Apathy as Art

One of my favorite poems isIn the Land of Lotus Eaters” by the late Tony Hoagland. It combines, masterfully and beautifully, the congruent elements of necessity and horror we find in distraction.

As time progresses and I watch the world, “In the Land of Lotus Eaters” also makes me wonder if we’re failing to see — if we’re committed to not seeing — the horrific aspects of distraction. It’s as if we’ve all become the character, Sergeant Schultz, from the 1960s sitcom, Hogan’s Heroes. We seem to have become complacent enough to believe a garden can survive without tending, relationships can survive without nurturing, a republic can survive without vigilance and sacrifice.

As a late-blooming college student, I took a Political Science course. I also took a Public Policy course. The Public Policy course wasn’t offered in the Political Science Department as I expected it would be. Rather, it was offered in the Philosophy Department. There was a reason for that.

The reason is that political science is the realm of politics and power from domestic, international, and comparative perspectives. It entails the study and understanding of political ideas, ideologies, institutions, policies, processes, and behavior, as well as groups, classes, government, diplomacy, law, strategy, and war. Whether the officials elected to uphold the law — and to preserve and protect the citizenry under the law — actually do so is another matter

Public Policy, on the other hand, concerns itself with the allocation of scarce resources. It’s more art than science. And while it may be subject to the enactment of laws at some point, everything leading up to the derivation of those laws — to the allocation of those resources — is philosophical. As such, it requires our attention and our input. And it requires us to hold accountable for upholding the law and for protecting us those we elect to do so, especially if they don’t uphold the law or protect us.

And the archers shot their arrows with their eyes closed.
And the workers in the factory denied any knowledge
of what the weapons would be used for.
And the name of the one in charge was forgotten.
And the boat sailed on without a captain.

In the United States, we’re supposed to be the captains of the ship. The government is supposed to serve us. We elect representatives to do so. But we’ve become apathetic to all of that. If we don’t take back the rudder, we’ll continue to sail ever more aimlessly and perilously until we crash.

The folks responsible for the wreckage will be the ones in the mirror.


Mark O'Brien
Mark O'Brien
I’m a business owner. My company — O’Brien Communications Group (OCG) — is a B2B brand-management and marketing-communication firm that helps companies position their brands effectively and persuasively in industries as diverse as: Insurance, Financial Services, Senior Living, Manufacturing, Construction, and Nonprofit. We do our work so well that seven of the companies (brands) we’ve represented have been acquired by other companies. OCG is different because our business model is different. We don’t bill by the hour or the project. We don’t bill by time or materials. We don’t mark anything up. We don’t take media commissions. We pass through every expense incurred on behalf of our clients at net. We scope the work, price the work, put beginning and end dates on our engagements, and charge flat, consistent fees every month for the terms of the engagements. I’m also a writer by calling and an Irish storyteller by nature. In addition to writing posts for my company’s blog, I’m a frequent publisher on LinkedIn and Medium. And I’ve published three books for children, numerous short stories, and other works, all of which are available on Amazon under my full name, Mark Nelson O’Brien.

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