Wednesday, July 06, 2016

The Age of Apathy


Life has never been easy. Trials and tribulations have faced each generation of mankind. The hardships that each faced may have been different, but there was a common thread of solutions and coping methods used, and these have been passed down the generations.

If you saw someone in danger or in need, you'd help them. In the aftermath of a disaster, you would help rebuild the community in any way you could. In case of an attack by an external force, you would defend your nation and the people you loved. In the event of an injustice to a fellow citizen, you would stand up for their rights using the power of your vote or of protest.

But the world is not as simple anymore. We are now aware of disasters and injustices and evil in every corner of this round world. And while this knowledge has helped make us more empathetic towards people we do not directly know and who aren't necessarily similar to us, it has also created a generation that lives with a feeling of helplessness.

Because when you can't protect someone, or help those in need simply because they are too far away; and when you hear of a disaster thousands of kilometers away from you and you feel sad but you aren't there and cannot help; and when you hear of injustices to your fellow human in a country that isn't yours and where you have no power to change anything, all you can do is hope that things will get better.

War used to mean an attack on your home by an external force. Something with a face and direction that could be fought. You could defend yourself against a known enemy. We are now in the midst of a global war. There is no place left that is safe from evil. We hear of an attack each day, and the world hasn't even time enough to mourn over one when the next blow shakes us. How do we defend ourselves from an enemy that is everywhere and nowhere? So we stick our heads in the sand pretending that the storm will pass, because we have no solution.

When you read the news each day, each minute, and hear of all the terrible things happening, you simply want to take the world apart and put it back together right, because it is all such a mess. And you can't, so you cry each time you hear of another life destroyed. And you run out of tears and learn to stop caring, because otherwise you simply could not function. And you just give up on the world, adding yet another cynic to this world.

This feeling of apathy has us numb to pain, but it also has us frozen into inaction. So much so that even when there is something you can do, you don't. You witness someone killed on a train station right next to you and simply watch as if it's happening somewhere far away on your news feed, and there's nothing you can do. Just another story and another headline in a world that has nothing to do with you. Not really.

We are the connected generation. We know everything that is happening everywhere. But we are also the passive generation. We have no hope, no power and no solutions. This feeling of impotence, of caring without being able to do anything, slowly turns to apathy. It just hurts too much to care. After all, what's the point when there's nothing you can do about it? And yet we must care. It is the price we pay for being connected. We cannot enjoy the culture, art and knowledge of the world, without caring about its people. Our challenges are new, but we can't afford to do nothing. As Edmund Burke said,

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."