Hate Is Not The Opposite Of Love; Apathy Is
I have a confession to make. I have clicked a button that made me feel better, and made me feel a worse person at the same time. I mentally abandoned something I should have no right to abandon…
I unsubscribed from Oxfam emails.
There. I said it. I can’t be the only one. It’s not that I don’t care. I just can’t read them that many times a week. I don’t want to adopt a goat or buy another mosquito net. I do my bit, I give when I can. So why does it feel so terribly, terribly wrong to decide that I’ll only care when I can? When did apathy become ok?
Apathy requires no definition. It’s possibly the ultimate self-fulfilling omnipotent concept. By its very nature we acknowledge we know what it is, but we can’t be bothered to turn off the TV and give it any real thought. Its power is what renders us powerless. So what is it that persuades us to give way to apathy when we know that something matters?
Maybe it’s because apathy isn’t actually a powerless thing; it’s a conscious as well as a subconscious choice. And to be a choice there needs to be alternative, and a decision making process, whether logical or rational or otherwise. I’m not about to go into some Freudian or Kutchner style dialogue on power or persuasion… But I can’t help but ask myself why is apathy as a choice, well… so damn persuasive?
We live in an age where, far from lacking in access to news, we have information overload. Anyone with a smartphone or internet access sits but a few clicks away from endless knowledge and evidence of the world beyond their screens. So why is it that so many millions of people will click diligently through the news, or social networks or a gazillion other sites, and yet we DO so little?
Does the fact that the Internet casts its net over billions of people dilute its perceived potential for change? Of people’s potential to make change, online or otherwise? Does over-familiarity with the endless stream of 24hour news tragedies, injustices and politics serve to estrange us to the fact that they affect us all?
Maybe I’ve just had brand overload. I know what Oxfam do and stand for and why it matters. Maybe they just overwhelmed me and the constant emails about inordinate suffering interrupting my insignificant and over-privileged existence became an unwelcome intrusion. Thats right. I’ve made it their fault.
Oh for gods sake I’m going to have to go and donate again now. I’ll give what’s in my paypal account from my ebay endeavours (thanks whoever bought that Bumbo).
I guess my decision to unsubscribe doesn’t rest well because I committed myself to trying to do something at least once a week to ‘make a difference’. Replying to a plea for petition signatures on my friends’ Facebook pages (I usually do – if they’re friends and it matters to them enough to post it I’ll take a look), keeping up to date on ongoing campaigns on issues that matter to me, writing the odd email or attending the odd consultation event in my local community. I can’t engage in big demos the way I would have a decade ago, so I’m trying to find my own way to engage, get involve, and contribute. Even if it often turns out I’m just filling in an online form.
But still, I’m feeling bad about unsubscribing to those emails. I feel as though I closed a little bit of my heart. that’s probably why they send them.
Not sure quite where this came from… I meant to write this post about apathy and the Leveson Inquiry. Probably better I didn’t!
PS the quote in the header is from Rollo May. He was a very interesting chap who wrote, among other things, on humanist thought and from what I recall, had lot of lovely things to say. You can always google him if you’re interested