Politics are powerful not only because of how deeply they shape and influence the structure of our society, but also because of how they distinguish themselves from other social sciences by their focus on power itself. Politics make people talk, they make people angry, and they force people to choose a side.
But what if you don’t want to?
There is a multitude of reasons that people choose to disassociate themselves from politics. Some people find it difficult dealing with the corruptive nature of politics, seeing that it brings out the worst in people; thus, they choose to stray away from this corruptive nature as much as possible. Other students feel less politically inclined because they are afraid of saying the wrong things when discussing political issues.
One student, who has chosen to remain anonymous, cited a lack of knowledge about politics as a principal reason for being apolitical.
“The reason why I’m not politically inclined is because I’m kind of self-conscious of my knowledge on it, and I really don’t want to be that person who speaks without knowing,” the student said. “I feel like I have neglected to do my research. I think a lot of people feel this way. Politics is such a sensitive thing. It’s divisive, you know.”
This fear goes hand in hand with what some consider to be a culture of political correctness at Wesleyan. Cotter Phinney ’17, a transfer student from Trinity College, finds conventional liberalism and the norms on campus to be entirely separate entities.
“I consider myself liberal, but I also consider myself more conservative than the average student at Wesleyan,” he said. “The PC culture at Wesleyan does get to me sometimes, and there are issues that I take with it. On the one hand, it’s important to be aware and make changes that have long been neglected. But, on the other hand, the PC culture can also stifle intellectual curiosity, as people aren’t allowed to ask questions, which goes against exactly what it was there for in the first place.”
The 2016 U.S. presidential election is remarkable, however, for better or for worse, and the majority of the people around us are talking about it. Politics make people talk, or at least make people feel obligated to talk, according to Jolo Agard ’20.
“I’m black, and so I feel like I have to be politically inclined in some ways,” he said. “I’m in the belief that, especially on the East Coast right now, it’s very trendy to pretend that you care about politics. After talking to international students here, I notice that talking about politics is like talking about sports. It’s ridiculous to me.”
From talking to various students, I also realized that there are ways to maintain sincerity while still being less politically inclined.
“I feel that tolerance is really key, especially in a society where we’re bombarded with misinformation and, especially, ignorance,” Joy Ming King ’20 said. “We should deal with ignorance not by being really presumptuous and shutting others [down] when they don’t understand something, but by actively countering ignorance through informing people in a positive way. Also, learning about politics on your own and for yourself will inspire others to do the same.”
There is always the option, as Rafe Forman ’20 noted, to just listen.
“[Sometimes you have] to step back if you feel uninformed and just listen to what others are saying,” he said.