April 2023

The Hollow Men: Avarice, Apathy, and American Society teaser image

The Hollow Men: Avarice, Apathy, and American Society

Abigail Graves 

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us - if at all - not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.

There is comfort in the void.

Americans as a society exist listlessly in the void between desire and fulfillment. We are content to dwell in this space between having a dream and making it reality. The space where we want for the wellbeing, success, and equal treatment of ourselves and others but lack the fortitude to accomplish anything meaningful. Where our convictions linger only so long as there are no difficult sacrifices to make or hardships to endure. Where we can convince ourselves of our morality solely on the basis that we care…regardless of whether we have actually done any good. We are living in the age of convenience, where instant gratification and modern luxuries are viewed more and more as necessities rather than indulgences. We endlessly consume and waste and wonder why, after all our devouring, we are still unsatisfied. After acquiring all the technology, entertainment, plumbing, transportation, and specialty coffee we could possibly want, it is still not enough. After all our insatiable desires, we are still not fulfilled. The grass is always greener…

The pursuit of comfort has become our religion. As a society, we have become so accustomed to an overabundance of wealth, time, and opportunity that we no longer see the importance of foregoing simple luxuries for the sake of progress. We care about health, but 70% of Americans are overweight. We care about freedom, but the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. We care about world peace, but our government sends military funds and weapons to over 150 countries annually. Indulgence is easier than moderation. Imprisonment is easier than reform. War is easier than compromise. Our entitlement has diminished our resolve. Our desire has become our apathy.

To truly care for something is to make it your purpose. Of course, there are individuals whose lives are not pure opulence, Americans who possess intense drive and shoulder immense responsibilities. There are students who labor to pay their way through college, mothers who sacrifice to provide for their kids, and spouses who struggle to pay off their loved one’s medical bills. This is why it is important to realize that denouncing the apathy of American society does not diminish the perseverance of the American individual. If anything, it is the accomplishments of the individual against all odds that expose the failings of society despite every advantage.

We have consistently proven we are capable of limitless achievement. Therefore, the void between our desire and its fulfillment is not insurmountable… just inconvenient. And, that is where our indifference becomes apparent. To truly want something is to chase after it wholeheartedly. To truly love something is to protect it at all costs. Anything less is passivity hidden behind the thinly veiled façade of purposefulness. Afterall, what more are the blueprints without the building but an empty lot? What more is the speech without the delivery but a quiet room? What more is desire without fulfillment but nothing at all?

There is no lesser potential in modern Americans than there has been in any other society throughout history. We simply lack conviction beyond maintaining meaningless comfort. We are the Founding Fathers who desired freedom but never fought for it. We are the Captains of Industry who yearned for innovation but never risked for it. We are the Civil Rights Activists who demanded equality but never sacrificed for it. We are every person who has ever dreamed, hoped, or prayed for change but never took charge… every person too defeated to fight back, too afraid to take a risk, too comfortable to make any sacrifices.

We are the people who live without purpose.

We are the people who die with regrets.

We are the people history forgets.

We are the hollow men.

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

No excuses, no whining, no quitting. If you are truly angry at the state of the world, do something about it. Adopt a dog from a shelter. Be a volunteer for a charity. Foster a child without a family.

When the rest of the world succumbs to the moral vacuum of the modern age… go out with a bang.

* The Hollow Men written by T. S. Eliot (1925)

About the Author

image of author Abigail Graves

Abigail Graves

Originally from small beer-town Shiner, TX, Abigail is currently a master’s student in Chemical Engineering with an emphasis in water resources. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from Texas A&M, yet chemistry is still her least favorite science. She works fulltime at an engineering consulting firm specializing in wastewater treatment plant design. She is married, has five dogs and loves anything nerdy, but will break some ankles on the basketball court if needed.

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