Thursday, October 29, 2009

Indifference and the Perils of "I don't know"

The Perils of Indifference "I don't know"

A good speech ends in this.
bad speech ends in this.

Elie Wiesel’s speech about the
The Perils of Indifference(read the whole thing!) used to be one of my favourite speeches of all time. It really shook up my views the first time I read it. I used to think that he was right.

As time went on, I realized that indifference isn’t really that bad.

I’ve become a bit more indifferent about things over the years (most likely as a coping mechanism ) and it’s worked out well for me.

I don’t set myself up to be disappointed when I choose to be indifferent. However, I will admit that the trade-off is that with indifference comes the inhibition of feeling excitement for a lot of other things. Indifference works by cutting off both extremes of yes and no – leaving you with a "maybe" or "why not?".

I didn’t choose to become completely indifferent…but I DID choose to be MORE indifferent about trivial things. Less caring about useless things means that I can devote more attention to things that actually matter.

Now…back to Elie Wiesel. If I could change his speech, I would replace “indifference” with “ignorance” (except for when he defines indifference, to replace that would just be silly). Ignorance is the lack of knowledge, but it’s more commonly used in context to describe a refusal to gain knowledge, or a refusal to accept it.

If you want to talk about “evils” in the world…talk about ignorance. People in the holocaust couldn’t all have been indifferent. There were more than a couple of people who obviously weren’t (Schindler, Gies, Boom, Slavik, etc.) So what does it come down to, then? Sure, it’s about choosing to care…but moreso about not choosing to turn a blind eye.

So maybe the perils aren’t of “indifference” per se, but about saying “I don’t know.” Before we get further into this, I have to break down my 2 classifications of “I don’t knows:
• The legitimate “I don’t know”
• The “I don’t know” which implies “I don’t know, nor do I care to find out.”
Does the second one sound familiar? Yup…that’s exactly what people say when they’re too lazy to think (oh, the horror…)

When you say “I don’t know” (in the second context), you flick a giant middle finger to Knowledge (Insert cliché Hulk reference here). By doing that, you refuse to gain, learn, or become informed. At this point, I feel an obligation to ask: and it’s all for what?

Think about it.
Who’s more wrong: the person who doesn’t know what to do, or the person who doesn’t bother to find out?

Separate indifference from ignorance. Unfortunately, you’ll see that they’re commonly used side-by-side. They really shouldn’t be.

I can’t stand ignorance – it drives me nuts. But indifference, on the other hand…it’s a beautiful thing. Give it a try some time.


+ knowledge

p.s. I have my first mascot gig this weekend...I can't wait :D

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