A Frenchman is self-assured because he regards himself personally both in mind and body as irresistibly attractive to men and women. An Englishman is self-assured as being a citizen of the best-organized state in the world and therefore, as an Englishman, always knows what he should do and knows that all he does as an Englishman is undoubtedly correct. An Italian is self-assured because he is excitable and easily forgets himself and other people. A Russian is self-assured just because he knows nothing and does not want to know anything, since he does not believe that anything can be known. The German’s self-assurance is worst of all, stronger and more repulsive than any other, because he imagines that he knows the truth—science—which he himself has invented but which is for him the absolute truth.
—Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910) Russian Novelist
Indifference is an excellent substitute for patience.
—Mason Cooley (1927–2002) American Aphorist
The tyranny of a prince in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy.
—Montesquieu (1689–1755) French Political Philosopher, Jurist
Laws can embody standards; governments can enforce laws—but the final task is not a task for government. It is a task for each and every one of us. Every time we turn our heads the other way when we see the law flouted—when we tolerate what we know to be wrong—when we close our eyes and ears to the corrupt because we are too busy, or too frightened—when we fail to speak up and speak out—we strike a blow against freedom and decency and justice.
—Robert F. Kennedy (1925–68) American Politician, Civil Rights Activist
Plenty of people miss their share of happiness, not because they never found it, but because they didn’t stop to enjoy it.
—William Feather (1889–1981) American Publisher, Author
Persecution was at least a sign of personal interest. Tolerance is composed of nine parts of apathy to one of brotherly love.
—Frank Moore Colby (1865–1925) American Encyclopedia Editor, Essayist
In lazy apathy let stoics boast
Their virtue fix’d: ‘t is fix’d as in a frost;
Contracted all, retiring to the breast;
But strength of mind is exercise, not rest.
—Alexander Pope (1688–1744) English Poet
I cannot help fearing that men may reach a point where they look on every new theory as a danger, every innovation as a toilsome trouble, every social advance as a first step toward revolution, and that they may absolutely refuse to move at all for fear of being carried off their feet. The prospect really does frighten me that they may finally become so engrossed in a cowardly love of immediate pleasures that their interest in their own future and in that of their descendants may vanish, and that they will prefer tamely to follow the course of their destiny rather than make a sudden energetic effort necessary to set things right.
—Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–59) French Historian, Political Scientist
Only one enemy is worse than despair: indifference. In every area of human creativity, indifference is the enemy; indifference of evil is worse than evil, because it is also sterile.
—Elie Wiesel (1928–2016) Romanian-born American Writer, Professor, Political Activist
I have protracted my work till most of those whom I wished to please have sunk into the grave, and success and miscarriage are empty sounds: I therefore dismiss it with frigid tranquillity, having little to fear or hope from censure or from praise.
—Samuel Johnson (1709–84) British Essayist
Everything proceeds as if of its own accord, and this can all too easily tempt us to relax and let things take their course without troubling over details. Such indifference is the root of all evil.
—I Ching Ancient Chinese Divination Text
Wherever there is degeneration and apathy, there also is sexual perversion, cold depravity, miscarriage, premature old age, grumbling youth, there is a decline in the arts, indifference to science, and injustice in all its forms.
—Anton Chekhov (1860–1904) Russian Short-Story Writer
Hate is not the opposite of love; apathy is.
—Rollo May (1909–94) American Philosopher
Everybody in America is soft, and hates conflict. The cure for this, both in politics and social life, is the same—hardihood. Give them raw truth.
—John Jay Chapman (1862–1933) American Literary Critic, Essayist
Apathy is a sort of living oblivion.
—Horace Greeley (1811–72) American Elected Rep, Politician, Reformer, Editor
Apathy is the glove into which evil slips its hand.
Apathy is one of the characteristic responses of any living organism when it is subjected to stimuli too intense or too complicated to cope with. The cure for apathy is comprehension.
—John Dos Passos (1896–1970) American Novelist, Artist
Scientists announced today that they have discovered a cure for apathy. However, they claim no one has shown the slightest interest in it.
—George Carlin (1937–2008) American Stand-up Comedian
You see few people here in America who really care very much about living a Christian life in a democratic world.
—Clare Boothe Luce (1903–87) American Playwright, Diplomat, Journalist, Diplomat, Elected Rep
Some people confuse acceptance with apathy, but there’s all the difference in the world. Apathy fails to distinguish between what can and what cannot be helped; acceptance makes that distinction. Apathy paralyzes the will-to-action; acceptance frees it by relieving it of impossible burdens.
They act as if they supposed that to be very sanguine about the general improvement of mankind is a virtue that relieves them from taking trouble about any improvement in particular.
—John Morley, 1st Viscount Morley of Blackburn (1838–1923) British Political Leader, Writer, Editor, Journalist
Men are accomplices to that which leaves them indifferent.
—George Steiner (1929–2020) American Critic, Scholar
The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.
—Albert Einstein (1879–1955) German-born Physicist
The great menace to the life of an industry is industrial self-complacency.
—David Sarnoff (1891–1972) American Broadcaster, Businessman
God could cause us considerable embarrassment by revealing all the secrets of nature to us: we should not know what to do for sheer apathy and boredom.
—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) German Poet
The worst sin… is… to be indifferent.
—George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950) Irish Playwright
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
There is nothing harder than the softness of indifference.
—Juan Montalvo (1832–89) Ecuadorian Author, Essayist
These are days when no one should rely unduly on his “competence.” Strength lies in improvisation. All the decisive blows are struck left-handed.
The tragedy of modern man is not that he knows less and less about the meaning of his own life, but that it bothers him less and less.
—Vaclav Havel (1936–2011) Czech Dramatist, Statesman