Does not caring simply stem from not knowing?
In some corner of the world, a joke was born. This joke was meant to be funny and educational in that it defined ignorance and apathy with a play on terminology. You might have heard it before and it might be familiar to you, but let me be the nth person to write it down (and hopefully elicit some form of pity laughter):
What’s the difference between ignorance and apathy?
I don’t know and I don’t care.
And while I know the joke is not exactly the funniest, it is true. Ignorance is when you’re not aware of something and apathy is when you simply don’t feel bothered by what you do know—both different and yet both equally appalling to modern society. After all, information is almost literally within our fingertips and how could you not be moved to action (or, at least, verbal argument) with everything going on around us? It’s a crazy world but there are crazier people living in it.
Will curing ignorance also cure apathy? Will education cure inaction?
The theory is that when people are made aware and they are given access to the right information, that they will no longer be apathetic and they will start to care. After all, once you know why the polar ice caps are melting and everything this could do to the rest of the world, how can you not do your part to reduce humanity’s carbon footprint? Once you learn the history of people, that were once treated like animals for no real and apparent reason, how could you not fight for them? When you learn what is fair and what is unjust, how can you not demand the former by any and all means necessary?
Education, after all, is power. And once you know something is wrong, there’s no excuse not to do your part to make it right…right?
Ay, there’s the rub: The more accurate truth is that we cannot make someone care.
I was brought up in an educational institution that believed in forming girls into women of action. They brought us to the slums, they had us teach in public schools, they took us on a cruise down Pasig river. And while we certainly learned and felt things on the days of our activities, I can say with complete confidence that not all of those lessons and feelings stuck with us.
And before I seemingly lambast my school (that I love, btw, don’t get me wrong) even more, let me make things more general. You can prove, over and over again, how good of a person you are but that will not make someone love you.
So how do you cure apathy, if not with education?
The answer, in my opinion, is honest conversation and maybe a bit of stubbornness. You cannot just open someone’s eyes; you have to make them look. You have to listen to what they’re saying and convince them that any piece of action—even verbal—makes a difference. So much of apathy is rooted in the belief that nothing can be done, that there is no changing routine, that the results are not worth the effort. Education is not enough.
But they are. A world in which people are free to live, is a dream that’s well worth it.
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver