Saturday, October 27, 2012

On apathy

Every election year, there are people eager to proclaim, quite ignorantly, that they “don’t care about politics.” A response to them, from Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault’s 1971 debate on human nature:

FOUCAULT: Your question is: why am I so interested in politics? But if I were to answer you very simply, I would say this: why shouldn’t I be interested? That is to say, what blindness, what deafness, what density of ideology would have to weigh me down to prevent me from being interested in what is probably the most crucial subject to our existence, that is to say the society in which we live, the economic relations within which it functions, and the system of power which defines the regular forms and the regular permissions and prohibitions of our conduct. The essence of our life consists, after all, of the political functioning of the society in which we find ourselves. 
So I can’t answer the question of why I should be interested; I could only answer it by asking why shouldn’t I be interested?
FONS ELDERS [moderator]: You are obliged to be interested, isn’t that so? 
FOUCAULT: Yes, at least, there isn’t anything odd here which is worth question or answer. Not to be interested in politics, that’s what constitutes a problem. So instead of asking me, you should ask someone who is not interested in politics and then your question would be well-founded, and you would have the right to say “Why, damn it, are you not interested?”

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Maira Gall