Underneath the desire to “not get political” is the false belief that it’s possible to be politically neutral. Everything is political whether we choose to see it that way or not. What’s more, the folx in my life who want to avoid the discomfort of difficult conversations—and who unconsciously see themselves as politically neutral—are simply blind to their privilege. Their ability to not debate certain issues is possible because their wellbeing isn’t at stake.
In a recent interview on the Design Matters podcast, Zoe Mendelson talks about resisting apathy, saying that, “Critical theory is great, we really needed it, it did a lot of good. But then if you use it to deconstruct everything and there’s no truth with a capital T, you can’t have progress because you can’t say ‘these are my morals.’” She goes on to talk about the culture we’ve created of defining our values and then doing things that contradict those values.
As I attempt to live into my morals, I often wonder if I make my life more difficult than it needs to be. I have walked away from well-paying work on numerous occasions because it went against what I believed to be right. I have a history of challenging the status quo in just about every educational institution I’ve attended. And despite my myriad of skills, I choose to pioneer new professional paths for myself instead of settling for what I already know.
Resisting apathy is a life practice. Because there have always been and will always be reasons to disconnect, numb out, and give up hope. I sometimes touch on the ways our world is cannibalizing itself as a reminder that what matters is not always what we’re told to care about. So, as painful as it can be to feel the overwhelming amount of suffering that’s happening in our communities right now, the alternative is to give in to apathy. Which we must not do.
Caring is hard. It requires emotional labour that our economy doesn’t value. It’s also risky. When we let ourselves care about the state of our world we have no choice but to make ourselves vulnerable. We give ourselves no place to hide. What’s more, we have constructed social norms that offer us so many ways out of taking responsibility for the change we’re able to create. It’s much easier to choose apathy over giving a shit. At least in the short-term.
So it is a radical act to choose to make your art. To show up and do the work no one is asking you to do and that we need you to do. It’s a radical act to prioritize financial wellbeing so that you can continue to support yourself as a creative. And it is a radical act to resist apathy in favour of hope, empathy, and action. You can still rest between sets. You can still take a break. You don’t have to die for your art. And I hope you care enough to keep making it.
What helps you to resist apathy and reconnect to what matters?