Jon Stewart’s monologue tonight was an impassioned, frustrated meditation on the Charleston shooting and other recent tragedies. “I didn’t do my job today,” he said. “I’ve got nothing for you in terms of jokes and sounds, because of what happened in South Carolina.”
If Americans still insist on dealing cynically and apathetically with one of the country’s oldest and most infamous and painful problems, namely racism, why should we find their indifference regarding the tragic and mind-numbing developments in Syria, or any number of conflict zones around the world, surprising?
Does democracy in general breeds apathy, just as ideology breeds aggression? Or, is this phenomenon unique to American democracy in particular? I think it is the latter, but the whole issue merits deeper consideration.
Whatever the explanation, the phenomenon itself is quite real, and since it affects people’s attitude vis-à-vis both domestic and international developments, it needs to be tackled on both fronts. When people are not motivated to take part in the political, social and economic processes shaping their lives, democracy loses its relevance, and democratic states become no less susceptible to civil unrest than autocratic states.