Apathy and violence

A Continuation of Apathy

Humans, through the instinct of self-preservation, are driven to commit violent acts, utter violent words, entertain violent thoughts.  Additionally, mankind, through the same instinct, will also commit heinous psychological damage to one another.  A person may not ever commit a violent act, yet they will, at some point, psychologically harm another human being.  At the same time, regardless of what you may be thinking right this moment, humankind will also turn a blind eye to what is happening right in front of them, every day.

Have you ever said or thought the following:

-I hate you.

-I wish you were dead.

-You’re/he’s/she’s stupid.

-Name calling


-Making fun of another person for any reason


-He/she deserved what they got.

-I don’t feel sorry for you/them.

Have you ever turned a blind eye to the following:

-A massive catastrophe happens in another country, high death toll, even higher injuries.  Many without basic needs, such as shelter, food, water, clothing.  Many without knowledge of whether or not loved ones and friends are alive or dead or alive and suffering.  You don’t know them, it doesn’t affect you.

-You read the obituaries one day, but it doesn’t affect you personally because you didn’t know any of them.

-A news story tells of an apartment fire in your city or town, leaving the inhabitants homeless.  Proof of identity is burned up, so rebuilding their lives becomes an even harder task.  It’s no one you know, so although you feel bad for them, it’s only a surface feeling.

-You pass by a destitute, homeless person on the street, holding up a sign, asking for work in order to eat that day without giving them so much as a copper penny or the leftover fries sitting in your passenger seat you just picked up from McDonald’s a half hour ago.

-You have a family member in a living facility that you never visit, or you see it as a chore to go out and visit, so maybe only turn up on a holiday if you feel like it.

Have you ever done any of the following:

-Picked on someone weaker and smaller than yourself.

-Bullied a classmate.

-Started a fight.

-Finished a fight.

-Hit a loved one.

-Hit an animal.

-Hit any inanimate object in frustration or anger, other than for a sport.

-Spanked anyone.

-Slapped anyone.

-Threatened anyone.

-Threatened, bullied, or held something over a co-worker, subordinate, or boss at work.

-Shot anyone with any kind of weapon, regardless of reason.

Interestingly, most individuals are reluctant to commit violence.  But when ordered to do so, or with the backing of someone, a few people, or a crowd, many will do things they might not have done if acting solo.  Consider a few things that support this.  War.  Most people would never shoot another person to kill.  But we as a people do it all the time, under orders, during war.  Crowd violence.  Sports games (consider the fans of a losing or winning side), city gang violence (that’s why they call it “gang” violence”), prejudice (white supremacists, the public reaction to the Rodney King beating not to mention the beating itself, are just an extremely small handful of examples.  Kids picking on other kids on the playground.  Adrenalin-rush acts of violence by more than one person, such as rape, beatings, murder by groups such as sports teams and folks who’ve had too much to drink.

Two great works of fiction stand out for me in covering these subjects very well:  Lord of the Flies and Animal Farm.  Both show humanity or human beings perpetuating these thoughts and deeds, show the willingness of people to choose not to acknowledge or flat out ignore the sufferings of others, and also show the mindset of group influence.  Granted there are more.

Human history is rife with examples, the list would take up tons of space.  Groups like the Ku Klux Klan torturing and killing negros, the Catholic church sanctioning torture and murder during the Dark Ages and the Inquisition, the Nazi regime and the victims of the Holocaust are but so few of the glaring illustrations of the nature of human violence, thoughts, and ignorance and all of a result of the need for self-preservation.

So what’s my point?  I have none.  I’ve just been discussing a few things ranging anywhere from theology to scientific research to starving children to the theory of memetics with some friends of mine and the downsides of self-preservation came to mind.  All I’m doing at this particular moment in time is getting out what’s on my mind.

Post Script:  I’ve only used a questionable source, Wikipedia, to explain some terminology in the above.   Anyone may feel free to add more reputable links in their comments.

One Response to “Apathy and violence”

  1. Apathy is an interesting thing, especially in times of war, prejudice, attempted genocide, etc. Are we acting merely on command, or do we have a deeply rooted bias towards some things without even knowing, therefore allowing us to choose apathy over sympathy? It is easy to act on command, as we are able to more readily justify what we have done or said as merely following orders. It is also easier to see apathy in these types of circumstances. On the flip side, sometimes we as humans do not even know where our apathy comes from, and therefore don’t even acknowledge it. For instance, take a young white female who is walking down the streets in a dark alley of a city. Are they more apt to fear a white male of similar dress, or a male of color (be it African-American, Hispanic, etc)? We have been taught through our ancestors and horrible media outlets that we shouldn’t fear our own race. This goes both ways (as evidenced by those against Americans for the simple fact that they are Americans). So, where does apathy come from, and why do we as humans harbor ill-feelings towards others? What has philosophy taught us about respecting others, our elders, etc? Has this been an ongoing problem since the beginning of man-kind, or is it a learned behavior? And, what effect does depression, numerous trials, etc have on people? I would bet that those who have seen the murder of a loved one first hand, or who have experienced prejudice, etc are more sympathetic than those who have not experienced harsher trials in life. But if that is the case, then maybe apathy is somewhat learned (or acquired) throughout our lives.

    It’s an interesting topic, and one that can take on many different views and opinions. I’m sure there is some research as well that goes into apathy and human nature. And, there has got to be some philosophical writing regarding the subject.

    I like your post, but now I gotta pick on you to make it better. You talk about prejudice, but merely stick to prejudice that has been main-streamed for quite some time now. Although racial prejudice is still an issue today, you have failed to include other types of prejudices that have had quite the same effect on mankind. Possibly not as large in scale as racial prejudice, but still at the forefront of our lives today. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about now – sexual prejudice.

    Although I am religious and therefore agree that there is a divine purpose for the creation of male and female, I do NOT agree with prejudice against those who choose otherwise. It is appalling that some feel “they deserved what they got” when a homosexual is beaten to death merely on the basis of his sexual orientation. It is disgusting and wrong. However, the majority of people will turn a blind eye to what is going on, and have been doing so for a while now. It is not right.

    There are other types of prejudice that have long been in our culture (religious, social/economic standing, etc) but I feel that the above mentioned prejudice is one that is at the forefront of our society today, and should not be dismissed when discussing apathy and the decline of sympathy in mankind. All in all though, you have caused me to think on the subject, which I’m sure was your intent 🙂

    Anyways, I hope all is well in Oregon! Arizona is heating up, and Nathan’s schooling is crazy with the boards in July. But the girls are doing great, and we’re having fun 🙂

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