Apathy kills


September 27, 1980


We held the rally yesterday with a dozen or so campus organizations crowding each gate to hand out flyers.

This was the result of the amazing move to call a strike by the student government at William Paterson College.

Such efforts hadn’t worked in the past, but that didn’t stop us.

We even had the campus Communist Party screaming slogans, a foolish act considering the military actions taken by Russian Communists against Polish strikers.

Why were the communists backing us? We already knew the college board of directors is controlled by big business and that big business wants to drive off campus any group that isn’t aligned with their vision of the world.

We do not need this pack of communists to tell us what we already know.

Meanwhile, the few converts we thought we’d won to our cause began to slip away, put off by the communists. Ordinary people don’t care about evil corporations. What students these days want to know is about themselves, and whether the changes the colleges plan will make life better or worse for them.

This is how the 1970s differed from the 1960s.

Back then, you could rally kids to nearly any cause, just by holding a protest.

These days, the kids don’t want to hear about it, unless it matters to them specifically, and a number of them kept asking what the bill in Trenton was going to do, and most of us couldn’t answer them. We had been rushed into this without any real education on the matter.

I kept telling the communists that they had to talk in metaphors, create some comparisons that people might understand.

We had to make it clear that the state – operating in the interest of big business – was trying to limit the kind of degrees coming out of state colleges, and we needed to make clear to these kids that they are being cheated out of classes that any other respectable college has. And we needed to tell these kids that if Trenton can do it to Montclair, then we’ll be next.

Our little idealistic socialistic world was coming unraveled around us, and all we had to fight back with was bad rhetoric about fighting for the working class, when most of the kids had come to college to get out of the working class in the first place.
I kept thinking that we need a new movement that doesn’t rely on outdated concepts, and suggested with only a small amount of humor that we call it “The Sullivan Movement,” and that it would be dedicated to prevention of cruelty to human beings.

Nobody listened. They were too busy screaming slogans such as “Apathy Kills!” which, of course, the population was too apathetic to appreciate.

Apathy isn’t murder; its suicide. We’re like lobsters in that you can do anything to us as long as you do it gradually enough – such as the lobster not noticing he is being boiled to death until the water starts to boil, by which time all the slogan screaming won’t do anything at all.

I try to get the communists to understand that it isn’t the high principles that they ought to be stressing, but the slowly up-creeping of tuitions that will soon make it impossible for anybody to afford an education unless they happen to be Howard Hughes.

But even the communists seem to miss this point, and presume grants will continue forever, and the interest on student loans will remain low.

Apathy Kills!

No kidding.



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