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City “Apathy” and Its Ethical Guidance

Yi Yongqing

(Marxism School of Hunan City University, Yiyang, Hunan 413000, China)
Abstract: Urban apathy, emerging in the process of urbanization in China, is a kind of social sickness. It is, in essence, a kind of moral apathy, which is manifested in low moral sensitiveness, low individual expectation of moral assistance, people’s doubt and disrespect for moral behavior, and inaction in moral practice. Studying the pathogenesis for urban apathy and exploring the therapy for it from ethical perspective are important issues concerning a new type of urbanization.
Key words: Urbanization; Moral Apathy; Cause; Countermeasure

In 2013, the ratio of urbanization in China reached 53.73%, which means China has entered the fast lane of urbanization. Urbanization not only means immigration of population and expansion of buildings, but also leads to the adjustment of interests actually, resulting in different values of the collision and the update of ethical views. Therefore, the urbanization has become a great background of moral evolution in China society. Conversely, moral evolution is an important variable in the process of urbanization, affecting the quality and quantity of future urbanization. At present, it is high time that we paid attention to the disharmonious city “apathy” appearing in the robust urbanization period.
The main symptom of city “apathy”
City “apathy” is a social phenomenon occurred in the urban society, belonging to so-called “urban diseases”. The definition of “City apathy” is that citizens have negative attitude to their family, to other people, to society, to environment, to public affairs, which were caused by sense of morality lagging behind special period of city development and transition. Because it is an abnormal phenomenon or pathological phenomenon, so we called it “City apathy”. Its main characters are as follow:
Firstly, people don’t care about family. In traditional rural society established on the basis of blood relationship and geopolitical foundation, family is the top priority. Rural peoples’ beliefs were: “The father should be affectionate and the son should be dutiful”; “elder should be friend and younger should be respect”; “couple should be harmony and wife following husband”; “People shouldn’t go far way when their parents are alive”. In the contemporary era of urbanization, a part of people come to the city from the tender countryside. The phenomenon against the traditional family morality is emerging, for example, family gradually become indifferent, children disrespect and even abandon their parents, husband and wife became strangers.
Secondly, some people are indifferent to others and the weak. When old man fall down or accident happens, there is no one to help. “Little Yueyue events” 1 occur repeatedly, the city’s bus station and other public places were posted slogans like “don't talk to strangers”. As if everywhere is traps in the city, people are on guard against each other, let alone care about others. To make things worse, this kind of indifference even extends to the field of occupation, resulting in the degeneration o f occupation moral. Such events as poisonous teamed buns”, “poisonous milk powder and “poisonous capsule” are happening frequently. Steamed buns producers do not eat Steamed buns; milk powder producers dare not eat milk powder. For their own sake, people are not concerned about the interests of others and even the life and health of others.
Thirdly, people are indifferent to the public affairs and public life. City is a huge public living space; there has minute division of labor. The relationships between people look like strangers, but, actually, they are intertwined with each other. City is a community of mutual help and everyone has a stake in each other’s success. To survive, citizens established series of regulation to keep the public living space operating normally. However, the rapid development of the city makes the city rule construction in the legal level almost absent, and the moral level lags behind seriously. What is more , people focus only on the immediate interests, and lack the ability of foreseeing the long-term benefits of their own, and seldom have the awareness of taking care of others’ and public interests being the other side of taking care of their own interests. Therefore, they don’t ask, don’t participate in, and don’t care about public affairs, city natural environment and city political life.
In fact, the city “apathy” is a kind of moral indifference. Moral indifference is that the moral subject refuses to take moral responsibility to people who are in trouble, and that is a moral attitude and behavior lacking of compassion and sympathy, even causing the ways of moral behavior of the mutual indifference, no mutual care, and mutual exclusion and denial. This kind of moral indifference mainly includes: First, the sensitivity of morality is on the decrease, individuals showing indifference of moral responsibility. Second, the individuals have low expectations for moral recipients; Third, the public doubts and disrespect about the moral behavior; Fourth, the moral practice is at absent. “Moral indifference” has become serious illness in the process of Chinese urbanization.
The reason of city “apathy” formation
To some extent, the occurrence of City “apathy” reflects the changes of the current citizens’ moral quality. In the final analysis, “apathy” is a kind of moral phenomenon, and it has the soil and the realistic basis in citizen moral life: the changing of the daily life.
As daily life is the foundation of moral life, its changes directly lead to the changes of moral life. The establishment of socialist market economy system and improvement has changed the moral life foundation of citizens in China. The establishment and reform of market economic system has great influence to citizens’ daily life. Market economy, in essence, has the characteristics of openness, competition and freedom, which stressed that all the social resources are allocated by market demand, so that it makes the transaction boundaries expand. Actually, people's moral life and moral behavior is the reflection of consciousness about the current economic life. Citizens’ blind pursuit of economic interests makes morals loss, evoking money worship, individualism and utilitarianism. To some extent, the traditional moral life is replaced by naked money relationship. The economic interpersonal relationship is closing up the inspirit interaction between people, causing the alienation of interpersonal emotion, since all values are measured by economic interests. This is the “apathy” appearing  for economic reasons.
During the process of modernization, especially against the background of the continuous deepening reform and opening up and economic globalization, the different eastern and western ideology are also presenting a diverse state: value is intersecting, colliding and fusing fiercely. The diversification of social values shows the coexistence of the positive and negative values, and of the advanced and the backward values, which confuses the normal standard of moral judgment and moral judgment ability, making people be a moral dilemma, thus, affecting people’s moral practice. What is more serious is that the negative value of moral nihilism was spread in the society, which completely denied moral absolutism and moral idealism in the Chinese tradition. People’s moral belief is gradually shaken and even is going to be broken. However, the new moral is not established when the traditional morality going broken. The disordered state in value and normal field weakened people’s identity to moral regulation, so that they choose not to practice morality. This is an important reason for “apathy” phenomenon.
The dominant of Chinese traditional culture is the Confucian, aiming at maintaining the hierarchical order of the feudal rule, and it emphasizes the moral relationship in the interpersonal relationship and advocates moral rule of benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, faith, and loving each other.
 However, the traditional culture is a moral complex with goodness and weakness. There are also some negative factors. Such old sayings as “Be worldly-wise for only personal safety”, “the less trouble, the better”, “putting full heart into reading Saints book while turning a deaf ear to anything else” clearly reflect a kind of negative factor that only care about self-protection, regardless of  the suffering of others. The two thousand years of natural economy have the characters of “selfish”, “narrow”, “closed” and “conservative”. The negative factors are still affecting the thoughts of modern people. The combination of negative factors of Chinese tradition and western morality give birth to moral “apathy” during the process of urbanization.
The ethical guiding of city “apathy”
City “apathy”, as a moral issue, must be solved by moral method.
First, social distribution should be more just. Ethics is a philosophy of life, while, morality is coming from life. Distribution system of production and living materials plays the most important role in people’s life. Confucius (2006) said, “Inequality rather than want is the cause of trouble”. Guan Zhong (1989) said: “People know courtesy when granary filling, people know honor when having enough food and clothing.” The scarcity of social wealth ,the unreasonable and unfair social distribution would have a tremendous impact on people's moral psychology. Some people said that model workers are living worse than prostitutes, because model workers works as hard as prostitutes, but, the salary of prostitutes is higher than that of workers. It is worthy of reflecting. If legal work are not respected, and the thought of getting something for nothing is prevailing in society, and if “the official second generation” and “the rich second generation” are envied by society, and if such phenomenon as “depending on parents to feed”, “competition of family background”, “ant tribe” and “dwelling” takes place continuously and society class continues to be differentiated, we couldn’t expect the a high level of social morality. Therefore, we should strive to improve the fairness of social distribution and to narrow the gap between rich and poor and to respect labor, ensuring a dignity life for workers.
Second, efforts to create a good moral environment and promote the correct value orientation should be made. The proverb says, if one occupies the room full of fragrant orchids for a long time, he will not notice their fragrance, long in the abalone market, he will not aware how smell it is. A society with overall high level of morality can condense huge positive energy, and help to rise people's moral level. In contrast, a the society with overall low level of morality can produce huge negative energy, resulting in relatively lower moral level. Therefore, ancient Chinese has a story that Mencius’ mother moved her house three times to create a better environment for her son. But it is a passive change, which only can adapt to individuals rather than the collective.
Since the Eighteenth National Congress of the CPC, the CPC makes the core values of socialism clear, and fights against corruption and degeneration, showing his unprecedented determination to improve the social moral environment. People are obviously feeling the improvement of the whole social morality. Of course, Rome was not built in a day. We still have a long way to go to completely eliminate corruption and corruption concept, to make the whole society have fresh air. The construction of social moral environment is extremely important, for whether the Chinese nation's rejuvenation dream could come true is decided by it. There is no doubt that the government and non-government organization take the leading role in social moral construction, and the media also is of great importance. The masses of Chinese people are the subject of moral construction, while, in the city, the subject can be specific to every citizen. The government should declare their values clearly that what to be praised and what to be opposed so as to make a moral example to the public. The media should take a rejection to false advertisements and refuse the vulgar, allowing people to be full of confidence. Every citizen should also seriously take their moral obligation, not only to be “young angry” without any real moral action. Most of patients of city "apathy" ignored their moral identity, moral duty and obligation, only complaining about the moral environment and government’s inaction, shaping a antisocial personality, thus inevitably falling into moral nihilism. Only when the government, the media, the public cooperate with each other can we create a good social moral environment to eliminate the city “apathy”.
Third, we must strengthen moral education to improve the national moral consciousness. Moral education is an important way of moral construction; moral education directly determines the level of social moral standards. The subject of moral education is diverse, including the government, schools, non-governmental organizations, the media and individuals. The content and methods of moral education is various, the socialist core values is the basic content of moral education. Morals come from the daily life, and the moral philosophy is a philosophy of life, therefore, the moral education method and content should be close to the real life, rather than far away from it. Singapore Prime Minister Li Xianlong deliveries a speech about morals on TV every weekend, instead of talking about doctrine and thought, he only talks about small household affairs, putting the moral education into the real scene, which is easier to be understood and more attractive, fulfilling the government's original intention of moral education. It is worthy of our reference.
Finally, the moral reward and punishment mechanism should be established. The practical and feasible way of moral reward and punishment measures should be taken, such as selecting a civilized city, civilized units and moral model, incentivizing who act bravely for a just cause, and utilizing the media to blame the immoral behaviors.  It has positive effect on preventing the city "apathy". Of course, moral rewards and punishments must be different from the legal punishment, and they couldn’t be confused, for acts of violation of laws and regulations should be punished according to laws, instead of using the morals to condemn it. On the contrary, it would be better to use the moral rules to education or condemn the one who is immoral, and we should not use laws and regulations to accuse others of ethical misconduct.
Confucius(2006). Confucian Analects. Peking: Chung Hwa book co. ltd.
Guan Z. (1989). Guan Zi. Shanghai: Shanghai Chinese Classics Publishing House.