Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Virtue of Apathy

I have heard that the opposite of love is not hate, but apathy.  After thinking about this, though, I would say that the there is no binary relation here.  Love is a positive concern for others, hate is a negative concern for others, and apathy is no concern for others.  I am here to say that I believe apathy to be a long lost virtue of the Western world.

Many of the problems of the various dictatorships, revolutions, political movements, and wars in the past century have often been tempered with this notion of showing concern for others, in one form or another.  Think about it: the worst tyrants in the world have been those who were doing things for the greater good, even when they filled ditches with the rotting bodies of untold millions.

These tyrannies need not be part of some grand Statist “experiment” in some foolish political ideology.  The Food and Drug Administration, for example, was started to protect us from dangerous food and drugs.  Even today, you will find that the vast majority of Americans, regardless of political ideology, regard the FDA as a necessary agency for our safety.  Unfortunately, they fail to see that food is a product which can easily self-regulate, especially in this modern world with information streaming practically to our brains directly.  No food or drug that was harmful to people could survive a Twitter or Facebook-induced consumer panic.  Yet we still throw millions of dollars at an agency that could largely be replaced by a Twitter and Facebook account (or a bulletin board).

But on a much smaller scale, we could argue that so many people are looking out for other people, even when they do not want it.  At the local level, we have various rules and regulations coming from city councils, boards of supervisors, and homeowner’s associations all designed to show concern about where your outlets are, how many people live in your home, the color of the paint on your door, etc.  If I wanted to paint my entire house pastel green with a giant picture of an aborted fetus in one of my windows (for Halloween), what business should it be of yours or anyone else’s? (No, I personally do not want any of that but there are plenty of weirdoes out there)  The fact is, all these rules and regulations often times forget about the smallest minority (look up Ayn Rand’s quote on that if you don’t know what I mean) and they tend to be enforced with an iron scepter.  Remember all the lemonade stands that were shutdown by all those asshole local enforcers?  They all cited safety and concern for the people drinking the lemonade.  Never mind that they were probably looking to cash in with the fines in this shrinking economy.

The War on Poverty has created, by and large, the welfare generation, especially among minorities who often times feel like they are owed it due to some past offenses perpetrated on their parents and grandparents, now long dead.  This is not to say that life is not hard for many of these people, as it most certainly is, but I have seen little effort from many of them to change their own life’s circumstances.  I will grant that such endeavors are difficult and when you compare that work to the work it takes to fill out an application for a welfare benefit of some kind, you it is often times a no brainer.  Most folks on unemployment would rather stay on it than have a job because their unemployment pays more after all.  The welfare state was started, by and large, by people who cared way too much about the well-being of others, especially those who have no desire to help themselves.

The government is not the only institution which suffers from too much concern for others.  We have numerous charities that are mostly useless and only serve to prop up a few large donors while never truly helping others.  There are activist groups whose purposes never really amount to anything other than the promotion of their leaders to more and more positions of power.  While unions, both private and government, may increase the well-being of workers they represent, the union leaders often get much more benefit from it than the people they represent.

The point of all this is that people might do better if we lacked concern for others and instead worked to handle our own lives instead.  The first thing you must do in order to become a true follower of liberty is to stop showing concern for the needs of others, especially those who clearly could provide those needs for themselves on their own.  While it may be a noble to help a fellow man, it has largely become a vice in this culture.  In order to counter this, we must embrace the virtue of apathy in order to move forward and undo the damage perpetrated by the welfare state on the productive.