Saturday, October 08, 2005

The death of curiosity

The death of curiosity

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 (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 fucked 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 and 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, guys – as someone who's made it out of the Matrix – you guys really need to wake up and take stock in 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 fucked 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 whenever 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, MSNBC and the Big Three networks – just skip Fox – with a questioning eye. Look, I've made it easy for you, even – just follow some of the links to the left. All of those are great starting points.

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.


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I just read your article on the lack of curiosity. While I agree with everything you said, I disagree with your comment on listening to NPR. Listen to AirAmerica. NPR no longer is the voice of reason. It's "publicly" funded and has to depend on those "public" funds. NPR and KERA are no longer the voice of reason simply because they have to rely on those "public" funds. Any "publicly" funded station who reduces NOW with Billy Moyers to make room for Tucker Carlson is no longer a place to go for real news.Just a thought.

Ellen in Dallas

You know, Ellen, as an Air America listener on a daily basis, I'm ashamed I forgot to mention that. I stand corrected. And yeah, a Bill Moyers for Tucker Carlson trade is, to put it mildly, a unbalanced deal. should move to Canada, we would love to have you

MC ... thanks ... now I know we have a place to stay in Vancouver. Tell you this: If the radical Republicans win in the end – which they won't – we'll see you soon! Of course, some trolls reading this blog will read your invitation as another reason why an elitist snob like myself should "love it or leave it."

We are all truly asleep at the wheel. I'm 42, and I look at my 21 year old kid, and wonder what in God's name will my life be like when she's in charge of it one day? She doesn't EVER read the paper, listen to the news, vote, or even know what a Republican or a Democrat is. And worse, she doesn't care. I've taught her better, but she's more interested in what her friends are doing, shopping, buying a new car, painting her nails. And her friends, some of which are still in school to be teachers, are the same way. The term "unethical" stumped all 3 of them the other day. They could not tell me what it meant. So I told them, "The 15 year's worth of education you've received so far is unethical". How so, they inquired? "Well, you've learned nothing, and you'll be paying dearly for the rest of your lives". Needless to say, they didn't get it. And I don't know that they ever will. I've just never seen people this age who care about absolutely not one damned thing outside the circle of "Me". Scarey. Damned scarey. And while I have sympothized with the Schiavo case, it has no place in our government. I can't believe people missed the big picture here: Your government is trying to strong-arm your judicial system, which very much will have an affect on your rights as a citizen if the government can, at will, step up and say, "Oh, didn't we tell you? We changed the rules. Last night at midnight. Yeah, and uh, you better do as we say, or there will be hell to pay, ok? Got that? Oh, and one more thing, tell the judges we're armed and dangerous." We're all screwed.

Don't give up on the kids. They'll get out of their self-absorbed stage. I promise. I'm 56. My daughter's 31. I raised her as a single mother (wouldn't have traded it for anything) and used to wake her up singing Cat Stevens songs. She just had her first daughter on the 13th and is getting a CD player and Cat Stevens, Hoyt Axton and Peter, Paul and Mary CDs to play for the baby (Madeleine). It takes work. Just don't give up on the kids. All parents decry the generation of the children as being uninformed, uninterested and self-absorbed. That really does go away. Unless, of course, they were raised by Republicans (just a joke). I'm more optimistic about the kids than I am about their elders. Once the kids realize they have no natural resources, jobs, etc., hopefully they'll become involved. It's just too bad it'll probably have to come to that.


I agree ... I haven't given up on us yet (I'm still young enough to be counted) ... There's so much left to fight for.

I'm 26 years old and have only recently (in the last 3-4 years) really started educating myself on what's going on. I found in the last 2 years I prefer to listen to NPR when I'm driving instead of music. I read news all day while I'm at work (since I sit in front of a computer all day anyway). Everyday I become more educated and more sure of where I stand. When I was a teenager and even into my early 20's, I was extremely apathetic towards politics and didn't really see how it all affected me. But as I grew up I started to see how much politics effects my life and the lives of people I love. So don't give up on the kids... they'll get it soon enough. You just have to make it personal.

BTW... this is the first day I have read your blog. You are right on in my book. Thanks for putting your thoughts out there.


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