A lot of you cared, just not enough.

Jay Asher, Thirteen Reasons Why


This article attempts to broaden the contemporary understanding of apathy, and to reconnect it to its grounding conditions, in other words, why it exists. This broadening and reconnection demand that apathy is understood in a more complete way, not simply in terms of its immediate consequences to self, and society.

First it is important to distinguish between clinical apathy, and wilful or contemporary apathy, which is our focus. The clinical syndrome of apathy refers to a disorder of goal-directed behaviour, manifesting as reduced motivation compared with a previous level of functioning,1 it is a sickness that the person does not have control over.

Wilful apathy is a determined choice to not do something, or a stubborn intention to do as one wants, regardless of the consequences or effects it would have on self or others. In this case apathy is not a lack of motivation, but a lack of interest due to ignorance. Apathy can manifest as a lack of care towards a person, or subject matter. For persons, it can be a lack of empathy for an addict, or a cold demeanor towards a person of transgender.

Apathy towards a particular matter ensues when one fails to see meaning in it. A good example is voter apathy. The psychological factors that influence voter behavior are a voter’s perceptions of politics, that is, how the voter sees the parties, the candidates, and the issues in an election.2

Why Don't People Care Enough

One of the most common reasons we do not care, or participate in change, is because our awareness has not been raised to a level from where we can realize that a change is needed. While others may express concerns, you may simply deny that there is a need for an intervention. For many, they do not care because it will not benefit them in any way. For others, those who suffer, brought it unto themselves. They just cannot seem to grasp the reality that the sick and suffering exist to give us a chance to become better human beings. This concept is beyond them. Before a person takes the appropriate measures to create a change, there has to be a shift in their perception and understanding of existence.

Many times people do not participate because they do not believe in their power to bring about change. This is usually seen in the political process with the lack of willingness to vote. In this case there is a lack of education. Explaining the effects of the butterfly effect, and the potential consequences of staying the same could help move a person into the next stage.

People Are At Different Levels of Evolution

The Buddhist Explaination: "In general," continued the Master, "we distinguish three kinds of individuals: those whose intelligence is completely dull ; those whose intelligence is of average quality, able to understand some Truths which are specially evident ; those endowed with an intelligence better equipped for acute perceptions, who are fit to penetrate below the surface of the world of physical phenomena and grasp the causes which are at work there. These three degrees being called respectively: thama, ding and rab.3

People at the level of thama, need to see immediate results of their action. Faith and selfless service, or the idea of working for a cause is beyond them. Ding, will particpate because they have been told that this is good. They take instruction well, but they lack the ability to discern what lies beyond. They are not aware of how the sppiritual universal laws of cause and effect work, and they have no interest in it. The rab have the degree of intellectual acuteness, with a highly developed instinct, intuition, and insight to see with clarity how each thought, word, and deed will manifest in the future. Rab take the necessary care to ensure that apathy never gets the chance to creep into any of their matters.

That is why we need to keep reminding ourselves about the importance of non-attachment to our actions. Do your duty, but do not expect the fruits of your action. Just because you do not see an immediate change, do not think that there are no consequences for your actions. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

Degrees of Apathy

Apathy can be selective. A person could be passionately involved in volunteering at an AIDS clinic but look down upon, and gossip about a heroin addict. I have spent 10 years living on the streets and have witnessed this phenomenon often. What this tells me about apathy is that a person who at times may display characteristics associated with apathy, may have a kind heart when dealing with other challenges which involve individuals at a disadvantage.

From this observation one can intelligently conclude that an oblivious attitude(apathy) is in no way a defect in character, but an outcome of a painful experience that has left an element of fear in the heart of a person in whom lingers a robber of love, disguised as avarice. This robber puts a barrier in the path of an individual, preventing them from leading a rich and diverse life.

Apathy Related Suffering


Simultaneous and contradictory attitudes or feelings (as attraction and repulsion) toward an object, person, or action. Confusing the person. Often times people play sadistic games that harbor such attitudes.


Not showing human feeling or sensitivity.


Lacking affection or warm feeling and without care or thought for another.


Not showing or reciprocating emotions. Staying aloof and cold towards other people.