Apathy, as a phenomenon, has multiple sides and angles one can view it from. It is hard to comprehend it wholly, but the more one looks at its different aspects, the clearer the apathy shapes will become. It is important to keep in mind to not think of apathy as finite and fixed, but a constantly evolving living thing, being aware of the changes happening. For a better understanding of a phenomenon affecting our daily life, not to take a positive or negative attitude towards it, but more of a curious observer who has taken a step back, analyzing it through a wider context.

"The Ethics of Boredom
The title of this chapter is potentially misleading. It suggests that I intend to put forward a set of practical precepts as to how one ought to view boredom. This is not my intention. There is no solution to the problem of boredom – that is what makes it a problem. The title can, however, be understood to imply that I feel that boredom has its own moral. That is closer to the truth. I do not believe that boredom as a phenomenon can be a platform for any substantial moral philosophy, but I do believe that it has something to tell us about how we live. So it is up to the individual to adopt a stance towards that."
-Lars Svendsen „A Philosophy of Boredom“

Just like Svendsen talks about boredom, we see it as an approach to try talk about apathy. What stance to adopt towards it and how do you live with it?
The dictionary definition of apathy is the extreme state of numbness. In the case of apathy there is no emotional reaction to the event. There is no reflection on the event. No action follows the event. It’s the elimination of the event. A subconscious self protection, resulting in a lack of reaction.

In the answers of the Apathy Conference applications, three countries were named specifically to the question „Write to us about your apathy,“ evaen though the applications came from a wide array of places. The countries were following – Finland, Estonia and Latvia. Apathy is not specific to a region, it varies from place to place but since EASA 2020 and us, the organizers are working in this area, it is great to use it as a case study.

But a wider question to you guys - how would you describe your regional apathy? In the applications it is mostly just mixed with the stereotype of North-East Europe quietness/dullness, but is it truly the actual apathy of the region or a worn out stereotype?

"Apathy is the cornerstone of Latvian culture."
-From the Apathy Conference application form

What does apathy as a cornerstone of a culture mean? First, how to define culture? In INCM Bulgaria we used the definition of culture that James P. Carse wrote in his book „Finite and Infinite Games“:

"To enter a culture is not to do what the others do but to do whatever one does with the others."
-James P. Carse ‘Finite and Infinite Games“

Culture is the interaction, collaboration and mutation of individuals when they join their minds. But if culture is interaction and apathy is a lack of reaction then what is an apathetic culture? Is an apathetic culture just pure action? One can see following the masses, copying without questioning, not asking why, but just doing it as an apathetic behavior towards your context. The routine and looping of the same system with little alteration in it causes a mindless repetition of mistakes in the culture of acting.
In this case, apathetic culture is juxtaposed with mindless reproduction and ignorant action, with one of the most successful ad campaigns yelling at you in bold capital letters to motivate you to do. Later creating one of the more famous internet memes of Shia Lebouf screaming into a camera the messages behind most healthy lifestyle brands. The DO IT message, that can be found in a lot of mainstream pop-culture could maybe be the zeitgeist of our time.
The reality is that Daft Punk lyrics (as a reflection of our surroundings) and ‘JUST DO IT’ mentality are gradually reinforcing the apathetic culture of ignorant action. The moment of reflection as a value, which gives the “factory” workers a chance to take a step back from action and a breathing space for interaction, is rapidly shortening. The sexy advertisement of how much easier technology is making our tasks and shortening time spent on different actions, be it the robot vacuum cleaner or BIM programs, is not truly giving the chance to reflect because we fill that moment with more work and tasks… our work is never over. The task cycles are becoming shorter with the aid of tech but the buffering before the start of the loop cycle is now so short that a chance to question the action is becoming near impossible.


The multiple different apathetic realities can be faced on a daily basis. What about the bitter and stupid comparison of university education and reality. To quote everyone’s favourite proto-fascist businessman:

"1. Architecture Schools operate like art schools without any curriculum. Accordingly, architectural education is detached from the profession and from societal realities & needs as expressed in real (public or private) client briefs."
-Patrik   Schumacher „13 Theses on the Crisis of Architectural Academia!

The message that Schumacher and his peers keep yelling is that work that is measurable in money is more worthy and real than any other creation that operates in a made up fairytale land. Polarizing the education and practices and calling the former a daydream and the latter the true reality is denying the multiple realities parallely present in our cultures, that are necessary to maintain a healthy development of ideas for survival. The scarring effect that is creating in the youth entering the workforce is always blamed on the university structures (which are of course are not perfect, yet they aim to educate ideally and less to produce capital) but never on the practice/„reality“. Over time the academia has to bend and change in order to keep up with the loud demand of factory workers that will work harder, do it better, the work is never over, creating a hegemonic spatial culture. But like with any development that strives for monoculture, it is destined for doom,. With such a path, the potato famine of Ireland will hit the apathetic architecture culture, prone to any disease coming our way...

"The hell of the living is not something that will be: if there is one, it is what is already here, the hell where we live every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the hell and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and learning: seek and be able to recognize who and what, in the midst of the hell, are not hell, then make them endure, give them space."
-Italo Calvino “Invisible Cities”

Sometimes you are forced to operate in the reality that is parallel to the one you would like to operate in. That is like accepting the hell that Calvino describes, falling into the trap of action, copying and not asking why. The ease of making the choice to choose the status quo is simpler than to nurture the reality you operate in.

Calvino’s hell can be comfort zone. Apathy is a blanket, apathy is auto focus, apathy is a shield, apathy is following pre-set paths, routine. Why do we categorize apathy with comfort and daily, average and routine? It is the expectation, the knowing what comes after that gives comfort. But it is also hiding from the critical self, direct copy-paste easy access to answers. But in the state of comfort, sharpness will be dulled. Focusing is important, the critical self, for healthy creation. So this is the thing about apathy and comfort zone, the comparison of two. If it has power for too long, then it’ll dull the mind.

"Apathy is a depressed immobility that can come upon the organism, whether amoeba or man, when the environment can no longer be adequately assimilated by the nervous system, when the normal signals are either too faint or too conflicting. It is a kind of withdrawal from consciousness. Once sunk in apathy, the organism is inert and remains so until external stimulus jars it loose or else death ensues."
-Robert Nisbet ‘Prejudices: a Philosophical Dictionary’

So this is the choice one has when facing comfort and apathy: to break from it or face creative and cultural death. Robert Nisbet mentions external stimulus that can awaken from apathy. If you are aware of the comfort and apathy you reside in, then it is a challenge to find the external stimuli to wake from the slumber. For individual, personal apathy, it can be medical help for psychological problems, yoga and meditation.
But what alarm clock works for cultural apathy? EASA is an example of an external stimulus, that many have mentioned it to be the cure for apathy on an individual but also collective educational level. The constant evolving of outside stimulus has to continue, otherwise it can become familiar and turn into a comfort zone itself.

"Someone has written that the only thing worse in life than not getting any of what one has struggled for is to get all of it."
-Robert Nisbet ‘Prejudices: a Philosophical Dictionary’

If you tame and domesticate your external stimulus, you’ll be making it into a routine, comfort, blanket and end up in the same loop yet again. Constant curiosity and search for a new stimuli is the way to not becoming complacent, following the set path etc. By new stimuli, we don’t mean adrenaline rush or consumption of new experiences, but of yearning for knowledge and ideals). The search of new stimuli is pushing the tolerance zone, the opposite of remaining in bed with comfort. But such vigilance is tiresome and energy consuming that keeping up with it and trying to still cover your basic needs is a struggle.
"In this country, a black man only have like
5 years we can exhibit maximum strength
And that’s right now while you a teenager, while you still strong
While you still wanna lift weights, while you still wanna shoot back
‘Cause once you turn 30 it’s like
They take the heart and soul out of a man
Out of a black man, in this country
And you don’t wanna fight no more
And if you don’t believe me, you can look around
You don’t see no loudmouth 30-year old motherfuckers"
-Kendrick Lamar „Mortal Man“ from To Pimp a Butterfly
interview recorded with Tupac Shakur

Though Tupac and Kendrick talk of the struggle of the black man, it makes one think of activism and the burn out rate of it. How long can one struggle against the status quo? Why is comfort in the end always so appealing? The world is about to explode but Netflix published a new season of something. What is the thing that we should protect from Calvino’s hell?
Empathy is possible only when there is a connection or interaction between individuals, objects, cultures. Just like with apathy, it is important to distinguish between the individual empathy and a cultural one. Cultural empathy grows out of interaction and reaction to the context. But of course it is hard to keep being empathetic towards all of the surroundings. We choose where to focus the empathy, is what remains behind our focused sight then apathy? But being piled under information and a chance to be aware of the context so much, the scales of empathy and apathy are out of balance.

"Rather than an expired state to look at from the safe distance of retrospective history, isn’t the condition of being avantgarde a necessity in these times of extreme peril and unprecedented neglect? Never before was information so easily available yet so little was done about it. In the age of information overflow, today’s architecture is the most indifferent form of architecture."
-WAI Think Tank „Ontological Crapstractions or Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Architecture so Indifferent so Appalling“ Archinet, 11.11.2018

Empathy is emotional intelligence that should be the core values of architecture, its practice and education. Empathy gives us the chance to understand the perspective of others. Empathy is the chance for us to understand the apathy of others and the reasons behind it. Empathy helps us with analysing experience and our privilege, to educate others. Empathy is the thing to be nurtured in the hell of apathy, it needs space. But with the values of speed, consumption and profit, where is the space for empathy?

"This critical architecture will dream of futures in unselfish ways, futures that as author Luis Othoniel Rosa mentions, don’t include us. Futures for the other. Futures for the neglected. For the ones we don’t even know."
-WAI Think Tank „Ontological Crapstractions or Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Architecture so Indifferent so Appalling“ Archinet, 11.11.2018

But are we creating for the future by using the paths set in the past. How can one practice empathy when the environment is not capable to bend towards future needs and the future neglected? So much of the spatial creation is just a pure act - unethical and apathetic. Empathy towards the future, the unknown is difficult. Even finding a chance to feel something towards a stranger or acquaintance is challenging. How can one then take on the task of „empathy“ for the future where even in the now there is little space to practice it, since one is stuck in the Daft Punk loop.

Instead of the apathetic work of pure act, it is necessary to start learning the very needed empathy of preservation. Environmental catastrophe is creating anxiety in most of us. Is it maybe time to rethink the action based apathetic culture and move into preservation as the sexy new thing, being empathetic to the already existing context? Should our heros become maybe the Paper architects like Utkin and Brodsky, making utopias, dystopias and fantasy projects that are never meant to be built?

“The group, which exhibited collectively under the title Paper Architects in 1984, chose not to take part in a system where buildings had to be erected cheaply and quickly with little care for users, where skilled labour was shunned, creativity stifled and architecture was part of a large-scale bureaucratic machinery. These architects were not awarded commissions and had no chance to practice an alternative architecture; in such a context one of the few forms of agency left was a refusal to participate in a bankrupt system.”
-https://www.spatialagency.net/database/paper.architects


What has changed? Right now seems to not vary much from the totalitarian Soviet regime of the 80s. Not saying that saying the paper architecture is the right way to do things, but it is an example of staying in the reality that one has chosen and not conforming to the comfort zone. Which context should one choose to operate in - working for the white businessmen chosen to be our heros or the empathetic rebellion?
The active apathetic culture, or excessively positivity as Byung-Chul Han calls it, has an excess of stimuli, information and impulses. He goes as far as calling the society that we live in as hyperattentive, always multitasking.

"Human beings in the late-modern society of work and information are not the only ones capable of multitasking. Rather, such an aptitude amounts to regression. Multitasking is commonplace among wild animals. It is an attentive technique indispensable for survival in the wilderness."
- Byung-Chul Han “The Burnout Society”

Just like animals are constantly on the lookout, so is the late-modern society more and more falling into the trap of fragmenting their attention, trapped in a society of laboring, becoming beasts of burden. Add to that the gig economy, which affects as much architecture as it does the taxi business, there is left no more free time. The more restless one is, the more “successful” they will be considered.

Byung-Chul Hun writes of the cultural achievement of humanity is because of contemplation, when deep attention is possible. The hyperattention and action based society is leaves no place for boredom, even have the time to be bored, since the hyperactive reality glorifies doing. Such an environment leads to just copying and accelerates what is already available.

With quietness also disappears the ability to listen. The skill of deep contemplation is a base for empathy, the skill of listening and understanding someone else's reality. The multitudes of realities disappear with the hyperactive ego being in charge. The hyperactive ego is incapable of creating a community of listeners.

What one should do is fight for time, for thinking and for deep boredom. One should try as much as possible to not get caught up in “the pseudo-activist pressure, let’s do it” mentality, it being yet another reproduction of the apathetic culture of action. These profile pictures were using a Facebook frame that blew up in Estonia post 2019 election called “Everyone’s Estonia”. Just like all of such things, it culminated in nothing. Herbert Marcuse said the racket is a companion to any organized aggression, where's in the dimension of silence, in the peacefulness that one can listen to what is suppressed in daily routine and joy, to see and hear what are things and what are we.

What else is there to say but...

"Tumble out of bed
And stumble to the kitchen
Pour myself a cup of ambition
And yawn and stretch and try to come to life
Jump in the shower
And the blood starts pumpin’
Out on the streets, the traffic starts jumpin’
For folks like me on the job from 9 to 5

Workin’ 9 to 5
What a way to make a livin’
Barely gettin’ by
It’s all takin’ and no givin’
They just use your mind
And they never give you credit
It’s enough to drive you
Crazy if you let it"
-Dolly Parton “9 to 5”