PLEASE NOTE:

MyNews24 is a user-generated section of News24.com. The stories here come from users.

 
Mark Peach
 
Comments: 1
Article views: 295
 
 
Latest Badges:

 
View all Mark Peach's badges.
 

On the perils of indifference

12 June 2014, 07:22

Elie Wiesel, the author who survived the Jewish Holocaust, gave a speech called The Perils of Indifference a few years ago. In his speech, Wiesel said:

What is indifference? Etymologically, the word means "no difference." A strange and unnatural state in which the lines blur between 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 indifferent, his or her neighbor are of no consequence. And, therefore, their lives are meaningless. Their hidden or even visible anguish is of no interest. Indifference reduces the other to an abstraction.

Is indifference, Wiesel seems to be asking, a state of being necessary in which we allow ourselves to be absorbed into a numbness in order to keep our sanity and reduce the interruptions of surrounding reality? Is it a state of mind in which, of necessity, we reduce others "to an abstraction" so that they don't become a problem?

If it is, then it may follow that the reality around us is so unpleasurable as to make our retreat from each other necessary for us to keep our sanity, or at least our equilibrium.

Or why else would we anaesthetise ourselves with splendid isolation?

Choosing indifference could mean that we have lost, or never had in the first place, the faculties to deal with those unpleasant realities, troubles, pain and despair.

Which is it? Both?

Reading through and thinking about Wiesel's comment one can't help but be drawn to the writer Chekhov's brilliant The Darling, in which the protagonist Olenka, cannot ever quite connect to her world and mothballs herself from its harsh realities through relationships only with those closest to her.

In a sense, she reacts to the world only through those close to her. On her own she does not own the faculties she needs to get on with her life. In fact, whenever one love moves on she seems to settle into an inertia until the next one comes along. She is, in a real sense, and using Wiesel's definition of the word, in that strange and unnatural place where there is no difference between things so that no one thing needs to be encountered on its own terms.

I may be a little cynical here, but I seem to sense Olenka in many I encounter: people who are shutting themselves off from the world and wrap themselves only in those around them, in a sort of indifference, in which, to use Wiesel's words, anyone outside of themselves is no more than an abstraction without personality, context, and being, and so need not be seen and felt.

It is easy to see why this indifference is so prevalent. Is our world not so uncomfortable that we need a concentrated retreat from it so we can retain our sense of numbness. 

But there are consequences: the further we retreat into indifference, the more we lose our ability to relate when we need to; and ironically, the more we retreat into indifference, the more we lose the tools to relate to those closest to us - as Olenka did - so that eventually we are unable to feel and see those closest to us.

In the end, indifference to the outside world, to others, makes us indifferent to everyone, including those who accompany us in our indifference.

 Or are we losing the ability to deal with the world on its terms?

Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.

 

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Submitted by
Noor Davids
Discriminatory practices are not ...

To say that South Africa has a constitution that enshrines freedom of expression, human dignity and respect, may belabouring the obvious. Read more...

0 comments 621 views
Submitted by
Xolani Mthethwa
Submitted by
Faheema Sahib
Drugs - Are We In Denial?

Whether smoked, inhaled, injected, absorbed or consumed, they have infested the lives of many irrespective of age, gender, race or creed, negatively affecting ones health, physically, mentally and emotionally. Read more...

0 comments 222 views
Hair! The Politics Part 1

The biggest story right now is that of the girls of colour protesting racism, but more specifically, the rule pertaining to their hair as required by the school’s rules, in this case being Pretoria Girls High School, but applicable to most schools. Read more...

0 comments 294 views
Submitted by
Mtha Gaulekapa
Bantu Holomisa, The UDM’s Achille...

Since the United Democratic Movement’s formation in 1997, I’ve only known four of its members. Read more...

0 comments 211 views
Submitted by
Mapula Dikgale
Black girls in tears at Pretoria ...

We may have read or heard about the debacle that is alleged to have taken place at a Pretoria school about a black girl's hair. I like black South Africans enthusiasm when it comes to reacting to "racism". Read more...

0 comments 756 views
 

services

E-mail Alerts The latest headlines in your inbox

RSS feeds News delivered really simply.

Mobile News24 on your mobile or PDA

E-mail Newsletters You choose what you want

News24 on Android Get the latest from News24 on your Android device.

SMS Alerts Get breaking news stories via SMS.

TV Get us in your home, on your television.

 
Interactive Advertising Bureau
 
© 2016 24.com. All rights reserved.
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.