What is the status quo? The dictionary defines it as “the existing state of affairs.” But this definition is too benign, too vague and lacks the connotation necessary to give real-word meaning to such an abstract idea. History and hindsight have contributed to a more accurate definition, one that implies a rather negative connotation, and for good reason.
American history points to a past where the status quo legitimized the practice of discrimination, ignorance and hatred. We would be wise to remember, especially in this month, and especially when our leaders, conservatives namely, are so afraid of the political implications of remembering past injustices, that they are more willing to forget history rather than learn from its mistakes.
We indeed have a long way to go before Dr. King’s dream of an American where people are judged purely by the content of their character is the norm. To this day, African Americans, women and other minorities, homosexuals in particular, all struggle for equality and dignity in a society where the status quo legitimizes bigotry and blatant discrimination.
In an effort to draw attention to the status quo, the Office of Student Life and Leadership has scheduled a conference appropriately named “Change the Status Quo: A Student’s Role in Shaping Society.” I sat down with the masterminds of this conference, Megan Mastache and York Shingle, this weekend to shed some light on how Cal Poly students might benefit from this conference.
Q: What does this conference offer Cal Poly students?
A: (Y.S.) It offers a glimpse into the lives of our fellow students and how the status quo affects all of us – our classmates, our friends and our colleagues.
Q: Why is it important that we analyze the status quo?
A: (Y.S.) There are so many societal norms which people accept without ever considering that those norms might just be misconceptions. These norms are often subtle ” and yet when people finally see them for what they truly are, it can be shocking. That shock can be the impetus for change, a change for the better.
Q: What do you want those who attend this conference to think upon leaving?
A: (M.M.) In this society, especially among our generation, there is an abundance of self-absorption, while at the same time a real lack of self-inflection, particularly regarding one’s role in society. People are often so concerned with how much better the world is today than it was years ago, that they forget to think about how much better the world could be, and thus, people our age are often complacent. We don’t want people walking away from this thinking about how bad our society is; we want to open their eyes to how good it can be.
Q: But surely there must be something wrong with the status quo if you want to change it, right? So what exactly makes it so bad?
A: (M.M.) Well-that’s hard to generalize-I’ll give you an example: When I hear people on campus who say things like, “That’s SO gay,” and they still just don’t get it – they don’t see how ignorant a statement that is, and what misconceptions they’re promoting just by using such a common phrase. Hearing crap like that makes me see why it’s important to change the status quo. Its about equality and dignity for everyone, not just those in the majority of society.
Q: Without attending this conference, is there anything that an interested student can do to bring about change?
A: (Y.S.) Yes-don’t be passive.
It has been said that, in a democratic society, the status quo is the only solution that cannot be voted against. In other words, the status quo cannot simply be decided against; real action must be taken if it is to change.
If you’re tired of the way things are, don’t be like me and just complain; take action and change the status quo.
Jack Ingram is a political science senior and a Mustang Daily columnist.