Here’s what Merriam-Webster says about apathy:
1: lack of feeling or emotion : IMPASSIVENESS
drug abuse leading to apathy and depression
2: lack of interest or concern : INDIFFERENCE
How Apathy Differs From Impassivity and Indifference
Apathy, impassivity, and indifference all denote a lack of responsiveness to something that might normally excite interest or emotion. Apathy suggests a puzzling or deplorable inertness or lack of passion, as in “the problem of continued voter apathy.” Impassivity stresses the absence of any external sign of emotion in action or facial expression, as in “teachers frustrated by the impassivity of their students.” Indifference connotes a lack of interest in or concern about something, as in “the company’s apparent indifference to the needs of its employees.”
The Greek Origins of Apathy
There’s no reason to be uncaring about the origins of apathy—though there is a clue to the word’s beginnings in this sentence. Apathy was borrowed into English in the late 16th century from Greek apatheia, which itself comes from the adjective apathēs, meaning “without feeling.” Apathēs, in turn, was formed by combining the negating prefix a- with pathos, meaning “emotion.” Incidentally, if you’ve guessed that pathos is the source of the identically spelled noun in English (meaning either “an element in experience or in artistic representation evoking pity or compassion” or “an emotion of sympathetic pity”), you are correct. Pathos also gave us such words as antipathy, empathy, sympathy, pathetic, and even the archaic word pathematic (“emotional”).
Here are some quotes about apathy:
“Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their backs on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their behinds.” — Abraham Lincoln
“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
“If I didn’t care for fun and such,
I’d probably amount to much.
But I shall stay the way I am,
Because I do not give a damn.” — Dorothy Parker
“The refusal to take sides on great moral issues is itself a decision. It is a silent acquiescence to evil. The Tragedy of our time is that those who still believe in honesty lack fire and conviction, while those who believe in dishonesty are full of passionate conviction.” — Fulton Sheen
“I’m terrified at the moral apathy, the death of the heart, which is happening in my country. These people have deluded themselves for so long that they really don’t think I’m human. I base this on their conduct, not on what they say. And this means that they have become, in themselves, moral monsters.” — James Baldwin
“Scientists talk about dark matter, the invisible, mysterious substance that occupies the space between stars. Dark matter makes up 99.99 percent of the universe, and they don’t know what it is. Well I do. It’s apathy. That’s the truth of it; pile together everything we know and care about in the universe and it will still be nothing more than a tiny speck in the middle of a vast black ocean of Who Gives a Fuck.” — David Wong
“… the opposite of love is not hate — it’s apathy. It’s not giving a damn. If somebody hates me, they must “feel” something … or they couldn’t possibly hate. Therefore, there’s some way in which I can get to them.” — Leo Buscaglia
“Compassion is an unstable emotion. It needs to be translated into action, or it withers. The question of what to do with the feelings that have been aroused, the knowledge that has been communicated. If one feels that there is nothing ‘we’ can do — but who is that ‘we’? — and nothing ‘they’ can do either — and who are ‘they’ — then one starts to get bored, cynical, apathetic.” — Susan Sontag
Do you see apathy in any of today’s images?
I don’t know what I was feeling when I took that selfie five years ago, but I know it wasn’t apathy.
Here’s a song about apathy from the 1967 movie Bedazzled, performed by the devil (in the guise of the latest pop star).
I am filled with the opposite of apathy as I look forward to comments about this “Apathy” post, below.
Non-apathetic thanks to Abraham Lincoln, Elie Wiesel, James Baldwin, Fulton Sheen, Dorothy Parker, David Wong, Leo Buscaglia, Susan Sontag, Dan Rather, people on the front line of this pandemic, Merriam, Webster, Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, and everyone else who helps me create these daily posts, including YOU.