Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Ostrich Effect: Apathy in an increasingly complex world

 An ostrich with it's head in the sand is a ridiculous image, not connected with an equally ridiculous idea: if you hide your head in the sand then your problem will magically vanish.  History is full of apathy, from the reluctant United States refusing to enter World War II until after Pearl Harbor to the Chinese and Japanese Isolationists who refused to accept any outside interference... Humans just seem to have a tendency to ignore what dosen't suit them. One of my favorite political cartoonists of all time was Dr. Seuss, who worked against the apathy of the United States populace and attempted to get people to move forward and learn more about the war that was going in the western world. The government quite enjoyed their position of selling ammunition and guns to either side, and everyone seemed glad that they were out of their little friends silly conflict. Little did they know that their apathy made them a perfect target for the Japanese kamakazis, who took Pearl Harbor with hardly any resistance. Now it is dangerous, but what exactly is it?
Apathy comes from a greek word "Apatheia" which described the state of mind where one is free from emotional entanglements. And it's a nice thought really, after a broken heart one would really like to be free from emotional entanglements... caring hurts a lot in the end after all, and who cares if thousands are dying in some unknown region of the world. It's different from inaction from fear, it's merely inaction from lack of caring about the subject. Or as one prophet in the Book of Mormon put it:  “to be less and less astonished at sign or wonder from heaven, insomuch that they began to be hard in their hearts, and blind in their minds, and began to disbelieve all which they had heard and seen” (3 Nephi 2:1).
Apathy comes in many different shapes or forms... in a citizen who refuses to vote because it's only a off year and those senators don't actually do anything anyways, or in a student who ignores the news because it dosen't relate to his major, or even in a neighbor who hears strange things and just ignores it because it's not his house. We live in an increasingly self-centered world where people are more apt to ignore what they don't like than actually think about anything. Trouble that can lead to trials just as difficult as Pearl Harbor. 
How do we fight apathy? How do we get people to care about the world around them? There are so many different ways that have worked throughout history political cartoonists like Dr. Seuss and others try and make the public aware of problems that are facing our society in an entertaining manner.  Others create websites and shows with the intention of encouraging the general populace to action, like the internet ban for the destruction of SOPA.
However our founding fathers were also wary of letting the general populace to have complete control over everything, because sometimes the apathetic who have been activated, may not have been activated by a reliable source.
Beware of the sheeple.....

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