On Indifference

I was reading the transcript of Ellie Wiesel’s speech titled “The perils of indifference”  and these are a few lines I absolutely loved.


“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 ?”

“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.”

“Indifference, after all, is more dangerous than anger and hatred. Anger can at times be creative. One writes a great poem, a great symphony. 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 always benefits the aggressor — never his victim, whose pain is magnified when he or she feels forgotten.”


His speech primarily talks about the indifference we have shown and continue to show towards the harrowing upheavals of the world around us. But I think these words apply at a much more personal level as well. I’ll say that each one of us needs to ask ourselves the following questions. Have I been indifferent to my family ? My friends ? To people I claim to care about ? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, I think we have some thinking to do. Do we have a good enough reason for our indifference ? Does the person really deserve that kind of punishment ? Are we too weak to hate that person ? Or too weak to love ? Or worse still, too weak to even care ?


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One Response to On Indifference

  1. Dushyant says:

    Ha! I had said the same thing a while ago 🙂 your observations are spot on. We are all more indifferent than we would like to believe 😦

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