by Elie Wiesel
What is indifference? Etymologically, the word means “no differ-ence.” A strange and unnatural state in which the lines blur be-tween light and darkness, dusk and dawn, crime and punishment, cruelty and compassion, good and evil.
What are its courses and inescapable consequences? Is it a philosophy? Is there a philosophy of indifference conceivable? Can one possibly view indifference as a virtue? Is it necessary at times to practice it simply to keep one’s sanity, live normally, enjoy a fine meal and a glass of wine, as the world around us experiences harrowing upheavals?
Of course, indifference can be tempting — more than that, seductive. It is so much easier to look away from victims. It is so much easier to avoid such rude interruptions to our work, our dreams, our hopes. It is, after all, awkward, troublesome, to be involved in another person’s pain and despair. Yet, for the person who is in-different, his or her neighbor are of no consequence. And, there-fore, their lives are meaningless. Their hidden or even visible an-guish is of no interest. Indifference reduces the other to an abstraction.
In a way, to be indifferent to that suffering is what makes the human being inhuman. Indifference, after all, is more dangerous than anger and hatred. Anger can at times be creative. One writes a great poem, a great symphony, one does something special for the sake of humanity because one is angry at the injustice that one witnesses. But indifference is never creative. Even hatred at times may elicit a response. You fight it. You denounce it. You disarm it. Indifference elicits no response. Indifference is not a response.
Indifference is not a beginning, it is an end. And, therefore, indifference is always the friend of the enemy, for it benefits the aggressor — never his victim, whose pain is magnified when he or she feels forgotten. The political prisoner in his cell, the hungry children, the homeless refugees — not to respond to their plight, not to relieve their solitude by offering them a spark of hope is to exile them from human memory. And in denying their humanity we betray our own.
Exerpts from Speech Delivered to President Bill Clinton April 12, 1999 Washington D.C.
“The opposite of love is not hate. It is indifference.” ― Christopher Pike, Black Blood
I have learned that compassion starts with me.