The room was silent. Out of the 70 or so students in the auditorium, none of us had an answer. A
note of disbelief crept into the professor’s voice as he posed the question for a second time: “How
many of you feel empowered by democracy?”
Although several people eventually responded with reasons why they couldn’t comfortably put
themselves in that category, nobody spoke up to say that they did, indeed, feel empowered by democracy. A rather dismaying sign of the times, if I do say so myself.
Why this feeling of disempowerment? Some might blame our faltering economy. Others, perhaps,
would chalk it up to recent stifling of free speech (see “Convicted of Patriotism”), or some sort of bias in the media. Still others would point the finger directly at George W. Bush — need anyone say
more? Yet while I absolutely do agree that none of these elements are the least bit empowering, my
major source of discouragement does not lie in any of these areas. No, what’s most discouraging
for me are the people who are not informed enough about what’s going on in the world today to
answer that question. (Not that I imagine for a minute that that’s why nobody answered in class
last Wednesday. I’m just saying.)
When it comes to discussions of politics (from national politics right on down to local RIT politics),
a lot of us are uninformed — or worse, misinformed. And even more troublingly, there are a large
number of us who don’t care either way.
Week after week, such a large percentage of politics is pretense and posturing and bullshit, getting
to the bottom of things can feel near impossible. In the face of all this, the idea that we are capable of
making any sort of impact on the system sounds almost foolish. A large portion of us have become
jaded — and why not? Its so very easy not to care. Treacherously easy.
But apathy is not the answer, and here’s why: While it’s probably true that we can’t accomplish a
whole lot as individuals, when enough of us get pissed off and group together to try and improve the
situation, we can make things happen. National politics might seem out of our reach, but it’s fairly easy
to see how we can make a difference here on campus, at least. Need some evidence? Flip through
some past issues of Reporter. Every week since I’ve been here, there have been students making
major differences in the way things are run around here. As we move forward, I only expect that
there will be more.
This past Tuesday, for example, over 100 students rallied at Park Point to discuss their issues with
the newly introduced parking regulations (see “Students Rally at Park Point”). That Friday, everyone
paid rapt attention as Heather Martin calmly presented their concerns at the Student Government
meeting (see “SG Updates”). While I doubt that Parking and Transportation Services will be doing
a complete reversal of policy in the upcoming weeks, they were certainly listening to the student
representatives’ concerns very, very closely — there’s a power in numbers that simply can’t be ignored.
While it remains to be seen how this turns out, my point is, they banded together and set
things in motion. And that’s a very powerful thing. You can call me on it if I’m wrong, but with more
student voices chiming in all the time, I can’t help but feel that some sort of major improvement
is just around the corner.
Pretty empowering stuff.
Editor in Chief