According to a recent report , apathetic attitudes have drastically increased in college students over the last ten years. Even if measuring apathy using categorical data analysis and questionable metrics comes with its imperfections, in the United States, we don’t need a scientific study to show us that the number of apathetic people in this country is increasing. And the scale of that apathy is not confined to just college students—it’s across all sectors of difference.
Apathy is an effective killer of building relationships and initiating positive social change. It’s so effective because it’s pervasive and passive; it requires little to no effort in action or thought and with the increase of cyborgs comes more and more apathy.
In my travels, I have encountered three degrees of apathy. The first apathy (I call selective apathy) restricts itself to selective interests and conditions. This is the most common form of apathy. The apathetic person demonstrates care in areas of life that society expects her to: her children, general family, her job, her health. But this level of concern is extremely limited and often superficial. As is the case with many in my family, as their income reaches closer to middle and upper-middle class, so increases their apathy for life and situations beyond their immediate world.
The second apathy is similar to selective apathy but it’s even more selective, often not deviating from the self. Enough people like this exist in society to explain the abusive atrocities committed by board decision-making in transnational mega-corporations. However, I would not say that these people are the majority, or even are in greater numbers than the selective apathy. In this extreme version of selective apathy, the apathetic person makes it clear that he cares very little for anyone other than himself. Often this extremely selfish sentiment is masked behind logical detachment and sometimes it legitimately is explained by logical (but non-sensical) detachment.
The final form of apathy is the most extreme case I have encountered so far. I have only met one person like this, and he carries on his shoulders many mental disabilities. His apathy is immensely strong. Not only does he have no care for others, he has no care for himself. Often people in this condition commit suicide, but his apathy is not a case of depression. It seems to come from extreme social aversion (though he cannot bring himself to live without people).
All of these forms of apathy sadden me because I know that none of these people will bring about positive social change on their own initiative. And yet, they are everywhere. Activists have no choice now but to re-devise strategies with apathetic people in mind. Ronnie Lee <link> thinks that social change can happen more readily under these conditions of apathy. “If we can control government, then the apathetic people will follow with little to no question.” That scares me because industry lobby interests control enough politicians now to influence the entire parties and the average American seems as though he/she could care less. And a radical activist like Ronnie just wants to exploit that. I doubt he’s not the only one with this vision (white supremacists and the bourgeois have radical activists too).
Optimists may see compassion and empathy as a potential for all humankind, but I see apathy as an unavoidable reality so long as we live as cushioned cyborgs in civilization. We’re at a point now where being raised in civilization makes it a challenge to have respect for life, other individuals, and even ourselves. Apathy truly is an epidemic.