Saturday, July 21, 2007

the wicked slight of indifference

In a democracy some are guilty but all are responsible.

The opposite of good is not evil.

The opposite of good is indifference.

Abraham Heschel

It seems to me that we are becoming more and more hardened and weary by the blinders we wear. Though it may be out of sheer survival as we continue to be inundated with the barrage of horrors infiltrating our global village with no end in sight. It's just too overwhelming and too enormous to even know where to begin to search for solutions....war, poverty, hunger, terrorism, abuse, gun violence, gang violence, family violence, dictatorship, child soldiers, child labour, torture.....the list of human driven evil is endless. So, we turn away. We stop reading the newspaper. We turn off the evening news. We rationalize our closed minds by distancing ourselves to the realities that our fellow human beings are facing.

What I don't know won't affect me. What I don't know won't hurt me.

Why havent we learned from even recent world history that this is never the case?

Indifference. "Don't care." "Not interested." "Why bother? I can't do anything about it." "It's not my problem. If they have a problem, why don't they do something about it?" "Nothings stopping them. They made those choices to live there. Let them clean up their own messes." "Let the politicians deal with it. That's why they were elected in the first place." "Did I vote? Why would I bother? They are all criminals anyway. I'm not wasting my time."

"I've got bills to pay. Let someone else donate their money." "I don't watch the news. It's too depressing." "We don't get the newspaper anymore. It's too depressing." Africa? Ah, it'll never change.....I'm so sick of hearing about it. We keeping pouring money and sending them food and they never get over their problems. Why don't they just get over it?" "I can't think about that right now. I'm too busy."

Wow.......I'm sure you've heard these statements or similar ones uttered. They are flipped out into the air so frequently that I'm afraid we as a collective society have begun to believe them. It has led us down a wicked path of indifference as we insultate our individual nests to hide away from responsibility.

Cynicism eats the flesh of our souls. It feeds an "I don't care" attitude. Indifference is the enabler of evil. Just like the buddy who drinks with their alcoholic friend instead of trying to help the friend overcome his addiction, indifferent behaviour is interpreted as consent. Better to stick your head in the sand than to take your turn making a stand?

It's not as black and white as I'm portraying though is it? We may be able to trace this lackadaisical stance to the beginning of time, we are now living in a multi-media ocean of news. It IS too much. It IS mindblowingly awful. We have evolved into a global village where the horrors of Darfur may be a top news story one day only to be shoved off the front page and out of our consciousness by a terrorist attack in Glasgow the next day, followed by bombing in Pakistan, a plane crash in Brazil, and a list of casualities as a result of yet another terror bombing in a village in Iraq. Who can keep up with the conflicts in the Middle East? As much as I try, I am one confused person. And what is completely and utterly lost in the onslaught learning about death and gore and torture? The good.

The good. We dont hear or read enough of it.

The consequence? We tune out just to handle the dooming glooming wicked. Our media thrives because of sensational stories of evil. Though someone must be reading them or watching the news because we are the ones who obviously perpetuate this and expect it, the collective "we" remains passive and indifferent. We are informed and indifferent? It's a vicious circle which has left us feeling impotent. Instead of seeking balance, of learning about some of the good things happening in the world, our constant feed of evil has turned into a sense of learned helplessness. Too may bad guys. Too many bad stories has left us bereft of knowing and understanding the goodness. Just like a victim of abuse, we have lost our confidence in doing something about it. Given that the knowledge and understanding of good and bad, of right and wrong is the essence of our moral construct, it leads me to wonder if our society is clinically depressed. Depression manifests itself by exhibiting indifferent behaviour doesn't it?

So, where do we find the balance? How do we dig out of the depression and indifference which seems to have rendered us incapable of reacting? How do we find the motivational drive to overcome apathy?

Desmond Tutu stated, "Do your little bit of good where you are; its those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world." That's how he started, right? He wasn't born a famous spiritual and political leader. He started by doing a little bit of good. Look where it got him?

Last week, in the midst of the evil driven news stories was one powerfully positive story which floated to the top....the story which actually instigated this long run-on thought. Stephanie Nolen, an author and journalist who writes for the Globe and Mail on topics mostly related to Africa, but in a manner which always brings whatever story she is writing about right into my own cloistered world and makes me think, wrote a wonderful story about a new group of people called the Elders. Did you hear about them? An excerpt............

"The official order of business Wednesday was the introduction of The Elders: convened at the request of Nelson Mandela, a collection of former leaders that has begun to work together to advance the causes of peace and global justice.
Five Nobel Laureates and a handful of other eminences gathered on the stage in Johannesburg as Mr. Mandela announced that they would seek to fulfill the traditional role of elders in a village, providing wisdom and leadership and attempting to resolve conflicts, taking on everything from climate change to the fighting in Darfur.
A symbolic empty chair was left on stage for Aung San Suu Kyi, the activist who will join the group when she is free of government-imposed house arrest in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). But as the Elders sat in a row and spoke about their very serious work, a current – of irreverence, of resilience, of what looked very much like joy – kept bubbling up through the formality. And Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who chairs this elders' council, voiced the true theme of the gathering: “Goodness will prevail.”
here is the link to the rest of the story

Abraham Heschel was right. Indifference is the opposite of good. He learned this as a strong opponent of racism and war, as a man and a religious leader who walked alongside Martin Luther King and who stated that when he was marching against the savagery of racism, his legs were doing his praying. His moral compass fed his action. As ours must do too. A little good at a time and we will overwhelm the world.

We can overwhelm the world.

We need to regard our leaders, the more famous ones as well as the people in our community who are assuming stances and demanding goodness, who can provide us with balance in an imbalanced world, who can motivate and stimulate and generate activity which takes us away from the depression of indifference. Because the more you hear something, and the more you read it............the more you SAY IT OUT LOUD, the more you will believe it.

Goodness will prevail..........has a wonderful ring to it, doesn't it? Let's let our feet and our hearts and our minds and our actions be the prayer.

ps. Wicked is the prompt this week from sunday scribblings......


margalit said...

What a wonderful post and call to activism. As an activist myself, I'm always so thrilled to see someone else besides me care so passionately about the world. So few of us do.

Here from Michele

And oh, we vacation in Shediac!

David said...

thank you for putting so much into this post, I hope a few will mine its depth to take away a nugget of wisdom.
here from michele, now off to dinner and sunset, somewhere.

Redness said...

You asked :
Is wicked always considered female? It seems to me that it does.........
Female wicked, not via my lighthearted Scribbling! Wicked means new and fun in my 2007 vocabulary!

Shaz said...

WOW as always you blow me away with your thought provoking posts.
I always try to do my little bit aswell and pray that if we all do it makes a lot.
Awesome Dana xx

paris parfait said...

Dana, this is brilliant. I had read about the Elders and their wonderful initiative. Your reference to indifference is important; for so long I've been lamenting the apathy of the West. I'm beginning to think the only thing that will make the majority actually wake up and take action is if there is a draft and his or her child may be sent to war. Too many people seem to cling to their comfort zone, oblivious to how everything that happens in the world ultimately affects us all. On the other hand, many of these people will participate in local community or church efforts to help those less fortunate. But you're right that we must all contribute to the solution (rather than to the problem, by indifference and inaction). If not us, who?

Crafty Green Poet said...

Brilliant post, hope it can help wake some people up. Maybe society is depressed, maybe we're all just used to being spoonfed, maybe too many people think the meaning of life is to vegetate in front of light entertainment shows in tv while eating burgers. I think its strange.

BreadBox said...

Hmm.... I've sat down three times now to comment on this, and the words are not coming. So, just wanted to tell you that I want to comment on it, am moved to comment on it, but at the moment seem to be constitutionally incapable of doing so... So, perhaps a more cogent comment in a day or two.

Beautiful Witch said...

I'm one of those people who don't read the newspaper or watch the news. I prefer to spend my time working on issues I can do something about - my local environment, local politics.

I don't think the answer to indifference is to watch the news or read the newspaper. As you point out, we all KNOW what goes on in the world, even if the details are fuzzy. It's about compelling us to act. And that is a hard thing to instill in people.

Great take on the topic - definite food for thought!

gautami tripathy said...

Thoughtful, insightful post. We all need to read it.

We are somewhat apathetic to what goes on. We need to be more involved.

Thanks for this. I have got into a thinking mode.

Awareness said...

margalit...welcome...maybe the definition of human being should include the word activist in it so that we all define ourselves that way...

enjoy Shediac! may you find the perfect lobster roll!

David....thank you. I feel like I have scraped the surface with respect to my own emerging awareness and need to mine it myself.

redness...wicked does seem to be considered a female adjective....though I do know some very wicked a good way...not that its a bad thing :)

shaz...yes, I think Desmond Tutu had it right....we all do our little bit and it adds also gives us confidence to try to do more I think. It is a HUGE lesson to pass onto our children as I know you are doing.

Tara...thank you. had to cut this shorter than I wanted because it would've been way too long for blogland.....i hope the key points I was trying to make came through. we need to know and feel the good out there to have a clear view of what is know the difference helps our collective moral compass.
I agree with seems like for most the "bad" has to personally affect in order to jump into action, and I don't know how we summon way is to put the Leaders like the Elders front and centre and let them inspirationally shine, shine, shine! We can't allow their messages and stories be lost in the negative stories we are inundated with daily. is strange....we do have a saturation point too. I know there are times when the only thing I seem capable of doing is sitting in front of the TV watching some mindless game show. ( I do love Howie Mandel :)) If we try to look at the myriad of wickedness out there...well it's just to frigging overwhelming...hand me the remote....

maybe we need to look at it like eating an bite at a time.

hey BW....yes, I'm with you..the news seeps into us through various avenues. We all are aware of the biggie stories..though I confess I'm a news junkie, especially print news....I also prefer to focus on my own community when it comes to action. I have learned over the years working in the world of bureaucracy that there is no point in trying to help more than one individual at at time even though our social systems are not set up that way....

gautami..... would love to read your thoughts.....your perspective from your vantage point I am very interested in.

Herb Urban said...

Brilliant post! I hear all those excuses on a daily basis, even from some relatives who just throw their hands up in the air and say their vote is meaningless. But good citizenship is more than voting every year, two years or four years.

Every decision we make outside the voting booth, from where what businesses we choose to support or not support is an act of citizenship.

We can watch Fox News, listen to talk radio, catch five minutes of the Today Show for our news, or we can seek out the news that actually matters to us.

As you point out, apathy is the true enemy of democracy. Those in power wants the masses to be disengaged, apathetic and distracted. If we collectively called them into account, perhaps the environment would be cleaner, health care more affordable and wages more fairer.

The expression that we get the government we deserve is only true because we we let it be so.

Thanks for a wonderful post!

Gilson said...

Hey, great post. I can’t think of anything more important than trying to apply goodness. And you wrote about it very clearly with well-based arguments. I do believe in the power of transformation, I really do.

Paul said...

Good post and one which, I hope, will not fall on deaf ears.

Awareness said...

breadbox.....sorry for not commenting earlier. I somehow missed you...look forward to reading your thoughts!

herb....thank you for your comments. perhaps we need to spend time helping children understand what good citizenship is all about and offer them opportunities to become this. It seems to me this is missing in our early education curriculum.

your point about where we get our news.....i agree....we need to seek it out in a more broad based manner.

gilson....welcome....the power of transformation.....just writing it is empowering....i believe in it too.

paul...welcome as can only put one's thoughts out there and hope for the best :)

Robert said...

wonderful challenge to us all dana!! You sparked my memory of a book awhile back i came across called *Amusing ourselves to Death* its premise is that our society will be destryed from within not from outside forces because we become reduced to pleasure seekers and indifferent watchers I applaud your thoughts and hope to put action behind them myself in my li community i inhabit

Awareness said...

Hi Robert....good to see your comments! Interesting book. I've never heard of it, and will look it up. Look forward to hearing of your endeavours. Have a great week.