Apathy, “denotes a lack of responsiveness to something that might normally excite interest or emotion. It suggests a puzzling or deplorable inertness or lack of passion.” That is one of the definitions that describe the term, “apathy.”
Apathy is a disease in society. It most likely won’t kill anyone or send him to the hospital or even keep him home from work.
That does not mean it is not dangerous.
Apathy is dangerous because it allows a few people to guide and control the lives and fortunes of all the rest of us. We like to think we live in a democratic republic where the people get to choose what happens in their lives. Liking to think that is one thing, making it a reality is quite another.
Two of the tenets of a democracy are closely related to the basic tenets of Parliamentary Procedure. One, the will of the majority is supposed to rule. In a group of 100, if 51 decide to order chocolate ice-cream, the order should be for chocolate ice-cream. Two, the voice of the minority must always be heard. Just because the majority wanted to order chocolate ice-cream does not mean the 49 who wanted strawberry cannot be heard.
But making intelligent decisions based on what the majority wants will only happen when all the people make their voices heard. Sitting at home, making excuses and complaining after decisions have been made don’t cut it.
I hear people saying things like, “It doesn’t make any difference what I say, they will do what they want anyway,” and “I can’t make any difference because I am only one person,” and “I don’t really care one way or the other,” and “What’s the use of fighting city hall because I’m just going to lose.”
Those are not reasons for not taking part; they are nothing but what we used to call “cop-outs.”
If Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, John Adams, Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson and a few others would have had those sentiments we likely never would have had a United States.
If Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton would have had that opinion, most likely women would not be allowed to vote.
History is full of moments when a movement started out with one or two or three voices and turned into forces that changed society for the better.
Lately it looks as though we as a society have succumbed to a fit of apathy. I used to see it with students and I had a sign on my desk, “Due to lack of interest, tomorrow has been cancelled.”
No one wants to cancel tomorrow, no one wants bad things to happen, no one wants taxation without representation. But without participation in the process that is exactly what we get.
Unless and until more than half of us get out and vote, unless and until more than half of us stand up and make our opinions heard, unless and until people tell their elected officials what they expect of them, those officials will do whatever they or a small minority wants them to do.
Think about it. If in that group of 100 only 30 show up to vote, then 16, not 51 will make the decision to get chocolate ice-cream. So the choice for all 100 will have been made by 16.
So if you don’t like what your state or federal legislator has been doing, you have no right to complain if you did not go to vote. If you don’t like what your borough council has been doing, you have no right to complain to your neighbor if you have not been at a council meeting to make your voice heard.
Don’t like to give a speech? Can’t speak in public? Here’s a suggestion. Write down what you want to say and just stand up and read it. Reading in public is nothing like speaking in public.
Or just write down what you want council members or legislators to hear, put it in an envelope and mail it to them.
The point is to get involved. Democracy only works when people make their voices heard. Democracy cannot exist where apathy rules, and a lack of interest or passion only leads to less and less involvement in what happens in our lives.
Edmund Burke gave us a famous quote when he said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” I am going to paraphrase that by saying all that is necessary for a few people to carry out their will is for all the good people to do nothing.
Almost every form of evil, whether it was a Nazi takeover in Germany, fascist rule in Italy, robber barons in America or communists in Russia took root and grew because the good people in those places sat back and did nothing.
Remember, if one group is oppressed today, another group may be disregarded tomorrow. If you see no reason to get involved today, it may mean that tomorrow will be too late.