Anxiety versus Apathy
By R. D. Flavin

1-16-2015

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     I've been troubled of late (as, perhaps, others have been) over the low voter turnout in our recent state and local elections. Yet, many whom I generally consider as either belonging to the Democratic Party or conduct themselves in a pro-active liberal and progressive manner, avoided the polling booth. Concerning the latter, I directly refer to the many significant protests which have occurred in over a dozen cities around the country for a variety of reasons. I truly wonder and question how many of those demonstrators and protesters actually exercised their civil right and duty and bothered to participate in the last election. The answer, I suspect, has to do with the psychological extremes of anxiety versus apathy. Being either too excitable or not sufficiently motivated (bordering on hypocritical laziness) are the distinctions which come easiest to the mind. Many reasons could account for this civil disconnect and I believe it's at least worth a try to examine these extremes.

     It 'should' go without qualifying that psychology is still in its early stages of development and refinement. Despite the quality of the work produced by the likes of William James and Hugo Munsterberg, Harvard University considered psychology a branch of philosophy until 1936. Through trial and error, the discipline has advanced, though when adjusted with the ongoing studies in the field of neuroscience and how the human brain 'actually' functions, the future of psychology seems on a surer footing. I remain greatly worried and concerned about the ever-increasing usage of chemicals to treat certain psychological problems, as much guess-work is often involved.

     The comparison or conflict between anxiety and apathy is likely quite ancient and may very well have existed at the dawn of our species some 2.3 million years ago. Whoever first likened modern humans (homo sapiens sapiens) as cave-folk with computers was certainly correct. Yet, 'wise wise man' aside and even skirting cultural dysfunctions, this latest widespread emergence of anxiety v. apathy has most assuredly solicited my concern.

     Our freedoms of assembly and open protests (within legal parameters) have increased in many fair and balanced countries and has imbued and emboldened public displays of dissent and disagreement more so than at any time in our history (and probably prehistory, as well). For the most part, many are proud of these freedoms. In rare, and often misunderstood, instances some feel threatened by such behavior. In America we hold the Civil Rights marches and the Vietnam War protests as near societally sacred. Those who came of age after 1975 and the Fall of Saigon did some tree-hugging, demonstrated outside of a few nuclear power plants, but were basically raised with cable, video-games, and, now, the Internet . Jobs were transferred overseas, the cost of living went bi-polar, our geopolitical responsibilities went and stayed global, and the Ugly American practiced perfunctoriness, compromise or inaction. Oh, we've had our moments, yet we all feel the plight of the apathetic and can't admit we're not asking the correct questions. The Ferguson, St. Louis County, MO riots with ALL parties contributing their share of assholiness, the “I Can't Breathe” meme in the making from the unfortunate “choke-hold” incident, and with the murders of 2 NYPD police officers and all those turning of backs by guys with badges and guns, it's tough to pick your fights. If you're in a fighting mood, that is.

     To have the head of the CDC suggest a horrible measles epidemic so the redneck asswipes can see their dead kids lying in the streets to override the apathetic makes me both proud and embarrassed. A sad answer to the 'anti'-crowd (anti-vaccinations, anti-homosexual rights, anti-taxes, anti-government, anti immigration reform, anti-medical marijuana, anti-science, etc.), but we are a just democracy and we'll follow the rules because it's the right thing to do... I'm reminded of a line from 2005's Batman Begins: Alfred Pennyworth: Why do we fall sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up. I will not apologize for being a contemporary American, with wins and losses, I KNOW things will get better (there's a 2 to 5 chance they'll get worse) before they do. It'll be okay, ...someday soon.

     Okay, enough with the the fluff and tricky compositional misdirection. Ah, I meant 'introduction' to establishing and offering support for the main theme of this column on anxiety v. apathy. I'm suffering from such and I'm simply ...commenting. I hope I'm up for this, but let's shift to skinny-time (“skinny,” for those unfamiliar with the slang refers to a truthful statement expressed in the fewest possible words). Anxiety is action or the consideration of action and apathy is how no one cares how many regard the introduction of the new White Castle vegetarian “slider.” Ketchup is such a powerful force in the Universe that it, I believe, could bring about world peace and assist in certain problems in particle physics, but I doubt that even the greatest Heinz could save the vegetarian “slider.” Just saying...

     Differences created the Universe, brought about life and its evolution on this spinning rock which sustains an atmosphere built for the best (i.e., 'us' and all other life-forms), our individual or group behaviors culturally separate us, yet may one day evolve into something else, something we can't predict or imagine. Scary to some (anxiety), while others have no concern for the future (apathy). Every generation has its extremists (both peaceful and violent) with a middle majority which most regard as 'normal' or representational and predominant of our species. It takes many parts to make a whole...

     Please forgive me for my using such an easy and mundane example, but I would compare the perceived conflict between anxiety and apathy with ...diets and dieting. While many exist, with everyday producing some 'new' variation on some (relatively) old suggestion, most doctors and scientists calmly insist on ALL things in moderation. The fats, sugars, starches, and even certain types of exercise, be consumed or conducted within safe and reasonable parameters, that is, in moderation.

     We must suspend our dependence (ah, 'temporarily') on both skepticism and optimism, and allow events, behaviors, and perceptions as equal in qualification. It may well be we 'need' anxiety under the proper conditions and that apathy may emerge as a philosophical method of action through inaction. Sure, to err is to be human, to forgive is akin to being 'divine', however I would put forth a model which includes all, that is, the good, bad, ugly, beautiful, right, wrong, indifferent or dedicated as distinct slices of the pie. We carry out our π to different places...

pet the weasel, but be careful,
Rick

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