Episode 99: The Era of Apathy

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
All over the place, from the popular culture to the propaganda system, there is constant pressure to make people feel that they are helpless, that the only role they can have is to ratify decisions and to consume.
— Noam Chomsky
We’ve forgotten much. How to struggle, how to rise to dizzy heights and sink to unparalleled depths. We no longer aspire to anything. Even the finer shades of despair are lost to us. We’ve ceased to be runners. We plod from structure to conveyance to employment and back again. We live within the boundaries that science has determined for us. The measuring stick is short and sweet. The full gamut of life is a brief, shadowy continuum that runs from gray to more gray. The rainbow is bleached. We hardly know how to doubt anymore.
— Richard Matheson, Collected Stories, Vol. 1

In the constant whirlwind of tragedy, hardship and struggle in our modern news and throughout human history, some individuals have still managed to stir great emotion and change. Many, though, appear increasingly apathetic, offering only cursory or superficial sympathies in the face of mass atrocities and looming misfortune. Whether widespread or less prominent, what is to blame for this phenomenon of apathy? Have we become inundated with stories exposing failure in our reality? Are we afraid to risk our energy and emotion? Do we presume others might take up the mantle? We welcome Henry Burbank this week to explore this idea and the ways in which we might think about apathy in our world. We also discuss the ways in which our immediate communities and environments affect our relative interest and apathy. Does our human nature dictate whether we are inclined to care or give up?