Apathy in Australian society Decode(); Joseph
A sickness has infected our society, seeping into the very beliefs and convictions
that we once held as truths. I speak of apathy, a cold indifference that undermines,
not only our individual autonomy but also our very democratic ideal.
Before I begin I would like to make one thing clear. I am not going to stand here
and insult all of your intelligence by using words and devices to trick you into
my belief, rather I will appeal to you intellect and reason. You final decision
as to the truth of the matter will be based not on a superficial or emotional
argument. It will be based on the truth.
When an individual comes to a stage where they are beyond caring on any given
issue, they are said to be apathetic or indifferent. Such a condition of listlessness
is present and thriving in Australian contemporary society, undermining the credibility
of Australia in the global community and allowing those perspicuous enough to
exploit it, with an opportunity for immense power and wealth.
A great paradox exists in relation to Australian political participation; although
the role of government has expanded to affect nearly every aspect of our lives,
we, as a people seem not to care about the debates and outcomes that affect all
of us directly. Today, unlike at the founding, the government takes on a wide
array of responsibilities, ranging from the regulation of industry standards to
the provision of free and equal opportunities for education for every citizen
under the age of eighteen. All of us have a stake in the government and should
be comparatively involved and interested.
The apathy that I seek to expose in Australian society is by no means towards
everything, nor does everybody feel it. It is displayed from a particular cross
section of society towards a select number of issues. This on its own is harmless,
every person is apathetic towards issues that they feel do not concern them. In
fact, this is one of the major causes of apathy, along with a lack of knowledge
of the subject matter, a perceived superfluity and complexity of information and
a simple lack of interest. The problem in Australia is that people are often apathetic
towards important issues in society, particularly those relating to domestic government.
The whole idea of the democratic system is that each individual should have a
voice in the running of their society; both through voting and free speech. In
this way the needs of the people are represented and theoretically addressed.
By displaying indifference towards the issues and decisions that affect society,
people not only waste their valuable freedom of expression but also make a mockery
of the system of elections, voting on only the most superficial grounds and sometimes
not even at all. This being the case there is very little argument that would
support contemporary democracy over a dictatorship or even an anarchy. It would
seem then that Oscar Wilde was right when he said, Democracy means simply the
bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.
Evidence of this is all around us. Look for instance at the way we, as a people,
view and elect governments. It will usually start with dissatisfaction with the
government in power, not necessarily on any issue of policy. But simply because
Australians seem to have an inherent urge to anathematize authority figures. Ask
an Australian for instance, what he thinks of the Prime Minister. "He’s a dickhead"
would be your most common response. If you were to press further and enquire the
grounds for this assertion you would probably find that 80% of the time, it is
simply hating authority for the sake of it.
According to many studies conducted over the years, citizens generally report
that they are dissatisfied with the government as a whole, but pleased with their
local representatives, who had pledged, during their campaigns, to make waves
in government and to clean up the graft and inefficiency of the bureaucracy. However,
the voters have are not informed of what their representatives have done in office
and, with the exception of election time, nor do they care. This is a situation
that is not only present in Australia, it happens all over the world, as a general
rule in western liberal democracies it can be said that the view and participation
people have of government is either highly superficial or non existent.
So what happened to the spirit of participation and commitment to democratic ideals
that we saw so vehemently expressed by a generation that actually fought for it.
I would say that we have grown complacent and no longer care about the social
and political infrastructure on which our society is based
The reasons for this are threefold. Firstly that, as mentioned before, we have
become indifferent towards our freedom. Secondly, that since democracy, as with
communism, relies on a collective involvement of the people in the perpetuation
of the system, the egotism promoted by capitalism (a skeleton in the closet of
democracy) undermines the very system on which it (democracy) is based. This of
course leads directly to a personal, rather than communal interest in society;
individuals no longer care about issues that no longer affect them directly, become
isolated and subsequently ignorant and apathetic. Finally, we must consider the
possibility that due to the increasing complexity of present-day society people
have been forced to specialize in a particular field of expertise and interest.
No longer can one attempt to be the universal person, nor can people take notice
of everything that happens in society. It is a defense mechanism of sorts to become
apathetic towards certain issues to avoid information overload.
Apathy is indisputably among the most serious social ills that our society faces
now or has ever had to face in the past. If we do not act now as a society to
change this condition, our society as we know it will crumble. It is a problem
that is not visible, we cannot hear it or touch it. It lives in all of our hearts
and minds and it is from there that each and every member of society has the duty
to address it.