On praxis: From campus to global politics



Opinion columnist Mohammed Rawwas urges readers to engage in praxis and to have political consciousness.

MOHAMMED RAWWAS, Opinion Columnist

In a 1997 essay, Peter Singer poses a thought experiment: you notice a child drowning in a shallow pond, which you can easily save at the mildest inconvenience of muddying your clothes. Do you have a responsibility to save the child? Assuming yes, then surely this also applies to millions of people globally who die for completely preventable reasons, such as not being properly vaccinated, which can be alleviated with a small donation. You can save lives for just a few dollars, and Singer argues that you have a moral obligation to do so.

However, Mathew Snow in Jacobin argues: in the long term, simply throwing money at the problem will not eliminate the fundamental, structural causes that are bringing about the terrible conditions that we attempt to alleviate through charity. Snow contends that the truly most effective way to help the most people is to dismantle global capitalism itself, which is invariably true.

Snow does not disagree with the ethical responsibility to alleviate suffering, but rather with the most effective way to fulfill that responsibility. Snow’s critique suggests going beyond the capitalist horizon of charitable donations: it posits a new universality wherein poverty itself would be solved, not merely ameliorated.

The necessity of transgressing the capitalist hegemony reveals itself in climate catastrophe, astronomical increases in wealth inequality, and the drive for profit which is the sufficient cause of contemporary wars. Our individual duty to actualize justice must take a universal form, wherein the wealthy are not the only ones allowed to realize their “good intentions”. We have greater capacity to enact change than perhaps any other class of people on Earth, and we have an obligation to do so. Thus it would not be an overstatement to say that the 2020 election has the potential to determine the future viability of life on this little rock and all who sail on it.

This is a call to action. From my recent experiences canvassing for the Sanders campaign, I have encountered so many people who are unwilling to even discuss politics. What they do not understand, or rather refuse to understand, is that they are always-already in politics: when they are saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in student debt for the opportunity to gain a higher education or worry about paying rent or when the bills are due.

The question of political apathy must be addressed: How is it that the country which prides itself on democracy cannot even muster the political will to save the planet? The answer is simple: where power lies, so too does complacency. We have the strongest economy, the biggest military, the best education. What need of politics have we? Well, if there is one omen the ecological crisis reveals to us, it’s that drought, wildfires, and rising seas are ignorant of economics and military might.

But beyond political consciousness, we must also engage in praxis. Take the University: last semester, the Administration slashed funding for public transportation, which disproportionately affects low-income students, international students, and those with disabilities.

Over the summer, the UNI Administration discreetly closed the campus pharmacy without prior notice, which, once again, affects those who do not have the same access to transportation. Furthermore, our once-free counseling sessions have now been limited to a few per semester before being billed through your private insurance. Needless to say, those with mental health issues or suffering from suicidality should not have to pay to be treated.

Last semester, the UNI Socialists garnered approximately 500 signatures in six days on a petition opposing cuts to public transportation, which was instrumental in ensuring partial funding for this year, and will continue opposing the Administration’s austerity measures in the current school year.

As students, we fund the university and we constitute as its majority. It’s time we democratically control the university.

However, why should student health be subjected to the whims of a cruel and apathetic Administration?

The true solution to the recent cuts to mental health services and the pharmacy on campus is Medicare-for-All: codify the universal human right to healthcare and have it be federally mandated, not only to college students but to everyone in the nation. On a larger scale, it is vital to support Sanders’ presidential campaign as the only candidate who can work towards resolving the climate crisis, address both national and global poverty, and end imperialist aggression through policies such as the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, and tuition-free college and debt cancellation. Volunteer for his campaign: phone bank, canvass, whatever you can do. The only way to fulfill this vision, however, is not simply to have Sanders as president, but to have a base of student power that can continue to agitate for their material interests. Remember, the only thing at stake is humanity itself.