Wow! Nobody on THIS discussion board is apathetic! To me, apathy means not caring one way or the other. What I read here is a sense of "I care, but it won't make any difference. Nothing I can do will change anything." Big difference. So, if people live long enough with the idea that they are powerless, do they then "drop out" of the process and become apathetic because they just give up? If we give up participating in our own government, we deserve what we get.
Funny thing about Americans. We are the most impatient but also the most patient of people, at the same time. Stand in line? I don't have time. But when it comes to the country, we assume somebody is taking care of things and will let us know when problems come up. When problems come up, we go along for quite some time, giving them time to be resolved, believing that things will work out or simply pass because they always have. However, when our patience is exhausted, finally, or something really BIG gets our attention, suddenly Americans wake up and remind those in power that we are still here--which explains the last election. Voter registration hit new marks, and voter turn out, as we all know, was huge, across the country. No apathy there. There will always be those in society who will not participate, for whatever reason. So long as the participators participate, we're still in the game.
I am starting to believe than people do not vote because they feel that have no real influence on what happens. Politicans seem to do whatever they wish when they are elected; sometimes we vote for people and don't recognize them when they are elected. I know many people who feel that they get the short end of the stick from either party, so what difference does it make? Politicans tell us anything they think will get our votes, and then do whatever they wish. Who thought we'd get trillions of dollars of debt as the "Change" that Obama promised? One executive order after executive order, seemingly bypassing the entire constitutional process? Or if you voted for Bush in the previous administration, who thought you'd get a tax.and.spend liberal? And who wants to have any part of electing people to represent us who only seem to represent themselves.
Although I have always voted since the day I was eligible, and plan to vote to the end, I do not have the sense that my vote is as important as I once though it was; it doesn't seem to make a lot of difference who wins ... we don't.
I agree with Marilynn07's point that "Others do not participate because they do not care." I believe that contentment breeds apathy, and as long as someone can pick up their Iphone at the end of the day & hit the restaurant app., they're not really going to be concerned about stem-cell research or other rather obscure "hot button" issues. Many people refuse to make a change or act until something affects them directly. Even that doesn't work all the time: look at the number of people willing to buy inefficient transportation because it's sporty or looks classy. They don't mind spending $100 on gas a week, because they are projecting an appearance every time they drive. Ignorance ties into this mode of thought as well: the less we know about a subject, the less we care. As the nation becomes less knowledgable, they also become less concerned.
Another reason could be that many people, especially the working poor in the country, feel they don't have the time. Again, it's difficult to work up interest in border skirmishes in Pakistan after working two shifts and raising your children. Immediate concerns of everyday life overshadow involvement in abstract notions.
All have made excellent points. I believe that the reduction of the election process to "sound-bytes" creates a false sense of who we are voting for and what the issues are. It is impossible to make a sound decision upon who to vote for based on a 60 second commercial. Many radio and television ads are focused on the negative aspects of the other side rather than the positive aspects of the candidate sponsoring the advertisement. It is impossible to make a positive decision when so many doubts have been cast about either of the candidates running for office. Many times, one feels that he is voting "against" someone rather than for someone.
As Hi1954 said earlier, apathy is a result of feeling that it does not matter whether or not one votes, or that both mainstream political parties are the same in the U.S. Many people do not participate in the election process because they simply do not feel the effort is worth it.
Others do not participate because they do not care. They have television, Wii, Playstations etc to keep them happy and entertained. As long as public services are maintained and the population is happy, there is no reason to go stand in long lines waiting for a turn to push a few buttons that may or may not be counted. That is true apathy...lack of motivation to participate in the political process.
The one thing that persons living in a free society have is the ability to participate in the political process by voting. I hope that the upsurge we saw in the last presidential election will continue and that persons will continue to show an interest by voting.
I believe that the primary reason is that people feel their ability to affect the direction the country is going is minimal to nonexistent. Any discussion about politics is likely to include statements like, "They're all the same, it doesn't matter who you vote for," and "Why vote? It's all rigged, anyway." The population is very large, and people feel isolated from the decision-making process. Most people don't register to vote, and most of those who register don't actually vote. Unless one is extremely active in a political party you have no say over who gets nominated for offices like president and vice-president, and even then your choices are limited. The possibility of a third-party candidate winning a national election is nil. Gerrymandering of districts and the fact that we still use the Electoral College to pick the president just makes it worse.
Economic pressures, the crowded condition of most urban and suburban areas, the increasingly crowded countryside in most states, television and the "dumbing-down" of societal factors in general contributes (I believe) to a sense in many people that they effectively have no voice in the way America is run, and no time in which to do anything about it. Many people simply have given up believing there is anything that can be done about it. Many believe that America today is essentially an oligarchy run by large business and banking interests which tell the government what to do, rather than the other way around. And these are pretty average people, not the conspiracy-theorist fringe.
On the other hand, most potential voters in the US have never voted. Is America really more apathetic, or is the percentage of apathetic people about the same as always? Are there just so many more numerically now that we perceive them as a vast majority? There seems no doubt that the percentage of available voters not taking part in elections has become higher as time goes by, but the last presidential election showed an upsurge in participation. I personally hope this is a sign of more active patricipation to come.
I'm not so sure that people in general are more apathetic as much as the definition of "apathy" might need to be looked at differently. Contemporary young people are extremely active on social networking and other virtual communications modes. The success of the Obama internet campaign was largely due to the response of young people to such venues as Facebook and email. If the definition of "apathy" is not partaking in traditional activism, then I would say, yes, people are more apathetic. But activism has evolved, drawing, I believe, even more participants than ever.
mrsmonica in Post # 4 is right to the extent that width of networking among common people has increased. At the same time there is no denying that average depth of relationship has reduced.
If we define apathy as a lack of interaction of any kind than may be apathy has increased in recent times, But if we define apathy as genuine interest in affairs and well being of others, then the situation may be different.
I do not have enough exposure to life in America to judge the levels of presence or absence of apathy there, but from my observations of situation in India I can say that increasing levels of apathy is a natural outcome of urbanization.
Urbanization means ever increasing number of people forced to live and work in greater groups with fast changing group membership. Take the example of people commuting to work in trains - you come across thousands of different people everyday you do not know, and you possibly cannot know. In a small town a housewife is likely to purchase her grocery from a small pop and mom store round the corner, and owners of the shop are likely to know her personally. But this kind of familiarity between the staff and customers of large chains of supermarket is not that easy.
The mobility of people has also contributed to this apathy. When most of the person in a village have lived all their lives in a small village, It is very easy for them to develop close personal knowledge and concern about each other. But idf a person shifts his job, and along with that the city of residence ten times in a life time, it becomes diccicult to develop the the level of intimacy that may exis in a village environment.
I think apathy is in the eye of the beholder. But as a nation, the US has politically and socially become a much more divided country than in the past. It looks like from now on, most iusses are so evenly divided between pro and con, for and against, that it might seem that nothing can ever get done without a majority, or one person's vote might not mean anything or count for anything for that matter.
In an evenly divided country between Democrats and Republicans, Conservatives and Liberals, it is easy to feel marginalized by such a 50/50 composition.