do we listen to the radio for anything other than the latest Maroon 5 single or football game? Do we surf the Internet for anything other than buying clothes, forming social networks, or watching Paris Hilton have sex? I'm starting to doubt it.

It's like we've been living our lives as though we were studying for one big test. From the time we were children, we filled our heads with important facts, dates, places and people, only to regurgitate them in multiple choice, fill-in-the-blanks, matching, and essay questions. We were shown in college how to think critically, how to pay attention to newspapers like the New York Times and how we fit within society. We were given a user's manual to the rest of our lives and now that we've passed that final test and for most of us graduated college, we've tossed that manual aside and emptied our heads of these seemingly unimportant facts.

Well let me tell you, America, as someone who's made it out of the Matrix, you really need to wake up and take stock of what's happening around you on a daily basis. A cursory glance of the New York Times or Washington Post would show you how truly messed up things are on Earth.

Just think about the United States: I'm sure most of you saw at least a little of the coverage surrounding the passing of Terri Schiavo. Many of you voiced concern for Schiavo and went on with your days. But do you realize that the Republican party has thrown aside the Constitution in a political power grab that threatens our very democracy? They spent all of this time on one woman when millions are affected every day by crushing poverty. Poverty aided and abetted by the Bush administration, whose goal of eroding the social safety net has all but been achieved. Your rights not those of the homosexual man next door or the woman down the hall are under fire, and the longer you wait on the sidelines, the less chance you'll have once you wake up to what's going on.

What about elsewhere in the world? Heard about what's been going on in Sudan? I didn't think so. Were the only stories you heard about the recent tsunami centered on the lucky white people who managed to escape? Have you given thought to the hundreds of thousands of dead, innocent Iraqi civilians to say nothing of the thousands of dead American soldiers or have you blithely slapped a trite magnet on the back of your SUV and pumped your fist when they play Toby Keith on the radio? Have you thought about AIDS since you found out Magic Johnson had it? Have you seen what it's done to Africa, a dying continent? Do you have an idea of the scope of the global tragedy AIDS has wrought?

Please, please, please, start paying attention to the media. Read the newspaper every day. When you see a story in one paper, read it in another to get the entire picture. Listen to NPR on a daily basis. When you surf the Web, read the political blogs as well as the mainstream media. Watch CNN and MSNBC just skip Fox with a questioning eye. I know it's trite to say that your life depends on it, but if you're one of the ones who has been paying attention to what's going on, you know how eerily close to reality that phrase is.

Wake up, people.

Joseph Hughes is a graphic designer and writer by day and a liberal blogger by night. Read stories like this and many more at his blog, Hughes for America.

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