Everybody warned me about the incredibly expensive prices in Switzerland and for that reason I found things to be just fine. I caught myself saying in my head, Is that it? a number of times I opened my wallet. For example, the cost of a one way train ticket to Lucerne from Zurich was only 20 CHF (~$22 USD). Is that it? The cost per night at the Hotel Pilatus in a quaint town called Hergiswil was only 120 CFH. Is that it? Even a plate of gooey raclette was only 9.5CFH, leaving me more than good enough to get three scoops of gelato for 5 CFH afterward!
I decided to visit Switzerland for three reasons: 1) I’ve never been and heard Switzerland to be one of the most beautiful and livable countries in the world, 2) To test the upper limits of what my income can comfortably afford and 3) To get firsthand experience about Swiss neutrality, which I find synonymous with apathy.
The first things that comes to people’s minds when they hear the word, “Switzerland” are chocolate, mountains, and cheese. There aren’t any sort of negative connotations about the country except for perhaps the high prices. Try the same exercise with North Korea, and you get a completely different set of nouns and adjectives. What we also don’t get from Switzerland is any feeling of emotion due to its neutrality.
EVENTUALLY WE STOP CARING OUT OF SELFISHNESS
The reason why Wall St research analysts have Neutral ratings is because they don’t want to take the wrong stance for fear of being ridiculed or fired for being wrong. Instead, it’s better to stay apathetic and massage their argument whichever way the stock goes after the fact. You can’t lose!
One of the key benefits of being financially independent is that you care much less about what other people think. If you don’t depend on a job to live a comfortable life, do you really worry about saying “the wrong” things? Of course not because nobody controls your livelihood. A large part of the reason why there’s so much opinion on Financial Samurai is because I’m 100% not dependent on any online income. That’s what saving an investing for the past 13 years was for. The more neutered the writing online, the higher the dependency.
I’ve noticed a shift in my attitude over the four years of writing online. Slowly, my most opinionated soul is gradually getting extinguished with apathy. If someone attacks me on some topic, I really don’t care as much anymore, especially if I know they’re still working for a living and inhabiting some wretched place where no tourist ever visits. I actually feel a little empathetic to my detractors because it’s tough being miserable. The louder the criticism, the more pain they are going through.
My attitude shift is evident in the article, “There’s No Need To Worry About Other People’s Finances.” I think we’re too nosey and a little too judgmental when it comes to what other people do with their money. If you want to blow your money on fancy things, go for it! You can always deal with the consequences later. When it comes to my own children, I’m going to embed the mentality of deserving only what is earned. But when it comes to other people’s children, I have no jurisdiction and all parents should enjoy the freedom of going their own way.
Apathy might seem like a default negative given caring is a fundamentally important attribute to progress in society. We stop caring because we’ve got everything we need and that’s pretty selfish. However, let’s take a look at the benefits of apathy to better understand those who are apathetic.
THE BENEFITS OF APATHY
* You don’t get hurt. Thanks to Swiss neutrality, the country remained largely unscathed during WWII. If you are neutral, there’s no need to enslave yourself to the winning side and risk being wrong. The same thing goes for not standing up for your friends or loved ones in battle. If your friend is getting beaten to a pulp by a mugger, just pretend you don’t notice and walk away. So long as you block your borders and stay out of harms way there’s a good chance you’ll keep all your arms and limbs.
* You enjoy more stability. The main reason why Switzerland became such a huge financial center is because of its stability. Offshore money poured into the country because of the strong belief it would be the least likely to be invaded or overthrown. The Swiss government has been very stable for almost 200 years and will probably continue to be this way for the foreseable future. The last place you are going to put your money is in an Egyptian, Greek or North Korean banks at the moment. The United States has become a financial powerhouse for the same reasons.
* You will have a higher chance of getting rich. The per capita income of Switzerland is one of the highest in the world at roughly $79,000. That’s more than 50% higher than we poor folk in the US. With little fear of upheaval or confiscation of property, the playing field for meritocracy levels out. You can build a foundation of wealth that will last for generations. Online, those sites with the least amount of opinion tend to be the largest and most lucrative sites. People like blasé, even though they say they want personality.
BUT WHAT IF YOU CARE?
Those who care the most tend to be the most successful. The best employees stay until whenever is necessary to get the job done. The best athletes practice long after the crowds go home. The best bloggers figure out ways to not only entertain but to involve the community and educate. There is guilt associated with not doing our best. I don’t want to stop caring because it simply feels good to do my best every single chance I get. I’d like to stand for something and help others a long the way.
If you use the words “whatever” too often when someone asks what you want to do, you’re likely very apathetic. If you are very apathetic you might as well be dead because you’re adding no value to society. Sometimes apathy is used for survival reasons, such as the Swiss in World War Two. Maybe you’re being apathetic to appease others by just going with the flow. However, most of the time apathy is either due to being too comfortably numb to care.
Sometimes you’ll feel that it’s pointless to care because suffering is never ending. But if we individually make an effort, such as with recycling or spending time educating our children, surely things must improve eventually. If we can start giving even just a little bit more than we receive, then there will be a surplus of goodness to go around.
The best way to start giving a damn is by being so financially and emotionally secure with ourselves that we can’t help but give. When we are secure we can give our money, our time, and our love to others. If we’re too busy just trying to survive then we’ll always be just an apathetic taker.
Readers, do you suffer from apathy? If so, why? Do you agree that it’s very hard to care for others if you can’t properly care for yourself? What are ways to get out of an apathetic funk?
Photo 1: Back of the boat on Lake Lucerne. Photo 2: The top of Mt. Pilatus. Photo 3: Bird in flight on Mt. Pilatus. Photo 4: 6am in Lucerne, Summer, 2013.