Quotations about   apathy

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Let me point out to you that freedom is not something that anybody can be given; freedom is something people take and people are as free as they want to be. One hasn’t got to have an enormous military in order to be unfree when it’s simpler to be asleep, when it’s simpler to be apathetic, when it’s simpler, in fact, not to want to be free, to think that something else is more important.

James Baldwin (1924-1987) American novelist, playwright, activist
“Notes for a Hypothetical Novel,” speech, San Francisco College (22 Oct 1960)
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Later published in Nobody Knows My Name (1961).
Added on 6-Jan-20 | Last updated 6-Jan-20
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When you have to make a choice and don’t make it, that is in itself a choice.

james-itself-a-choice-wist_info-quote

William James (1842-1910) American psychologist and philosopher
(Attributed)
Added on 17-Oct-16 | Last updated 17-Oct-16
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“Scarlett, I was never one to patiently pick up broken fragments and glue them together and tell myself that the mended whole was as good as new. What is broken is broken — and I’d rather remember it as it was at its best than mend it and see the broken places as long as I lived. Perhaps if I were younger–” he sighed. “But I’m too old to believe in such sentimentalities as clean slates and starting all over. I’m too old to shoulder the burden of constant lies that go with living in polite disillusionment. I couldn’t live with you and lie to you and I certainly couldn’t lie to myself. I can’t even lie to you now. I wish I could care what you do or where you go, but I can’t.”

He drew a short breath and said lightly but softly:

“My dear, I don’t give a damn.”

Margaret Mitchell (1900-1949) American author and journalist.
Gone with the Wind, ch. 57 (1936)
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Added on 10-May-16 | Last updated 10-May-16
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Unless someone like you
cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better.
It’s not.

Geisel - cares a whole awful lot - wist_info quote 2

Dr. Seuss (1904-1991) American author, illustrator [pseud. of Theodor Geisel]
The Lorax (1971)
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Emotion, whether of ridicule, anger, or sorrow, — whether raised at a puppet show, a funeral, or a battle, — is your grandest of levelers. The man who would be always superior should be always apathetic.

Edward George Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873) English novelist and politician
Devereux, Book 2, ch. 1 (1829)
Added on 22-Mar-16 | Last updated 18-Mar-16
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There is one characteristic of the present direction of public opinion peculiarly calculated to make it intolerant of any marked demonstration of individuality. The general average of mankind are not only moderate in intellect, but also moderate in inclinations; they have no tastes or wishes strong enough to incline them to do anything unusual, and they consequently do not understand those who have, and class all such with the wild and intemperate whom they are accustomed to look down upon.

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) English philosopher and economist
On Liberty, ch. 3, “Of Individuality, as One of the Elements of Well-Being” (1859)
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Any sufficiently advanced indifference is indistinguishable from evil.

George Wiman (contemp.) American blogger, computer technician
Google+ (15 May 2015)
    (Source)

See Clarke.
Added on 19-May-15 | Last updated 19-May-15
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Looky here, America
What you done done —
Let things drift
Until the riots come.

Langston Hughes (1902-1967) American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright
“Beaumont to Detroit: 1943”
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Added on 14-May-15 | Last updated 20-Dec-19
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The biggest sin is sitting on your ass.

Other Authors and Sources
Florynce R. Kennedy, in Gloria Steinem, “the Verbal Karate of Florynce R. Kennedy, Esq.,” Ms. (Mar 1973)
Added on 6-Jun-14 | Last updated 6-Jun-14
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Too many people don’t care what happens so long as it doesn’t happen to them.

William Howard Taft (1857-1930) US President (1909-13) and Chief Justice (1921-1930)
(Attributed)
Added on 17-Jan-14 | Last updated 17-Jan-14
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It’s terrible to lie in chains,
To rot in dungeon deep,
But it’s still worse, when you are free
To sleep, and sleep, and sleep.

Taras Shevchenko (1814-1861) Ukrainian poet and artist [a/k/a "Kobzar"]
“The Days Go By”, l. 21 (21 Dec 1845)
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If there is distrust out there — and there is — perhaps it is because there is so much partisan jockeying for advantage at the expense of public policy. At times it feels as if American politics consists largely of candidates without ideas, hiring consultants without convictions, to stage campaigns without content. Increasingly the result is elections without voters.

Gerald R. Ford (1913-2006) US President, (1974-77) [b. Leslie Lynch King, Jr.]
Speech, Profiles in Courage Award Acceptance, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library (2001)
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Added on 3-Jan-14 | Last updated 2-Jun-16
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He who does not punish evil commands it to be done.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) Italian artist, engineer, scientist
Note-books (1508-1518)
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The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment.

Robert Maynard Hutchins (1899-1977) American educator, educational philosopher, administrator
Great Books of Western World, vol. 1, ch. 10 (1952)
Added on 13-Dec-13 | Last updated 15-Jun-15
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Usually when people are sad, they don’t do anything. They just cry over their condition. But when they get angry, they bring about a change.

Malcolm X (1925-1965) American revolutionary, religious leader [b. Malcolm Little]
Malcolm X Speaks, ch. 9 “With Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer” (1965)
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To ignore evil is to become an accomplice to it.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
Where Do We Go from Here?, 3.2 (1967)
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No one man can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices.

Edward R. Murrow (1908-1965) American journalist
See It Now (7 Mar 1954)
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Comment to the production team before the episode on Senator Joseph R McCarthy’s Communist witch hunt.
Added on 2-Apr-08 | Last updated 6-Jan-20
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The punishment which the wise suffer who refuse to take part in the government is to live under the government of worse men.

Plato (c.428-347 BC) Greek philosopher
Republic, Book 1, 347c

In Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Eloquence," Society and Solitude (1870).

Alt. trans.:
  • "One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics, is that you end up being governed by your inferiors."
  • The Constitution Party (1952-68) used on their letterhead the variant, "The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men."
  • "The price of apathy is to be ruled by evil men."
  • "Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber."
More discussion here.

In context (Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vols. 5 & 6 [tr. Shorey (1969)]):
[346e] "Then, Thrasymachus, is not this immediately apparent, that no art or office provides what is beneficial for itself -- but as we said long ago it provides and enjoins what is beneficial to its subject, considering the advantage of that, the weaker, and not the advantage the stronger? That was why, friend Thrasymachus, I was just now saying that no one of his own will chooses to hold rule and office and take other people's troubles in hand to straighten them out, but everybody expects pay for that, [347a] because he who is to exercise the art rightly never does what is best for himself or enjoins it when he gives commands according to the art, but what is best for the subject. That is the reason, it seems, why pay must be provided for those who are to consent to rule, either in form of money or honor or a penalty if they refuse." "What do you mean by that, Socrates?" said Glaucon. "The two wages I recognize, but the penalty you speak of and described as a form of wage I don't understand." "Then," said I, "you don't understand the wages of the best men [347b] for the sake of which the finest spirits hold office and rule when they consent to do so. Don't you know that to be covetous of honor and covetous of money is said to be and is a reproach?" "I do," he said. "Well, then," said I, "that is why the good are not willing to rule either for the sake of money or of honor. They do not wish to collect pay openly for their service of rule and be styled hirelings nor to take it by stealth from their office and be called thieves, nor yet for the sake of honor, [347c] for they are not covetous of honor. So there must be imposed some compulsion and penalty to constrain them to rule if they are to consent to hold office. That is perhaps why to seek office oneself and not await compulsion is thought disgraceful. But the chief penalty is to be governed by someone worse if a man will not himself hold office and rule. It is from fear of this, as it appears to me, that the better sort hold office when they do, and then they go to it not in the expectation of enjoyment nor as to a good thing, but as to a necessary evil and because they are unable to turn it over to better men than themselves [347d] or to their like. For we may venture to say that, if there should be a city of good men only, immunity from office-holding would be as eagerly contended for as office is now, and there it would be made plain that in very truth the true ruler does not naturally seek his own advantage but that of the ruled; so that every man of understanding would rather choose to be benefited by another than to be bothered with benefiting him. "
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 8-Jan-20
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The sad truth of the matter is that most evil is done by people who never made up their minds to be or do either evil or good.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) German-American philosopher, political theorist
The Life of the Mind, “Thinking” (1971)
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Sometimes rendered (possibly from the original New Yorker article): "The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 6-Feb-20
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It may well be that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition is not the glaring noisiness of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people. It may be that our generation will have repent not only for the diabolical actions and vitriolic words of the children of darkness, but also for the crippling fears and tragic apathy of the children of light.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
“The Christan Way of Life in Human Relations,” speech, General Assembly fo the National Council of Churches, St Louis (4 Dec 1957)
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Often paraphrased: "We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people." See also here.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 7-Dec-15
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