Grand Lodge of Utah


Free and Accepted Masons  
 To Be One Ask One  Salt Lake Masonic Temple • 650 E South Temple • Salt Lake City, UT 84102 • (801) 363-2936  

"Apathy, Complacency and Other Dirty Words"
Frank C. Baker, W. Grand Orator

Most Worshipful Grand Master, Brethren, Ladies and Guests, good evening. I quote George Carlin, "Scientists announced today that they have discovered a cure for apathy. However, they claim no one has shown the slightest interest in it." I hope I will hold your interest in this oration which is titled...


How often do you hear the phrases - "I don't care, so what?" "What does it have to do with me, why should I care?" or, "big deal, someone else will do It." and last but not least, "I don't give a ****." I suppose more often than not in everyday life. The real question is how often do you hear yourself saying those words?

Webster's Dictionary defines apathy as a lack of feeling or emotion, a lack of interest or concern. The dictionary defines complacency as self satisfaction accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies. For the purpose of this oration, dirty words are defined as words whose terms relate to apathy and complacency.

Tonight I would like to talk about these two states of being; apathy and complacency and how they affect our lives and our Fraternity.

Apathy and complacency creep into our lives like a silent subtle haze; like a cold dense fog that materializes in the atmosphere at night, covering everything in a damp motionless blanket of indifference. From this haze a residue of decay forms, it is the decomposition of action. We can find it everywhere; in our nation, in our community and in our Fraternity. "Apathy destroys the power of action and complacency destroys the action to empower." They menace our freedoms, undermine our liberties and threaten our very existence. When we practice indifference or become complacent other dirty words materialize as obscure droplets on the surface of humanity. These dirty words are impurities that are caused by the direct association with apathy and complacency, here to name just three; they are mediocrity, ignorance and intolerance. They tarnish the light of freedom; dim the flame of justice, and shroud the face of decency.

Mediocrity is the submission to inferior abilities or values. When we settle for mediocrity, we consent to inferior quality, we succeed to lower our expectations in all things, and we choose to be barely adequate. Eric Hoffer wrote in the New York Times Magazine, April 25th 1971, "The real Antichrist is he who turns the wine of an original idea into the water of mediocrity."

Ignorance is the lack of knowledge. When we settle for ignorance, we choose un-enlightenment, we consent to misinformation, we submit to the rule and control by others. Ignorance and apathy go hand in hand. This quote by Richard Pratt simply describes the meanings of the two words, "A university professor set an examination question in which he asked what is the difference between ignorance and apathy" "The professor had to give an A+ to a student who answered: I don't know and I don't care."

Intolerance is the unwillingness to share social, political and personal rights as well as freedoms. When we settle on intolerance, we choose a closed mind, we consent to the inability to endure, and we secede to bigotry. President Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote in his address to the National Education Association on June 30th 1938, "If the fires of freedom and civil liberties burn low in other lands, they must be made brighter in our own. If in other lands the press and books and literature of all kinds are censored, we must redouble our efforts here to keep them free. If in other lands the eternal truths of the past are threatened by intolerance we must provide a safe place for their perpetuation."

We as a nation must carry the light of freedom by speaking out against injustice, inequality and mediocrity.

History is full of examples of the out comes from apathetic societies and complacent individuals. Albert Einstein wrote, "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."

We as a community must keep the flame of justice burning by speaking out against bigotry, ignorance and hate.

Robert F. Kennedy wrote, "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."

You may ask what these words have to do with Freemasonry and the Fraternity. Well, our existence as a fraternal organization depends on involvement, it depends on contribution, and it depends on doing.

We as a Fraternity must keep the face of decency glowing by controlling our actions towards one another through tolerance, equality and justice for all.

The attitudes we develop early in life toward self and selfishness, involvement and indifference, tolerance and intolerance, display themselves in ways that our conscious minds don't often see; therefore, "we must be ever vigilant about the consequences of reacting and speaking before the act of thinking".

We must change our attitudes toward how we involve ourselves in the Fraternity. We don't like change, but change is good for all who seek the truth; "it rattles the chains of complacency and breaks the bonds of apathy".

When we involve ourselves with the business of Freemasonry, with the ritual of Freemasonry and with the charity of Freemasonry we are reassured of the closeness of friendship - the satisfaction of caring - the joy of giving. We can choose to stand at a distance - outside - peering into the doorway of self illumination that leads to knowledge or we can walk through and enter the light of positive thinking.

The author of this quote is unknown but it could be attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, though it's unverified, "Great nations rise and fall. The people go from bondage to spiritual truth, to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back again to bondage."

I think our nation may be in that stage of complacency leading to apathy. We must not digress further from apathy to dependence. How can we overcome the silent haze of apathy and complacency? Do we have a choice? Yes, we do have a choice, it is called involvement - it is called contribution - it is called doing.

We can choose to follow one of two paths in life. One path leads to action; and is filled with reason that leads to the light of knowledge. The other path leads to inaction and is filled with doubt and uncertainty that leads to darkness and despair. You make the choice on which path you want to travel.

Show an interest in all that is important, become involved in the ideals and values that make a positive difference and take action in what concerns you in your life. And don't ever, let yourself get caught saying the phrase: "I don't know and I don't care".

Thank you and enjoy the rest of your evening. Frank C. Baker, Worshipful Grand Orator - 03 March 2006

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Last Updated: December 27, 2012