A statement of privilege, or blissful ignorance?
Credit: Pew Research Center
Familial events are always fun and games until the political bomb gets dropped. Whether your uncle is passionate about the First Amendment or your cousin is preaching the importance of healthcare for all, within the air of tension, there is always one family member who says, “I don’t want to get political”. The question surrounding this statement, one I have been pondering for a while now, is whether or not this is a statement of privilege or preservation of blissful ignorance.
For some, staying out of politics is representative of privilege– one may not have to care about politics because it doesn’t affect them . Whether this has to do with socioeconomic status or white privilege, “staying out of it” signifies a sense of privilege, because people lacking it have no choice but to understand the political atmosphere for the preservation of their well-being. Although, what happens if someone does belong to a marginalized group but prefers to remain ignorant based on personal preference?
This is where the line between privilege and preserving one's peace starts to blur.
When discussing politics, specifically with white, straight, cisgender men, they often display major apathy. On the other end of the spectrum, when I discuss politics with those who may belong to a generally marginalized group, they often display more passion and interest. This trend is not a coincidence. For those affected by politics, it is not a choice of whether or not they want to get involved. Whether it may be the LGBTQ+ community fighting for equality in marital rights, different religions being labeled as terrorists simply due to their beliefs, , or those with disabilities fighting just for medication to survive, politics is something people have to care about. This idea of those who are the most privileged being the least interested in politics is incredibly common, and much less common among groups whose very identity is being translated into political banter. So is blissful ignorance and the preservation of a clear mind a valid excuse for being unaware of the world around you? It does not seem so.
However, as tensions rise in political stances, especially in regards to partisanship, a lot of people try to remain neutral due to the nature of intensity that comes with being political. For many, politics has become so present in daily life that one’s opinion could completely ruin a friendship or even a familial bond. It becomes almost difficult to surround yourselves with those who would rather stay out of it, at least for me. Not only does it signify privilege, but it also signifies a lack of empathy for those who do have to pay attention to the political state of the world.
During this internal battle in which I try to decipher whether or not blissful ignorance is a valid explanation for not being educated on the political atmosphere, I have come to a major realization. Although politics may be stressful and may be a propellant for some uncomfortable conversations, to put one’s own peace of mind over the understanding of the world around them is an act of privilege all on its own and should not be something that we just brush over.
On the daily we are faced with the ability to make choices in what we do or do not want to listen to, interact with, or speak about. For some these decisions may be surface level, while for others, these uncomfortable and detrimental conversations of politics are not even a decision for them to learn about. It is the very reality they live in everyday. Rather than listening to those around you who may say that politics are boring, or unimportant, or a cause of anger, we as a society should condemn the very statement of not wanting to get political. Politics and the world around us is not a choice, and for someone like me who does recognize the certain privileges I obtain I will continue to educate myself because my peace of mind is certainly not as important as the lives of those around me.
Jordan is a second year political science major and mass communications minor at UF, as well as an online writer for Rowdy.