There is a consensus among students at UCSB that our university suffers from a spirit of apathy. Student’s either feel defeated — with a sense that no matter how much time, effort and sleepless nights they spend fighting for something they believe in, nothing will change — or they stopped caring a long time ago and are content to live passionless, goalless, hopeless student careers that go from one beer to the next until they at last enter the “real world” where things “actually matter.”
[media-credit id=20109 align=”alignnone” width=”250″][/media-credit]Both frames of mind are forms of apathy, and students are right to be concerned about it — not just in other people, but in themselves. Even the most zealous political activists find themselves becoming frustrated at their lack of progress, and that frustration often leads to a crushing sense of defeat. That is creeping apathy that just hasn’t yet metastasized to the terminal phase.
The fact is, when students fear and try to fight apathy, they are really battling an attitude far more sinister, from which all forms of apathy spring forth: cynicism. Of course cynics don’t call themselves by the term cynical, they are always “realists,” yet are remarkably dispassionate and disconnected from the real world.
Cynics have had a glimpse of existential despair. They see the bleakness of the world and the people who live in it, but they have no solution. They witness evil and may even feel they know what is good — may believe if only they could have their way, what they know to be good would prevail — but recognize that evil has been winning and will continue to win. The only way to save themselves from the terror of that abyss of knowledge is to stop caring — apathy rescues them from their cynicism.
Yet every student — especially the apathetic ones — have this itching feeling that apathy is the incorrect way to respond to cynicism, that cynicism is the incorrect way to view the world and that there is a truth to which we can cling — truth that brings hope, revitalizes our spirit and gives us a reason to throw ourselves into pursuit of it. Students sense there is good in the world that ought to prevail and that ultimately will overcome our failures.
Confidence in that fact is not “optimism” or “idealism.” Those are the names cynics give it. Surety in the victory of good is clarity of thought and the knowledge of what is true about the world and, most importantly, about yourself.
And here is a profound reality that must be grasped before one can overcome cynicism and apathy. Before you can firmly believe the world and all its wrongs can be redeemed, you must be certain you personally can be as well. When you can see the imperfections in your own life as forgivable and conquerable you are able to believe others can and will change as well — but not a moment before.
When you come to understand the truth that leads to personal transformation, cynicism and apathy fade away and you are suddenly filled with a twofold joy: the sheer confidence that truth will overcome any obstacle, even the apathy and cynicism of others, and an endless spring of passion, free of weariness and frustration — to fight for what you know is good, faithful and true.
That said, I firmly believe every student should become involved in the Associated Students elections. Students should not only vote, but go out of their way to meet the candidates personally, listen to the party platforms and share their own concerns and ideas. Associated Students represents you, and it can be one more tool, outside of your own political and social activities, to help solve the problems that face our student community.
But before you do this, analyze your own life for the slightest traces of cynicism. Ask yourself: Do you see the magnitude of the problems that plague not just UCSB and Isla Vista, but your own life? Have you discovered the truth about the world in which you live? And has the goodness of that truth redeemed and triumphed over your own brokenness? If your honest answer to such self-reflection is negative, I implore you to keep searching for the truth, lest you never experience a life free of the desperate frustration of cynicism and apathy.
Find the truth, and the truth will set you free.
Steven Begakis is the Opinion editor at the Daily Nexus.