Apathy and Evil

Apathy may be defined as the absence of interest, empathy, sympathy, concern, and care. It is the breeding ground of evil. There are at least three sources of apathy that are evil-prone:

1. False Understanding (Ignorance, Dehumanization, Deindividuation)
It may come from a false understanding of facts regarding life and the world. Philip Zimbardo highlights two mechanisms that steer the mind towards evil: dehumanization and deindividuation. If a person treats other humans as less than humans (dehumanization), then he cannot sympathize (feel along) with them. Similarly, if one can’t see the other as persons, one cannot sympathize. For instance, it is easier for a man to push a button to launch a missile and kill thousands, without feeling moral pain, than for one to kill people in person. This is a form of “ignorance” in which you “do not know” the others; they might just be numbers and statistics.

Daily Example: People who feel nothing about, but feel exultant, when a movie hero shoots down enemies (hurdles) in a movie.

On the other hand, regarding even a tree humanly can generate feelings of sympathy; regarding a tree above humans may prompt worship.

*Usually, in this first case, a person may still have sympathy and empathy for his own, the ones he “knows”. A classic example is of officers during the Nazi regime, who would go and kill Jewish children in gas chambers; but, go back to their homes and play tenderly with their own children.

2. Narcissism
A narcissist is someone who overly loves himself/herself. Such a person will speak highly of self and spend much time on self-love. Narcissist self-love destroys any room for love of others. Such a person may have little room for any moral lines or taboos of culture. Incest, rape, fraud, deception, dishonesty, cruelty, sadism and such evils are overpowering in a narcissist. He will usually be ruled by lust for pleasure and power. In some cases, people may worship a narcissist as being god-like for his/her exhibitionism of intelligence, beauty, self-boasting, and optimist declarations. However, the narcissist doesn’t even value his/her worshipers personally (but only as fans and supporters). A narcissist will never give his/her life for his friends – he/she has no friends and is godless. A narcissist may witness evil, but not even wish to do anything about it. He cannot function as a light in this world because he himself is a black hole (of intense self-focus). A narcissist feels nothing about acts of willful injustice against others.

Daily Example: (a) When looking at a group picture of yours, are you looking more at yourself in it than looking at the group? Does your focus on yourself blur off the others?
(b) When traveling in a train or bus, do you look first for your own comfort or do you show sympathy to women, children, the aged, and the sick?
(c) Does it ever bother your conscience that a bribe given in order to gain preference or precedence does injustice to others in the queue? Or is it just out of willful ignorance (#1 above)?

3. Merciless Justice (Condemnation, Vengeance)
Biblical justice is always associated with mercy. However, apathy is merciless. A person who considers another person as an “enemy” will feel no sympathy and empathy for that person. Once the other stands “condemned” and deserving of punishment, any sense of sympathy vanishes. Propaganda, caricaturing, name-calling and vilifying can label others as “enemy” and deserving of punishment. Such campaigns were ruthlessly used by the Nazis against the Jews.

Daily Example: When watching a movie, notice if you wish that the vile villain is badly beaten, blown apart, and exterminated.


“Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Mat 7:12 NKJ)
“A righteous man regards the life of his animal, But the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” (Pro 12:10 NKJ)
“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God…” (2Ti 3:1-4 NKJ)
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron…” (1Ti 4:1-2 NKJ)

“First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me—
and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
― Martin Niemöller

“All over the place, from the popular culture to the propaganda system, there is constant pressure to make people feel that they are helpless, that the only role they can have is to ratify decisions and to consume.”
― Noam Chomsky

“…so much attention is paid to the aggressive sins, such as violence and cruelty, and greed with all their tragic effects, that too little attention is paid to the passive sins, such as apathy and laziness, which in the long run can have a more devastating and destructive effect upon society than the others.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt

“We shall have to repent in this generation not so much for the evil deeds of the wicked people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”
― Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


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