When You Can't Afford Not To Care

A few weeks ago I tried to start a conversation with someone I work with about something political and I got the response, “I really don’t care,” followed by this woman turning away from me and ignoring what I was about to say.

I can take a hint so I certainly didn’t push it or try to force a chat at all. Instead I spent some time in reflection. And the reflection wasn’t because my feelings had been hurt or I needed to “process” anything, as the Kardashians are fond of saying.

It was simply that a reaction was given to a subject that I thought was important but that reaction wasn’t what I was expecting and it had thrown me off completely.

The thing I realised after reflecting on this for a while, was that, whilst to me, the thing that I wanted to talk about was intensely personal and political, it was because it mattered to me. And it mattered to me because it affected me, as a person.

An unfortunate truth I’ve had to learn over the last 5 years or so, is that there are a lot of people out there who simply don’t care about things that don’t affect them.

I’m an idealist and a political junkie. This means that I’m interested in a million things around the world from human rights and racism, to environmental causes and animal rights as well as everything in between. I have taken a long time to whittle down my close friend circle into only those that are also as intensely passionate about the world around them as I am.

This has meant withdrawing from people who don’t fit into this bracket. Being an adult in the working world rather than a student made this very easy to do; after all, all you need to do is slowly reduce the amount of time and effort you put into certain relationships, and before you know it, everyone has drifted away and you no longer have to deal with them.

On the other hand, when it comes to the workplace, short of changing jobs, you’re sorta stuck. There isn’t much you can do if you’re surrounded by people who don’t really care about the same things that you do. And when work conversations centre on getting lip filler injections or fake lashes, or everyone going to yet another pretentious bar to drink overpriced drinks and get wasted on a Friday night, it’s difficult to be your authentic self when everything inside you is so far removed from what frankly, seems very very petty.

For me, most things in many ways, are political. My demographic profile if I can call it that, means that everything that touches me externally is political in some way. I’m in my twenties, a female, Muslim, hijab-wearer, from a working class background and British. I was a child when 9/11 happened and I grew up with my country heading into war all over the world.

From the time that I was able to understand where I stood in the world and my place in it, I realised my position is tenuous. And it is so in a way that the people I am surrounded by - generally white, middle-class, non-Muslim - will never understand. Their demographic profiles means they can afford to say that they “don’t care” because very little of what I experience will affect them.

I can’t afford not to care because whilst I would love to be able to ignore politics, politics will never ignore me.