Monday, July 06, 2009

Apathy is Easy

Earlier this year a group of UOG students started a group called Apathy is Easy.

They have a blog titled Do You Care and right now they are looking for submissions. Here's an excerpt the post seeking submissions:

For those who have been keeping up with this blog and our budding group "Apathy Is Easy", let us all Thank you for the support and participation. Now, onto business. Our purpose is to provide a forum, a forum for those who have no voice, for those who cower in the shadows as their purpose and intent become blurred. We challenge you, all, the world to show these issues that there are people in the world that care enough about them to defend them. We give a place for these issues to be expressed, to be free of judgment and harsh criticism. So, what are you waiting for? Write, Recite, Draw, Paint, Sketch, Produce a video, Make music, anything that shows YOU out there, CARE. We are asking for submissions, submissions that demonstrate that you actually care about something outside of yourself. For all submissions, please email us at So, DO IT! Spread the word, WE NEED SUBMISSIONS! Tell a friend, go on Myspace or Facebook, put your friend's list to use.

Last week I decided to submit a piece to them, to help get their blog started. I decided to write about why political apathy on Guam might be so easy, and gave two basic points from which we could seek solutions. I'm posting the piece below.

If you have anything you'd like to submit as well, please check out their blog or email them at



Any answer to this question has to ask also, what context are we speaking about?

Human life is so complex and there are answers to this question, but in order to get to a useful or a productive answer, one in which you can build off of, you need to consider what context you are asking about. In what way are people apathetic? Do we mean culturally? Politically? Socially? Economically? Emotionally? There is no general way to answer all of these questions at once, so its important to establish the framework first.

So for instance, when I think about Guam and apathy, the most important form of apathy that needs to be address is the political kind. And when I say political I don't just mean "voting" in fact the thinking that politics or political activity or participation boils down to just voting is part of the problem, part of makes Guam a politically apathetic place.

In answering the question of why political apathy is easy on Guam, as I see it, there are two answers, or parts from which to start explaining the problem, and seeking solutions for it.

1. Democracy is a concept in which we envision things such as equality, participation, everyone working together, and everyone having a say in what goes on. Democracy is a wonderful thing, but in most countries today (or colonies) we don't have democracies, we have in the most basic sense, representative democracies. In a representative democracy, the governance of a community is not up to everyone in that community, a small, usually rich, educated or elite group of people is selected at regular intervals in order to govern that community. The official democratic aspect comes in when people get to elect those leaders.

Compared to the potential participation in the governing and running of a community that the term "democracy" might represent, this is a very limited and lazy role. When the official obligation of a community to the governance of their island, the only formal role that is given them is to vote everyone once in a while, you don't have much a democracy, and you have a situation which breeds apathy.

The truth about democracy is that it is hard, it requires education, work, paying attention, and so most people don't an actual democracy, don't want to actually participate in taking care of their community, they would rather someone else do it. The dual bonus of this arrangement is that: First: Thank Goodness none of us have to do it. Second: If something gets screwed up, we can always blame the government and not ourselves.

As Guam is a representative democracy, this is one reason why we are a politically apathetic community. Guam has high turn-out numbers for elections (although this is declining slowly), but beyond this where is the commitment to the community? We may hear about it in small ways, after typhoons, when a family member is in need, but what does it mean if we are only an active community in case of emergency? Where does that leave us in terms of day-to-day running of the island?

2. When anthropologist Catherine Lutz visited Guam in April she gave several talks about her research on the effects of militarization on civilian communities. She gave a UOG Presidential lecture, she spoke to activist organizations and even the Guam Legislature. I had the chance to hear several of her talks and one of the her many findings about potential negative impacts that a community like Guam may experience after a massive military influx, is that it may become more politically apathetic.

Much of Lutz's research came from the time she spent conducting research at Fort Bragg in North Carolina and the communities surrounding the base. She said that the interest and motivation for local community governance declined. Voting rates dropped as military presence increased, and local communities tended to stop looking for economic development opportunities and instead chose to rely on military money.

Strong military presence can also lead to the civilian acceptance of military values, and this is something we can see very present in Guam. People will be more predisposed to accepting what their leaders say, less willing to question them or to stand up for themselves. All in all, communities become less sustainable, less willing and able to make decisions for themselves, since they see that responsibility as laying with the military, or with Washington D.C. This acceptance is just another form of apathy, another way in which we as a community take away our own agency, we dis-empower ourselves.

These are just two basic points, amongst many. But the next question is, if these two points are two principles sources of making Guam politically apathetic, what can you do to counter them? If both of these points help make apathy so easy for Guam, how can we make it less easy? How could you make apathy difficult?

Or, if you don't accept my arguments, and feel I am wrong, what explanations can you offer? I'd be interested to know anyone's response to this post, because these are issues that affect everyone on Guam.

Si Yu’us Ma’åse para i manhoben ni’ fuma’tinas este na lugat gi i internet. Hu diseseha mohon na para en konsigi mo’na gi este na cho’cho’, sa’ gof impottånte para i islå-ta. I meggaiña na taotao giya Guahån, ma sasångan para todu kosas (asunto) na maolekña yan mas kapås i Amerikånu siha, maolekña na siha muma’gåsi hit. Ti mananggokuyon hit guini gi este na isla.

Este na hinasso un otro na klasin “apathy” ya hu diseseha na siña un ayuda yu’ gi muna’susuha este na sinieñte ginnen i taotao-ta yan i islå-ta.

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