“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.” Some might think that whenHelen Keller spoke those words, she was talking of some exotic disease that affects people in the slums. Or that she was speaking of an abnormality that can be found only in the mentally unstable. Those who believe those falsehoods are truly mistaken. She was not talking of a disease or a problem that affects only one group of people, but one that affects society as a whole. Apathy is not some dreaded illness that attacks only the weak. Apathy is instead a base part of humanity, one that we as a people would rather not admit to, even as it stares us blatantly in the face. What is apathy? Why is it such a hated word, such an awful state to be living in? Quite simply, apathy is indifference. Apathy is indifference to the sufferings of others. Apathy is indifference to the happenings of the world around the individual. Apathy is indifference to anything that does not directly affect that specific human being, or his surroundings. Apathy is remaining neutral in the face of adversity if the problem does not directly concern that person. Apathy has always been the shame of humanity, and will continue to plague us until we realize that our minute lives are not all that matters in this world.
Apathy, or indifference, is rampant in today’s society. Millions of deaths can be attributed to the disinterest of others. For example, during World War II, millions of people were killed by the Nazis while the rest of the world looked on. People ignored the deeds of Hitler and the Third Reich because it did not directly affect them. It was not just people in other countries who ignored the cries for help from the oppressed, but neighbors of the victims as well. Martin Niemoeller, a Holocaust survivor, illustrates the passiveness that he felt during that time, and how his apathy led to his departure to a concentration camp. He states, “In Germany, they came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.” That statement is a true reflection on how apathy can destroy a society. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” (Edmund Burke). And that is exactly what the world did–nothing. Hitler would not have taken so many lives had it not been for the apathy of the rest of the world. Had the Allies moved to stop the killings when they were first discovered, over six million innocent people might not have died in the concentration camps. Had they not remained neutral when learning of the camps, some moral atrocities might have been avoided.
The country’s youth today are apathetic. A recent study in the Baltimore Sun polled over one hundred teenagers between the ages of fourteen and nineteen to find out their knowledge of current event issues. It was found that only fifty-eight percent of the teens could explain the situation in Iraq, while eighty-three percent could name the Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein. It was inferred that many teens remembered his name because of Desert Storm in 1991. They remembered Hussein and Desert Storm because the situation had something to do with them. They remembered because therewere Americans fighting in Iraq, fighting for them. They remembered his name because they cared about the situation. They did not have an apathetic view of the matter. In time, depending on the escalation of the Iraqi situation, more teenagers will be able to explain exactly what is going on in that particular situation.
Apathy is rampant in today’s society. Listlessness and indifference are everywhere. Every day we see how people are indifferent to the lives and needs of others. People we see wearing the fur jacket are apathetic to the lives of the animals who were killed to make their coat. People who walks past a homeless man without sparing a few cents are being indifferent to that person’s needs. People who change the channel on their TV set to cartoons when the world news comes on are being dispassionate about events going on in other people’s lives. Apathy is a stateof mind
and most people today are literally drowning in it. When people only care about their own problems, when they don’t take sides in problems that don’t directly affect themselves, they are immersing themselves in a sea of apathy. The people who buy certain brands of tuna knowing that the manufacturers use dolphin meat are apathetic to the wishes of conservationists. Those who get abortions are indifferent to the views of the pro-life movement. People who skip school are unconcerned with their education and indifferent to those who wish them the best, such as parents and teachers. The phrase “I don’t care” is a form of apathy as well. Most people say that phrase at least once every day, sometimes even more. Apathy, or not caring about the wishes and needs of others, is more insulting to humans than hatred could ever be. It is far worse to ignore a human being than to hate him/her. Hatred is not apathy. Hatred is a passionate feeling. A person who is hated still feels as though he/she means something. When a person is ignored, he/she feels worthless. George Bernard Shaw stated that fact eloquently. His exact words were, “the worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them; that’s the essence of inhumanity.” Yet although he states that apathy is the ‘essence ofinhumanity’,
Apathy is also an integral part of human nature. It’s part of human nature to be vain and to only care about issues that pertain to ourselves. Therefore apathy towards things that have naught to do with us is normal. People should have opinions on subjects and problems that are everywhere, not just in our own backyards. People should care about the starving people in Ethiopia, and the dolphins that are being made into sandwiches. People should not be indifferent to the suffering of others. Apathy is a shameful part of humankind, but it’s also one that mankind has learned to live with. Until people learn that the universe does not revolve around their little lives, they will continue to be indifferent to that which has no direct effect on them. Since humans are not likely to have such insights in the near future, apathy will be a somewhat shameful part of humanity for a very long time.