Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The cause of apathy

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.


Heather said...

I didn't think about that one. Good thoughts, I agree!

Emily A. W. said...

I am not sure the upcoming generation is apathetic. Its so easy to label other people and take the "us vs. them" or "me vs. the other generation" mentality.

With the rise in gas prices, bike sales are going through the roof, and shops are going to have to close down for mandatory vacations because the demand is so high they are running out of stock. At least that is what is happening in Washington because this state is all about alternative transportation and being green.

I also see a whole generation of kids that are VERY aware of the environment and are concerned about taking care of the earth. They are being taught in school to recycle and care about waste.

Is it possible that you are surrounded by a different culture in Utah that makes you think people don't care about this stuff? It sure is on the news a lot up here, and sustainability, environmentalism, alternative green products, and local farmers markets are in the media and of high demand.

I think a lot of people in our parents generation don't think green, but why should they? They weren't raised that way, and they are stuck in their ways. That's why only the cool older people find alternatives....

Yes, there are some people who just don't care and don't think about it, but they will learn to care when it becomes cool to ride a bike, be healthy, and fit. The fat and lazy generation will die off, and the next generation will open up a new era of earth friendliness.

I have hope. I don't think things are as bad as you do, but then again, I live in the green state. My point of view could be biased.

I think really you are just ahead of your time. People are starting to change, and you beat them to it. Your example will open people's minds and help this world change. You go dude!

Emily A. W. said...

P.S. I think if young people are apathetic, it has a lot to do with the lack of family togetherness and being close to those you are related to.

The kid who comes home from school to the day care and doesn't have parents or relatives to love them and care for them will feel apathetic. If we have apathy towards children, then our children will have apathy for us and the rest of the world.

The influence of those we are related to are important in ways I don't think we fully realize. Kids need to be home with their moms, and moms need to be with their kids. Family bonds need to be tight. All of societies ills stem from a break down in important familial relationships. At least that's my theory.

President Kimball said something to the effect one can replace the mother in the home because a child deserves to be taken care of by the one person who he knows would die for him. No person, no matter how wonderful, can ever replace the important relationship a mother has with her child.