The channel 2 evening news last night had a poll that showed the three-year income tax increase narrowly ahead. Amazing. That would be one of the great voting surprises in Oregon history, if the measure passes after all the pundits had pronounced it dead on arrival. We've mailed in our "yes" votes; everyone else, do the same. Hopefully, the normally apathetic people in our formally great state are being aroused by the painfully clear consequences of inaction--of letting state-funded education, health care, criminal justice system, and so on, go down the tubes into a morass of mediocrity.
Along these lines, I've been thinking of social action in terms of AAA: apathy, arousal, apoplexy. Apathy is the all-too-normal state of most people, uncaring and uninterested. On the other hand, apoplexy is the all-too-common state of those whose social concern is limited to displays of anger, self-righteous indignation, and simplistic soapbox slogans. In other words, the listeners of conservative talk radio, and the watchers of conservative television commentators. Michael Savage, who I listen (briefly) to on KXL in the late afternoon when I want to make sure my heart is still capable of pounding, and my brow furrowing, is the most egregious example of maniacal railing at the top of your lungpower with minimal substantive content.
The middle way is the state of arousal, which has an appealing, and quite appropriate, sexual connotation. Here we are intimately involved with social problems, or other sorts of problems. Our sense of justice is fully awake and aware. We are eager to demonstrate our love of the Good. Now, any middle state has connections with the territory on either side, so apathy and apoplexy will inevitably manifest at times in the mind of the aroused social activist. Certainly Laurel and I find ourselves at times tipping over the edge, joining forces with the ranks of either the apathetic or apoplectic. Our causes--coyotes, lot partitioning, groundwater quality, improving the management of sustainable Fairview--sometimes wear us down into "what's the point?," and sometimes fire us up into "this must change, NOW!"
On the whole, though, we manage to stay in the middle way--aware, active, and aroused. Life is too short to do anything else.