Antidotes to Apathy

Brad M. Griffin | Apr 20, 2011

Last night I attended a neighborhood meeting to organize residents around a common concern: cleaning up a local liquor store. This place has been a hub for all kinds of illegal and dangerous action for years, and the locals have had enough. Looking around the room of 25 or so, apathy was the last emotion I sensed. Yet, apathy is often blamed for inaction in our community and others across our country.

What are the real causes of apathy in our culture when it comes to civic engagement and social justice? From a Canadian perspective (but no less relevant to U.S. culture), this TED talk by Dave Meslin offers some thoughtful insights on re-engaging people around us in the communities in which they live.

Here are a few of my takeaways. What are yours?

  • Is what were seeing in the lack of engagement actual apathy or a result of intentional exclusiona complex set of obstacles put in place to prevent public awareness and response?
  • Some of the most important messages that need to be heard arent profitable, and so go untold.
  • Any heroic effort is usually always a collective effort, not just one amazing persons work.
  • If we think our neighbors are selfish, stupid, or lazy, theres no hope for engaging them. But if we can redefine apathy within a culture that reinforces disengagement, we can dismantle the obstacles.
  • Meslin unfortunately doesnt give concrete ideas for solutions in this talk, but there are clearly a lot of implications for ways we engage people in our churches, communities, and country towards advocacy and action.
  • How can we help kids in our ministries and homes more thoughtfully address apathy—or perceived apathy—in their lives, schools, families and communities?
Brad M. Griffin

Brad M. Griffin is the Senior Director of Content for the Fuller Youth Institute, where he develops research-based training for youth workers and parents. A speaker, writer, and volunteer youth pastor, Brad is the coauthor of over a dozen books, including 3 Big Questions That Change Every Teenager, Faith in an Anxious World, Growing Young, several Sticky Faith books, Every Parent’s Guide to Navigating Our Digital World, and Can I Ask That? Brad and his family live in Southern California, where he serves as Pastor of Youth and Family Ministries at Mountainside Communion.


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