apathy

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I see a lot of apathy when I'm working with teenagers, and I see more of it when I'm teaching high school than when I'm teaching college.  The high school kids very often haven't seen any practical importance in anything they're doing, so many of them truly don't care about the classes they're in or the world in which they live.  This not caring leads them to squander many great opportunities--not learning material in a certain class, not taking advantage of a particularly gifted teacher, not pursuing chances that arise in their lives.

I can certainly sympathize with apathetic people, for it's very easy to be caught in cycles that don't allow us to see the importance of certain things in life, or that cause us to feel that most of what we do is pretty pointless, anyway.  After all, when even a close election is decided by a couple of million votes, it can be difficult to see the significance in voting.  And when we read about the wars and the economic crises and the graft and corruption among politicians, it can make us feel pretty powerless, pretty insignificant.

The problem, though, is that apathetic people tend to see their "uselessness" or "hopelessness" in a very broad sense--they see how they affect (or don't affect) the entire world, and they lose their focus on the effects that they can have within their own sphere of influence.  They don't see how simple actions can have very positive effects on themselves, their friends, their co-workers, or even strangers on the street.

If we define "apathy" for ourselves, I think that we would come up with many different definitions.

To the hyperactive workaholic, even some active people may be considered apathetic, while the moderately active person may see the bar as being a bit lower.  But the main gist of the word seems to be a state of not caring, of not finding enthusiasm or hope or excitement about anything in our minds or in our hearts or in our spirits.  The apathetic person simply seems not to care about anything, and seems to be fine letting life go by without making any of his or her own contributions to it. 

But if I'm apathetic, then I'm not creating conditions in which I learn.  After all, our most effective and most important learning comes when we've taken actions and we learn from the results of those actions, be the results positive or negative, what we hoped for or what we hoped to avoid.  A lack of action keeps us from learning very important lessons. 

Apathy also keeps us from forming alliances and feeling connections to our fellow human beings.  Apathy tends to be a lonely state, one that keeps us from doing what we can to help others, and that keeps us from asking others for help. 

Most unfortunately, our apathy keeps us from making a positive mark or three on the world in our own unique ways.  If I don't care about things, I'm not going to volunteer my time to help other people.  If I don't care, I'm not going to challenge myself to make things better.  If I'm apathetic, it's very easy to simply sit on the couch and passively experience the entertainment that's been created by people who have taken action and who have pursued their dreams.

And while it's tempting to look at apathy as simply a personal problem, the fact is that it's a societal problem that's incredibly dangerous.  Apathy is one of those traits that can damage people and systems like almost nothing else can, simply through the inaction of apathetic people in times when action is called for.  And unfortunately, we seem to be teaching our young people to be less and less concerned with societal issues and more and more concerned about personal issues and personal gratification.

Apathy is a quality that makes people very frustrated--have you ever tried to drum up interest among a group of people who just don't care?  And when apathetic people get together, they tend to feed off each other, supporting each other's ideas that what they do doesn't matter.  For people who are trying to be active and get important things done, apathy can be an obstacle greater than laws, an often-insurmountable mountain over which they're unable to move.

The apathetic people whom I've known have convinced themselves that what they do doesn't matter.  They've talked themselves into believing that other people don't care about them or what they do.  They're fully convinced that even if they do act, their actions will have no effect on others or on the world.  Perhaps the best way to approach apathy is by trying to convince the apathetic person that their actions do matter, maybe by taking every opportunity we can to thank them for something that they've done, telling them that it has had a positive effect on us.

Perhaps the best way for us to deal with apathy is through caring enough to convince the apathetic people that they're wrong when they think that what they do just doesn't matter.

  

  

Apathy is a sort of living oblivion.

Horace Greeley

The apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap
from its pedestal and hasten the resurrection of the dead.

William Lloyd Garrison

Apathy adds up, in the long run, to cowardice.

Rollo May

  

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Most people are on the world, not in it--having no conscious sympathy
or relationship to anything about them--undiffused, separate, and
rigidly alone like marbles of polished stone, touching but separate.

John Muir

   

Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found
no remedy for the worst of them all--the apathy of human beings.

Helen Keller

   

The tyranny of a prince in an oligarchy is not so dangerous
to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy.

Montesquieu

  
  

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When an individual fear or apathy would cause us
to pass by the unfortunate, then life is of no account.

Haniel Long
    

I have a very strong feeling that the opposite of love
is not hate--it's apathy.   It's not giving a damn.

Leo Buscaglia

  

Apathy--not hate--is the opposite of love.  It is this apathy
that leads first to the death of the psyche, and in its
extreme form to the death of the body.

Jane G. Goldberg

    
   

Some people confuse acceptance with apathy, but there's all the difference
in the world.  Apathy fails to distinguish between what can and what cannot
be helped; acceptance makes that distinction.  Apathy paralyzes the
will-to-action; acceptance frees it by relieving it of impossible burdens.

Arthur Gordon

   

So much attention is paid to the aggressive sins, such as violence and
cruelty and greed with all their tragic effects, that too little attention
is paid to the passive sins, such as apathy and laziness, which in
the long run can have a more devastating effect.

Eleanor Roosevelt

   

By far the most dangerous foe we have to fight is apathy--indifference from
whatever cause, not from a lack of knowledge, but from carelessness,
from absorption in other pursuits, from a contempt bred of self-satisfaction.

William Osler

    

It is far more important to resist apathy than anarchy
or despotism, for apathy can give rise, almost indifferently, to either one.

Alexis de Tocqueville

      

Apathy and evil.  The two work hand in hand.  They are the same,
really.  Evil wills it. Apathy allows it.  Evil hates the innocent and
the defenseless most of all.  Apathy doesn't care
as long as it's not personally inconvenienced.


Jake Thoene

    

Apathy is one of the characteristic responses of any living organism when
it is subjected to stimuli too intense or too complicated to cope with.
The cure for apathy is comprehension.

John Dos Passos

   

   

Public apathy is more powerful than public opinion. There's more of it.

Jim Boren

  

The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush.
It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment.

Robert M. Hutchins

  

Truth is not only violated by falsehood; it may be equally outraged by silence.

Henri Frederic Amiel

   



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The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who
are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.

Albert Einstein
  

Mourn not the dead that in the cool earth lie,
but rather mourn the apathetic throng,
the coward and the meek
who see the world's great anguish and its wrong,
and dare not speak.

Ralph Chaplin

   

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History will have to record that the greatest tragedy during this period
of social transition was not the vitriolic words and the violent actions
of the bad people, but the appalling silence and indifference of the good
people.  Our generation will have to repent not only for the words and
acts of the children of darkness, but also for the fears and apathy of the children of light.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
    

The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference.  The opposite of art is
not ugliness, it's indifference.  The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's
indifference.  And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.

Elie Wiesel

Only one enemy is worse than despair: indifference.  In every area of
human creativity, indifference is the enemy; indifference of evil is
worse than evil, because it is also sterile.

   

The opposite of love is not hate--it's apathy.  It's not giving a damn.  If
somebody hates me, they must "feel" something. . . or they couldn't
possibly hate.  Therefore, there's some way in which I can get to them.

Leo Buscaglia

  
On my desk lies a letter from a friend, a clergyman.  "The trouble with
most of us," he writes, "isn't active or deliberate wickedness; it's lethargy,
absence of caring, lack of involvement in life.  To keep our bodies
comfortable and well fed and entertained seems to be all that matters.
But the more successful we are at this, the more entombed the soul becomes
in solid, immovable flesh.  We no longer hear the distant trumpet and go
toward it; we listen to the pipes of Pan and fall asleep."  And this good man
goes on wistfully:  "How can I rouse my people, make them yearn for something
more than pleasant, socially acceptable ways of escaping from life?  How can
I make them want to thrust forward into the unknown, into the world of testing
and trusting their own spirit?  Oh, how I wish I knew!" 
   There's only one answer, really.  Each of us must be willing, at least sometimes,
to chop wood instead of sitting by the fire.  Each of us must guard against the
influences that lull and seduce us toward a state of nonliving.  Each of us must
fight our own fight against the betrayal of life that comes from refusing to live it.

Arthur Gordon
A Touch of Wonder
   

   

  

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