Are people really apathetic?
As I listened to Dave Meslin speak, it all began to make sense. It really is so simple. In this video he asks one question:Is the society really apathetic or is it the environment, the culture, the conditions around us that need to change so that people – lots of them – who care, are able to contribute toward making this a better world for us all?
So let us look at what Dave says. He asks if we really think our neighbours, our friends, our colleagues and people around us are selfish, stupid and don’t care at all about anyone but themselves? If that is true, then there really is no hope. However, he goes on to say that he doesn’t believe this to be a fact and then goes on to identify 7 barriers that keep us from taking part in our communities, even when we really and truly do care.
The first one he identifies is City Hall – i.e. the government. If you look at the ads and the notices that are put out by government anywhere in the world, the message they convey is that they do not want you involved in the planning process – something that Dave terms as “Intentional exclusion”! He says that if the private sector put out ads like that, they would never sell anything.
The second obstacle he highlights is Public Space. If you look at all the billboards, banners and signboards that fill our streets, it indicates to you that the people with the most money have the loudest voices, says Dave. There is a price tag on Freedom of Expression. So aptly put!
Then there is the Media – our friend and our foe. The sensational stance taken by most media means coverage of celebrities, politicians and scandals. Even when they cover politics, they make it sound like a spectator sport hence discouraging the average person from wanting to be involved.
Dave mentions Heroes as the fourth obstacle. One would never have thought that heroes would be seen as an obstacle but listen to what he says. Heroes are projected as people who are chosen, who are special, who were meant to save the world. No-one talks about heroism being a collective effort, no-one tells you it isn’t glamourous, that it is voluntary, that it involves sacrifice but can lead to change and a feeling of absolute satisfaction – that we don’t have to wait for a Superman, Wonder Woman, Harry Potter type of person to bring about change and achieve great things.
How could Political Parties be left out of the mix. Dave says, and we all know this to be true, that most policiticians say the same things, have their own personal agendas, blame each other for any problems that exist, and don’t present any bold or creative options as solutions thus leading to cynicism amongst the electorate.
Dave Meslin says that all these obstacles are just that – obstacles and we can overcome them by simply redefining apathy. Apathy is not an internal syndrome he says but a complex web of cultural barriers that lead to disengagement. Once we see this, it is easy enough to dismantle the barriers and embark on the road ahead.
Thank you Dave Meslin and TED for bringing forth this brilliant video – it was indeed an Idea worth Sharing.
Do watch the video. I don’t do it enough justice. Just thought I would transcribe it for some of my lazy friends and for those with limited bandwidth :).