|A possible advocate for apathy|
"Is it wicked not to care/when they say that you're mistaken/Thinking hopes and lots of dreams that aren't there?" so singeth Glaswegian indie-pop stalwarts Belle & Sebastian. They were onto something with that 1998 composition. Apathy is generally regarded to be one of the great crises of modern youth. Everything's shit and we don't care. The economy's in tatters and we don't care. Politicians are lying parasites and we don't care. Louis Walsh still has a job on TV and we don't care.
But I would like to extol the the virtues of apathy. Not caring about things may be a very narrow-minded and, indeed, conceited way to approach life but golly it makes things a lot easier. I'm not even talking about political apathy, which is the most popular form of apathy young people are accused of engaging in, I'm discussing more quotidian, everyday apathy. Let me share my own experiences with apathy and you can judge for yourself.
What actually compelled me to write this was yesterday's relative furore surrounding the no-make-up selfie for cancer which was all over Facebook and Twitter. I must admit I found the whole thing rather irksome.
At first, you had the girls' posting selfies of themselves without make-up to raise awareness for breast cancer charities. An admirable cause though I must admit I wasn't wholly enamoured with the whole concept. "Raising awareness" is a pretty hollow platitude and I just felt it was yet another example of the pseudo-activism, a.k.a feeling-like-you're-doing-something-worthwhile-when-actually-you're-not-doing-much-really, that seems to pervade social media a la Kony 2012. But I resisted the slight urge I had to write a disparaging status/post because I really didn't care. No one was being harmed by this. It may even do some good. I stepped back from the keyboard and decided it was all very harmless.
Then, the whole thing turned into one big slugging match between the selfie posters and the people who sort of agreed with the point I had made above. The problem was that these people turned into sanctimonious pricks as they insisted on posting pictures of them donating money to charity from their phones onto Facebook/Twitter, ostensibly to "raise awareness" in a more efficient way, but really just to show-up the selfish bastards who would only post selfies for cancer.
I thought to myself "Why do you feel the need to show off your donation to the world? Why can you not do it in private? You can still urge others to donate and raise awareness without posting a "LOOK AT ME. I'M A GREAT PERSON" picture. But I did not wish to get involved. It was irrelevant*.
It happens every week on Facebook/Twitter. I see something I find idiotic or offensive, such as the neknomination craze and the stupid, over-the-top reaction to it, and I take a step back, realise the irrelevancy of it all and ignore it. Another example came just last week. That Fáilte Ireland #IrelandInspires video. It was essentially a piece of masterful propaganda that would have made Josef Goebbels wince and exclaim "Fuck me lads, you've outdone yourselves". It essentially celebrated the bailout and us being a tax haven. And yet it was plastered across my newsfeed for days on end. Yet I bit my lip and didn't say a word.
It makes life so much easier. Before I would have felt obliged to voice my opinion and/or condemnation like a judgemental prick but now, with the power of apathy, I don't feel the need to.
This can manifest itself in harmful ways however. Just because one is apathetic does not mean one should lack compassion or love or a sense of justice or any other supposed human emotions. At least it shouldn't in theory. But it actually can. Take last Saturday. I'm in McDonalds here in Krakow and deciding whether to order the new New York Beef Classic Burger or stick to the tried and trusted McRoyal (European version of a quarter pounder. I know, I thought of Jules and Vincent too).
As I peered at the McDonald's logo hanging above the window-sill I thought of how evil a corporation McDonald's is. I thought of the recent allegations of tax avoidance, I thought of their despicable treatment of their employees worldwide, their egregious record with regards to animal rights and the fact they're basically one of the faces of neo-liberal, globalised, Americanised capitalism.
But then I thought, "Fuck it. I'm really hungry." And I bought the New York Big Beef Classic. Bad person? Possibly. Satisfied customer. Certainly.
I've noticed this many times before. The apathy which I have ingrained in myself allows me to divorce myself from moral issues which should plague me. It's the same in Penney's. I know about their woeful record with regards to cheap labour in foreign, mostly Asian, countries. I know that that building collapse in Bangladesh which killed 1129 people last year makes clothes for Penney's (Though they did provide a minuscule amount of compensation, unlike some other companies who produced products there). And yet if I need a cheap pair of runners or a bargain t-shirt I will nip into Penney's to buy it. When you spell it out like that it sounds a bit evil, doesn't it?
I'm not saying I don't find McDonald's or Penney's labour and tax practices repugnant, of course I do, but I can justify using their products in my head with flawed reasoning like "Uh, I'm broke" or "Uh I'm hungry" or "Uh, what difference does one fucking Big Mac make to their global machine anyway?". Of course, this is not a malaise which is exclusive to myself. Everyone's guilty of it. Something to do with Western society, neo-liberalism or something something.
Though I must admit I still enjoy the relaxation apathy imbues in me. As a result of it, feel I have I become more aware of my own mortality and less concerned with it. One of my favourite TV programmes at the minute is HBO's fantastic, outstanding True Detective. It follows two detectives in Louisiana on a 17 year hunt for a sadistic serial killer.Matthew McConaughey plays Detective Rust Cohle who, while not being totally apathetic, is definitely a bit nihilistic and perhaps a smidgen solipsistic. He's like an existentialist philosopher who's also a hard-drinking homicide detective. Like a mixture of Jimmy McNulty and Sartre. He comes out with some intriguing soliloquies and speeches on subjects as disparate as human life, the universe, love and religion which really help validate my now inherent apathy.
Take this one for instance -
"I think human consciousness, is a tragic misstep in evolution. We became too self-aware, nature created an aspect of nature separate from itself, we are creatures that should not exist by natural law. We are things that labor under the illusion of having a self; an accretion of sensory, experience and feeling, programmed with total assurance that we are each somebody, when in fact everybody is nobody. Maybe the honorable thing for our species to do is deny our programming, stop reproducing, walk hand in hand into extinction, one last midnight, brothers and sisters opting out of a raw deal"
Pretty deep, huh? But it sums up the absurdity of human life and emotions quite well in my eyes. It might not be pretty or altruistic or even very nice but apathy is one surefire way to comfort and tranquility. It asks nothing of you but in return you get so much. I urge you to give it a go. Anything that irks you, or perturbs you or downright disgusts you that you see on the internet or anywhere else for that matter, ignore it. It makes it all so much easier.
*I realise posting my opinions now is, in a sense, getting involved though I feel it is necessary to do so to illustrate where I'm coming from with regards to apathy.