The virtues of apathy
September 2, 2014
Sometimes it seems that what the world really needs is more apathy, at least about some things. Apathy is sometimes viewed as being universally negative, but I’d suggest that in some cases it’s the ideal emotion.
One obvious example that comes to mind is homosexuality. This is the part that may sound offensive to some, but I simply don’t give the slightest damn about a person’s sexual orientation. When I hear someone is gay my visceral reaction has been, well, non-existent. I have no reaction let alone a visceral one. It’s much akin to my reaction when I heard that Sri Lanka scored 104 for the loss of 3 wickets in 18.2 overs in defeating Pakistan in the recent cricket ODI. Actually, I have less apathy and more curiosity about cricket because it seems so contrived and unnatural. I am boringly apathetic when I learn someone is not a heterosexual and have the hardest time understanding why anyone would care.
Another area where I must confess my apathy is regarding a person’s race. Universal apathy about race is a desirable end-point for society. The sooner society has the same level of apathy toward the color of a person’s skin as they do toward the color of a person’s eyes, the sooner we can address the pervasive problems caused by generations of prejudice and discrimination.
The danger of expressing apathy about sexual orientation or race is that it can be interpreted as being aloof or oblivious to the real, on-going struggles of the particular group. There is a duality regarding apathy in that one can and should be personally apathetic about individuals but at the same time be engaged about eliminating discrimination directed toward those individuals.
To me, this duality makes perfect sense. What doesn’t make sense is why anyone would care so much about a person’s sexual orientation, the percent of melanin in their skin, or any other innate, personal attribute.
It’s all about knowing when to care and when not to give a damn.