The Myth of Apathy

by david on July 1, 2010

I would argue this generation of young adults is no better, no worse than any that have come before or any that will follow. Tom Brokaw lauds “The Greatest Generation,” those who sacrificed so much during WWII.  Without arguing his point by bringing up the many negatives of that generation it is significant to note this same “greatest,” generation created the generations that followed as they were created by the generations that came before.  I wonder what history would call the present generation if circumstances called them to arms, not to fight in some dubious contest over oil or land, but to put their lives on the line in a struggle for our nation’s very survival?

I contend this so-called lazy, unmotivated, entitled generation would step forward without hesitation because it is not character, but circumstance that creates patriots and heroes. Nine eleven gave us a glimpse into such a circumstance where average men and women, young and old, were spurred into patriotic action. Circumstances changed, danger once again seems remote and irrelevant to our lives. Apathy and political rancor once again rule.

As a teacher I see this apathy as no more than a surface structure that mistakenly stereotypes the young adults of today. Give them a cause, a purpose, a meaningful task beyond preparing to make lots of money and you will find individuals as dedicated to the future of others as any generation that has preceded them.  I witness their sense of selflessness on a daily basis in their eagerness to help each other and work for causes that effect those they know and love.

This generation of young adults might very well be called the volunteer generation. They run, walk, bike ride and give of their time in dozens of other ways to raise money for a myriad of worthy causes from helping the homeless to funding research for any number of dreaded diseases. They are highly invested in community service. They see the world’s ecology as part and parcel of their daily lives. They are involved. They care.

It is said there are no great men only ordinary men who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances. This idea would equally apply to generations. When times are ordinary and there is no call to action by a cause greater than themselves any generation will seem apathetic, selfish and narcissistic, as was certainly the case in the 1920s and 1980s. Issue a call to action that is worthy of sacrifice and any generation, including today’s, will eagerly step forth with indomitable courage and fortitude. Apathy is always the norm until circumstance deems otherwise.

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