Acceptance Does Not Beget Apathy

“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”
Martin Luther King Jr.

As much as I admire some of the things that Dr. King accomplished and tried to accomplish in his lifetime, I have to disagree with his statement above. This comment is like many others I’ve heard bandied around in the last few years; that acceptance is akin to apathy, which in turn is just as dangerous as those who perform evil deeds.

But is it really being apathetic to simply accept life the way it is?

ap·a·thy =  absence or suppression of passion, emotion, or excitement

Don’t mistake accepting something for liking it, or for having no emotion about it.  I accept that people die violent deaths all the time.  Doesn’t mean I like it, just as I don’t like the physical pain I feel in my gut when I hear about or see things like that.  All it means is that I understand this sort of thing happens, and don’t choose to get myself all riled up to try to change it.  I feel my sorrow, and move on.

I understand and accept that the Holocaust happened, but I certainly DO NOT like that so many people were tortured, killed, or worse during that time in history.  That’s something I’m very emotional about, and I cry every time I’m faced with some remnant of that horrible atrocity.  I especially don’t like that there are people today who carry that same hatred toward others, or that still others don’t even believe it happened in the first place.  But I’m not going to stand on some soap box somewhere, screaming at the top of my lungs to get those who do to change their mind.  Why?  Because I don’t believe it’s my place to tell them how to live.

I personally follow the Taoist beliefs when it comes to my outlook on life.  According to Lao-tse, who was considered a master of Taoism, “…the more man interfere[s] with the natural balance produced and governed by the universal laws, the further away the harmony retreat[s] into the distance.”  He believed that “…everything had its own nature already within it, which could not be violated without causing difficulties.”

In The Tao of Pooh, Benjamin Hoff talks about the picture to the right, titled The Vinegar Tasters, and explains that “From the Taoist point of view, sourness and bitterness come from the interfering and unappreciative mind.”  Lao-tse is shown to be smiling, because he accepts the bitter taste of the vinegar as being what it is, rather than wanting it to be something different.  In his view “When abstract and arbitrary rules [are] imposed from the outside, struggle [is] inevitable. Only then [does] life become sour.”

I believe that there must be good, as well as evil, in order for there to be true balance.  This is true of people and situations both.  There are those who want to do “evil” things, those who want to stop said “evil,” and those who accept that this dance will go on forever.  The players and prizes may change, but the games/fights are essentially the same.

Billy Joel put this sentiment very nicely in his song Angry Young Man:

I believe I’ve passed the age
Of consciousness and righteous rage
I found that just surviving was a noble fight
I once believed in causes too
I had my pointless point of view
And life went on no matter who was wrong or right

While I’m not personally itching to jump into the fray and change the world, I do think it’s good that there are people out there who are so charged up about making it a better place.  We clearly need people like that, and we’d never make any progress without them.  But, I don’t like when those same people try to make me out to be “on the side of evil” for not joining them in whatever fight they feel needs to be fought.

I don’t subscribe to the beliefs that ridding the world of smoking/gas-powered-cars/guns/politicians/[latest cause of the moment] will make the world a largely better place.  Nor do I believe that we need to try to attain some sort of Utopia in order to achieve true happiness.  Instead, I choose to accept the world, and my place in it, as best I can.  I do have my opinions that I will express to anyone interested in listening (or reading), but I’ve no desire to try to change people or the world into who I think they should be.

That doesn’t make me apathetic, and it certainly doesn’t put me on the side of evil.  It just means that there are other places where I feel my energy is better used.

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. cminichino
    Sep 21, 2012 @ 09:16:18

    I think your closing is the key, Alyx — I ask myself, where am I putting my energy, and can I be proud of that.

    Reply

  2. Bette Golden Lamb
    Sep 21, 2012 @ 09:50:46

    When you bring up the Holocaust, you’ve pushed a red button in my soul. Standing and watching people dragged from their home, beaten, tortured, and murdered is not apathy, it’s cowardliness. Standing by and doing nothing when six million Jews (2/3s of European Jews) are destroyed, cremated in the Nazi ovens, is not apathy — it’s cowardliness. The next step is saying it never happened at all.

    Reply

  3. Dolly Chamberlin
    Sep 21, 2012 @ 15:17:53

    I think you said it well. LOVES 🙂

    Reply

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