Commentary

Stick to Your Ideas

It’s Tuesday morning, and you have an eight-minute walk to a class that you will officially be late for in three minutes. That’s when you look up and see something. Your bedroom lights are on, and you won’t be back in the dorm for another seven hours. For the next few milliseconds, you weigh your dilemma. On the one hand, leaving your lights on throughout the day slowly wastes electricity. On the other hand, you would surely be late if you went all the way back to your room to flick the switch. Although, on a broader level, being green is definitely more important than being on time, you may be feeling just a bit too lazy to climb back upstairs. Thoughts from devils, angels and dedicated students in your mind vie for your attention. Ultimately, whatever decision you make is affected by a number of factors, not just the situation or your personal opinions towards the subject at hand. The process of decision-making is a complex one, even if most of it is done unconsciously. It therefore follows that making decisions as a group is even more complicated because your decision, which is already complex, now has a whole other component, that of the group dynamic. So, wouldn’t the decisions made by our Congress be more complex than we can imagine? Seeing Annie Leonard and Congresswoman Tsongas on our campus last week made me realize what different standards we place on ourselves as well as our government, especially in the field of energy conservation and sustainability. The question I want to present is, if our decisions are so fundamentally skewed by situation and milieu, then why should we hold the complex decisions of our government to a much higher standard, especially if we aren’t even keeping up our part of the bargain? I doubt that our environmental conviction as citizens is as serious as we claim. If we can’t even continuously support our claims, there is no reason why our government, which is merely a collection of undeniably intelligent but admittedly morally questionable people, should do the same. The United States population has a history of unreasonable expectations for our government. Many of Obama’s voters, including myself, expected a fierce Herculean attempt to solve our nation’s problems the minute he took his seat in the Oval Office. But public policy is not as simple as pulling a rabbit out of your hat. If it was, articles in “The Economist” and shouting arguments on Meet the Press would not debate the problems of this country. They would simply be dealt with. But we must remember the reason for which we have governments. They exist to make the hard decisions, stand up for our convictions and understand out problems. Then why are we complaining about government inaction when our own convictions are so feeble that we don’t know whether acting on them or getting to class on time is more important? In order to understand our government, we must first understand what sticking to our guns feels like. Otherwise, we cannot expect our leaders to do the same. But it’s more difficult than you think. So let’s start a challenge. Pick something that you want to see yourself doing. Maybe it’s conserving your energy by turning off the lights and unplugging your phone charger. Maybe it’s ignoring mean-spirited gossip and talking about people only when they’re present. Anything. Pick it and commit to it for a whole month. I’ll do it with you. Write it on your bathroom mirror, put it in your planner. Just make sure you remember it. And in that month, the next time you see litter on the ground and a light on in the hall, pick it up and turn it off, that is, if environmental awareness was your goal. That way, when you’re done with that month and ready to go forward, you can be able to say to your leaders, “Hey, I’m sticking to this, and so should you.” Because if you’re looking out for what you care about, so should they. Thea Raymond-Sidel is a two-year Lower from Iowa City, IA.