On Campus

Is apathy our greatest problem?

The winning essay from the 2011 Write the Wrong contest

Maclean’s On Campus is proud to announce that Brielle Cram, a grade ten student at Rundle College Senior High School in Calgary, is the winner of the Journalists for Human Rights annual Write the Wrong prize, awarded for the best essay on a human rights theme.

This year, the questions was What is the single largest problem that we face today and what do Youth need to do to fix it?” Cram made the case that apathy is the biggest problem.

Write the Wrong was created in 2009 to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. Notable Canadian journalists, including Cathrin Bradbury of Maclean’s, judged this year’s essays. Cram will receive a Roger’s smart phone as a prize. She says she plans to study medicine and law so that she can advocate for better access to medical care for people around the world.

Here is an excerpt. Click here to read the Apathy: A generation that avoids involvement.

In the words of Helen Keller, “Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all -the apathy of human beings” (Brainy Quote, 2011). Apathy is defined by Dictionary.com as indifference or the lack of interest, concern, or emotion; as inaction when action is called for. Apathy is when people don’t care, or when they feel so helpless that they do not try to change or fix things. Apathy is the single largest problem we face today because it is apathy that fuels the vast number of social, political, economic, and environmental problems facing society. Apathy can be seen every day by people everywhere, just by going to school, by reading the newspaper, or listening to the news.

Apathy is evident in how young people treat each other in their schools and neighborhoods. Bullying, teen violence, and substance abuse are common examples of how youth today have not only stopped caring about the wellbeing of themselves, but also the wellbeing of others. In November 2010, news reports indicated that five teenage boys took their own lives because of homophobic bullying and harassment (Humanitarian News, 2010).These five made the news. How many more are there? In September 2010, a 16 year old girl was drugged and raped by party goers at a rave outside Vancouver, British Columbia, as others watched and took photos, which they then posted on Facebook (CTV News, 2011). No one stepped in to help. The apathy continues. In the same month, a 16 year old boy and a 12 year old girl who met online engaged in drunken sex in a Calgary, Alberta schoolyard, as a group of teenagers watched (CBC News, 2010). One of the teenagers, a 16 year old boy, told CBC News, “I didn’t do nothing. I know that I could have stopped it, and should have, but I didn’t because I didn’t want to get involved and all that” (CBC News, 2010). Incidents like these occur minute by minute around the world, witnessed by millions but stopped by few. These incidents represent only a fraction of the thousands of unreported incidents. Yet despite the fact that these incidents and others like them are broadcast for all the world to see, no real change occurs. Few have stepped forward, few risk putting themselves in harm’s way to help others.

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