So, what do you know about Libya?

If the biggest news story of your week was Charlie Sheen's series of bizarre interviews filled with Chuck Norris-like declarations of self-adulation, here's a breaking news update: You're not paying enough attention.

In case you aren't aware, Arabs across the Middle East and North Africa have been incensed and enraged, protesting against their governments, kings and autocrats by the hundreds of thousands.

And if you thought that the price of a barrel of crude oil rose to over one hundred dollars last week because the Libyans felt like being jerks to us, think again. Increasing prices at the pump are due to the fact that the common people of Libya in the past two weeks have been embroiled in a vicious conflict against their delusional and psychotic dictator Col. Moammar Kadafi.         

Col. Kadafi has been the president of Libya since 1969. Since he seized power in a coup d'état against the former Libyan monarch, King Idris,he has subjected his people to what can only be described as an Orwellian nightmare, where dissention is met with hard jail time, torture, or an unostentatious disappearance of the guilty and their entire family, all under a deceptive guise of what Gaddafi claims to be a "pure democracy."

Interested in gathering student opinions of the current situation in Libya, I spoke with three Santa Monica College students on Friday, March 4, 2011.

Krysta Ohle, 19, from Mar Vista, had little to say about Libya, or anything pertinent occurring in the Middle East.

"I don't know much about it," Ohle said. "But I think it's sad that things have come to this; that anarchy has become the rule."

Kamil Berrada, sitting on a wooden bench with his friend Jeremy Renault, are both 22 years old, originally from France, new to SMC, and enrolled in the English program.

"Personally, I think it's a good thing what's happening in Libya," said Berrada, "but honestly, it's none of my business." Turning to Renault, I asked him what he thought.          

"I don't read a lot of information on the news," said Berrada.          

Perhaps it's just me, but I find it difficult to understand how anyone living in a free country such as ours can so casually claim to be disconnected from issues resembling Libya. It seems to me that as long as what's happening in the world doesn't directly affect an American's day-to-day standard of living, the outlook I've found to be prevalent is a mixed form of deep apathy, made comfortable with the reprieve of a charitable sense of sympathy. 

But therein lies a question: If our daily lives need to be directly affected by world events in order for us to care about them, why is it we see that paying four dollars per gallon at the pump is not even scratching at the surface of what's needed to jostle and free us from our torpor? Do gas prices need to reach five dollars per gallon? How does six sound?

In other words, do we need to be brought to a crisis for Americans to be brought to activism?    

This is a deeply troubling mark of our society in decline; I don't wish to single out any of the individuals I've previously mentioned, if for any reason than that they left me with the impression of being essentially decent and compassionate people. What troubles me though is my perception of a deep, yawning apathy I find in our culture for people around the world fighting and dying to be free.

It's easy enough to scold ourselves for taking our freedoms for granted; but what does it say about us—about our cultural values, when we can hardly bring ourselves to keep up to date on a present-day story such as Libya?

Generations from now, when our descendants review the annals of history, they will look at this time hopefully as a great upheaval, a massive, worldwide demand for freedom. But what role will we as Americans play in fostering this hoped-for reality?

Will we be seen as beacons of hope, and great champions and advocates for freedom? Or will we be remembered as deaf, dumb and blind simpletons, spoiled by our privileges and wealth, concerned only for our celebrities and transfixed in admiration for their train wreck lifestyles?

We need to raise our voices to a deafening pitch, and demand justice for repressed people everywhere in the world. We have the resources and wealth to create a world with possibilities beyond our wildest dreams, but it will all be for naught if our attention spans continue to dwindle to nothing, and if our values continue to decay.