There are so many unfortunate things happening in the world. The meat that we eat comes almost entirely from the unsavory process of factory farming. Animals like cows, chickens, and pigs are genetically engineered so that they will grow larger faster. Most of them are fed hormones to promote growth and are kept in extremely small confined areas. The population density makes diseases spread extremely easily, so the animals are kept alive with steady doses of antibiotics, weakening the immune system and making the various species even more susceptible to disease. All these measures, which most people consider detestable, are carried out so that more people can get cheaper meat, and more of it. Food companies increase efficiency to meet the demand of consumers, no matter the moral cost.
Despite the existence of these continued atrocities, they are still carried out on a daily basis, and few changes have been made to the industrial food system. Few people who read expository literature like Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Eating Animals”, which exposes the violent practices of the food industry, actually go on to attempt to illicit change. Most do not even change their eating habits. It seems that, although people know that these undesirable things are happening, they have no drive to make them stop.
This pattern can be found in virtually all societal issues. Of all the people who see a commercial for paying eleven cents a day to feed someone in Africa, only a fraction actually choose to participate. It is so easy to make a distinct difference in someone’s life, but people do not do it. I personally find that the fact that gay marriage is not legal across the entire United States to be a great injustice. However, I have no interest in attempting to change anything. It is simply not worth my time.
Although not many admit to it, this mind set is extremely common and even important. It is very helpful, when faced with a social issue, to say, “That sucks, but I just don’t care enough to do anything about it.” If people did not have this selfish ideal, nothing else would get done. For example, if I was extremely passionate about every injustice that I perceived, I would be lobbying and protesting so many different problems that I would not have time for anything else. It would not even matter, because all of the people who disagreed with me would be doing the same thing. No one would have time to enjoy their own life if they were constantly trying to improve the lives of others.
It is in this principal that we see the incredible importance of apathy. The ability to not care about others keeps the cogs of society turning. The next time you hear about some misfortune befalling a stranger or strangers, remember that it is not happening to you, so you do not need to worry about it. You can then return to trying to improve your own life and pursuing your own happiness.
Image from Outside the Beltway.