Again I got some good comments. Heather asked about the cause of apathy. Why are upcoming generations more apathetic? I think there are a couple of answers.
First I want to address family. When I was thinking of posting about apathy I had thought of posting this, but forgot yesterday while I was typing. So it's a little late, but right on topic. My grandfather (the one who provides pen names to my boys) once commented that when he was a boy he would do absolutely anything to make his father proud of him. There was a tremendous respect for parents and children valued their parents opinions. In current generations, parents will do almost anything to please their children. It is as if parenting and family values have done a complete flip-flop. Now you are going to ask me why that happened... I don't have a clue. My first idea would be to suggest that many of my grandfather's generation found the parenting to be too strict and many of the parents of that generation were unsuccessful at gaining respect from their children. Instead of respect they got some animosity and a desire to raise children differently than they had been raised. When it was time for the next generation to raise kids they wanted to make sure their kids liked them, so they gave them everything they wanted.
That idea seems logical, until you take a bigger perspective. My grandfather's generation was not the first generation to have parents. I'm sure civilizations have been struggling to raise children for most of the history of mankind. (Cain and Abel come to mind.) So why did this suddenly happen in just a few generations? Has this happened before in other civilizations? I don't know.
My second thought for why upcoming generations are more apathetic is distance. 'The system' has been developed to distance the consumer from consequences of production. For example I was listening to a show on NPR this morning about mushrooms. When you buy mushrooms at the store, do you know where they come from? While some are local, many are shipped here from China (meaning the fungus has spent months in the shipping process). Can you tell the difference? I can't, I don't know the first thing about mushrooms. So how do you find out where your mushrooms came from? You ask the store manager. Generally the store manager does not know, but he can ask the distributor. The distributor often knows, but sometimes has to ask another middle man. And I should point out that by law the distributor can remove and 'made in China' markings and replace them with 'distributed from California' or 'product of California'. The point is that as a consumer, I have been distanced from the product that I am buying.
Now let's look at the flip side. Let's take a small community from the 18th century and see how things would be different. You need to buy meat, so you go down to the local butcher. You know the butcher because it is a small town. You probably also know the people who may work for the butcher and the people from whom the butcher purchases animals. If the butcher is known to deal unfairly with the people who sell him animals, that gets around town and people find a different butcher because they don't like what the current butcher is doing to their friends. In the old way there are consequences to dealing unfairly with people and there is social pressure not to support poor businesses. In the current system, we don't see what the businesses do, we just look for 'low prices'. How was the business able to provide low prices? Why do I care, I'm just watching out for my pocketbook.