So when I listen to the most unimaginative series of debates which are ostensibly the hallmark of the truest of all democracies, I look around at the bored faces which are putting up with the drama in the RPCC lounge, and I say, “Something is rotten in the State.” I am not alluding to Shakespearean Denmark in Hamlet which was very evidently crumbling, I am talking about the United States of America. To my mind, it is a polity which is withering. It is a slow, painful death that the enlightened American citizenry is going through, and the worst part is that they are not even entirely aware of it. But we were not conceived this way.There used to be a time when people were very much stirred by what was happening outside their living rooms (I’m not talking about Baseball!). The State was not some fancy, pompous entity steeped in political and economic jargon which the layman could not make head or tail of. The State was one of the people.Today, it is like watching a show simply because we have been watching it for ages. It’s almost as if the electorate consists of hapless bystanders who are watching a bunch of whippersnappers trying to prove that one is not as bad as the other. Our political lives and our “normal” lives have been divorced by this terrible complacency that has set in, which intellectuals condemn as “indifference.”This trend is more than a figment of my imagination. One can see repercussions within Cornell itself. Our unassailable alibi is that we live on a hill nestled in the trees and rolling fields of Ithaca. We think we live in a bubble which really does not figure as a formidable force in international politics. It is true that Ithaca began as a White, Republican, self-contained town, of sorts. But the unrestrained passion of students and professors revolutionized this place. It’s hard to believe that it is the same Willard Straight Hall I am referring to when I cite the famous Willard Straight takeover by African-American students in the 1960s. It was an expression of deep resentment of racial prejudice.The campus was consumed by anti-war sentiment during L.B.J.’s killing spree in Vietnam. Imagine being drafted by lottery to serve in a country which exists in a part of the world you cannot even picture in your head for a cause which you never fully understood and later, actually rallied against. Cornell closed down for a week, yes it did, I am not lying!! It closed down not because of some freak superstorm but to facilitate impassioned discussion among students and professors regarding democratization and diversification of the University.Women dated men who said “no” to warfare. Cornell grads and dropouts took over the administration of civic needs from incompetent private companies. There was the feeling of carpe diem in the air. Those were our glory days and today, the picture we paint is diabolically different. People will say there is nothing to protest about. I say, everything is wrong around you and you can’t find a single thing to protest about? You have escalating instances of sexual assault on and around campus. You have a homophobic Vice-Presidential Candidate and a prominent man in the same party who claims that, “Rape is nevertheless a gift in a very broken way and victims should make the best of it.” You have the incumbent President who is bleeding Afghanistan and the process of ending massacre is on hold simply to bolster brownie points for his election. You have a Presidential election which might redefine your life this Tuesday, but you probably won’t vote because your “vote does not matter” and you are too disillusioned. You have a superstorm trying to wake you up from your slumber of indifference and complacency! Moreover, you are a member of a university which is supposed to be the epistemological center of the social milieu and therefore, you are in a position to influence the world like no one else can.Universities in the past have taken Presidents down and meanwhile, at Cornell, we don’t give a damn! All I am saying is that it is all right to “sacrifice” a party or two to think about what’s happening in the world and formulate an opinion, to at least prove to yourself that you have not forgotten how to think. I am tempted to stretch this just a little more by reasserting Ellie Weisel, “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.” The rest, as always, is silence.
Aditi Bhowmick is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Abstruse Musings appears alternate Mondays this semester.
Original Author: Aditi Bhowmick