We often see the greats works of other people and admire what they’ve done. Admire the difference that they’ve made in the world. This is the result of their conscious deliberate action. Yet, when you think about it, being indifferent to something can be just as powerful, or even more so, in a negative direction. It’s very easy to be indifferent to something and it’s very easy for us to be collectively indifferent to something. Our indifference can feed off itself, and the power of this indifference can be awesome. Indifference is really a sign of a lack of love and that allows evil to find it’s way in.
Let’s look at some examples.
Indifference and Martin Luther King
I’ve been thinking about the silent power of indifference for some time and once, when I was researching on the internet, I found the image and quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. that you can see above. This brought home to me the silent power of indifference.
Much of what Martin Luther King did was fight indifference. Because it was black people who were being victimized, it was easy for whites to be indifferent to it. It wasn’t affecting them (or so they thought!). Even if a white person felt that deep pang that something was wrong (a pang that I’m sure exists in everyone), it was easy to look around and see plenty of other white people apparently happy with the situation and just shake off the call of the conscience and return to a state of indifference.
As Marting Luther King says in the quote above, if we stay silent about things that matter, if we remain indifferent, our lives are actually starting to end.
Indifference does not serve our life purpose
I believe that the purpose of our lives is to constantly choose to redefine ourselves. At every moment we can take stock of where we are, what we’ve done and then decide, in the face of that, how we choose to be and how we choose to demonstrate who we are. The idea is to grow by continually making “better”, “larger” choices about who we are and what we stand for. This works equally for an individual as for the collective human race.
As an example, now that we’ve been through the terrible situation of discrimination based purely on skin color, most of us now know that such a situation does not serve us well. It does not represent who we really are. It is not the choice we’d make if we’re trying to be the best people we can be. So it’s unlikely that we’ll fall back into this situation again.
There’s no point feeling guilty or bad about the situation that has occurred in the past. It has already happened and can’t be changed, and it provides us with a very important reference to help us make better choices today. If we didn’t have that bad experience in our past, we wouldn’t be able to so clearly know that that choice was not a good one for us.
In a way, “bad” situations are helping us to evolve.
Indifference carries a negative momentum
When we look at bad situations, we often think “why didn’t we put an end to that sooner?”. The reason is indifference. A group of people start making a bad choice. They don’t know it’s bad, they actually think it’s right and good. Because of this choice, the world starts on a new trajectory. The rest of the world remains indifferent, so the bad choice gathers momentum. The rest of the world slowly start feeling that something is wrong, but because everyone else is indifferent, they decide it’s easier to remain indifferent as well. The momentum gathers even more until things are really getting out of hand.
Now, if the masses remained indifferent, then it would truly be the beginning of the end of our lives but, at some point, the masses start to become interested and they begin to fight to stop the damage. They choose to be different, to demonstrate that we are really better than that, and the human race evolves.
If we could remain more conscious, more aware, and speak out on difficult issues earlier – dropping the indifference – then the damage caused by poor choices could be much reduced. This does require a much more refined sense of awareness than we have today.
Martin Luther King helped us become aware
Luckily we’ve had people like Martin Luther King over the years who have personally evolved to such a level of awareness. He was able to get out in front of us and show us that our indifference is allowing these bad situations to prosper. He was able to show us that we can be better. That we can choose to be better.
It’s making this choice to be “better than we were before” that is the goal of life, and it never ends. Every moment is a new opportunity to choose to be better than before, and it’s only experience that gives us the information needed to evaluate the next step we choose to take.
Indifference during the Second World War
A similar thing happened during the Second World War. Indifference allowed things to get much worse than they could have been. Amazingly, everyone seems to blame a single person, Adolf Hitler, for the problems but you have to remember that, at the time, millions of people supported him and thought he was right too. The problem was much greater than that of a single person.
The problem grew because of indifference. Not enough people cared about the plight of the Germans. Not enough people cared about the plight of the Jews. It took the world a long time to really summon up the strength to choose to stop something that it decided was wrong. It took too long because of indifference.
With the rise of right-wing movements and nationalistic tendencies across the world at the moment, we have to be careful again. Let’s not be indifferent. We have recent experience of what can happen. Do we want that? Or do we want to choose something different? Whatever we choose, let’s make a stand and make our choice clearly heard. Announcing our choice to the world obliterates indifference and starts the world off on a new trajectory. This is the responsibility of everyone.
Indifference to animal rights
The issue of animal rights is a classic area of indifference in the world today. Very few people are concerned about the plight of the worlds animals. Overall, the world is very indifferent to this subject. In general, the world doesn’t care about animal suffering as long as they get the “food” they crave at a cheap enough price. It’s very sad.
An Australian man called James Aspey has drawn attention to this issue recently by taking a vow a silence for 365 days (see his website – http://www.voiceless365.com). This amazing effort is really a call to the rest of us to end our indifference. He has evaluated the situation and made his own decision and is now clearly announcing that decision to the world in the best way he can. His effort is very commendable.
One of James’ quotes in the interview that you can see on the page – Man talks after 365 days of silence for animals – is;
“We all say we love animals and we all are against animal cruelty, but we pay people to mutilate torture and slaughter animals. And it’s not for any necessity, it’s not because we need to for our health, it’s just because we like the way they taste.”
I think there’s no doubt that there’s a huge amount of indifference on the issue of animal rights. Most people seem not to care at all. Most people seem to think it’s natural and normal for us to herd animals together, control their growth, give them growth hormones, give them anti-biotics, keep them inside, and then kill them so we can eat them at an affordable price. Most people think that animals are just there to serve our “needs”.
Making choices ends indifference
Every person has the right to make their own choice on every matter. Nobody else can make a choice for another. The important thing is that we do not remain simply indifferent. It’s our obligation (opportunity?) to evaluate all the facts of each situation, both sides of each situation, and then choose how we’d like to act based on that. We get to choose what type of person we’d like to be. It doesn’t matter what type of person we were in the past as each moment presents the opportunity to choose to be a better person, to choose to be a larger version of ourselves from now on.
If all people evaluate the information available and used that to make their choice of how they want to act and who they want to be, then I’ll be happy. The choice is their own and I do not want to influence that (except to ensure they get the most accurate and unbiased information). The situation that is more worrying is where we are indifferent, where we don’t evaluate the information and we just go along with what everyone else appears to be doing. We know how badly that can turn out.
Some of my choices to end my indifference
In terms of animal rights, I’ve chosen not to take advantage of animals any longer and I’ve decided to become a vegan. Even though this causes me some difficulty and stops me from eating some of the dishes that I’ve really liked in the past, I’m very happy with my choice and I think it better expresses the new me, the new better me that I am now. I will no longer support cruel animal practices simply by being indifferent to the situation.
In terms of the environment, I believe there is ample evidence that the practices of humans are having profoundly negative effects on the environment. We are killing our home. I now choose to use less energy and use less materials overall (see my Use 10 Percent Less initiative). I choose to reduce my consumption and to keep doing so. This is a better expression of the new, better me that I’m currently choosing to be.
Just one simple example is the amount of pollution we cause by driving our cars. The power to fix this is in our hands and it’s real simple. If everyone driving a car instantly decided to change their driving style and speed (see Efficient Motorway Driving) we could cut global car pollution by 10-20% overnight. That would be huge. It would be great for the world and it would create huge ripples in the global economies and stock markets. We don’t realise it, but power like this is very simply in our hands. The overall human race can be much more powerful than any government.
Another way we are killing the world (and killing us directly) is through artificial fertilisers, pesticides and monoculture farming (see Rapeseed invasion and monocultures, Fresh, Please listen to the bees! and One Man, One Cow, One Planet). I’ve decided to only consume organic produce that avoids these harmful practices. Again the power is in our hands. If we refuse to buy the products that are contributing to the damage, we’ll start the world off on a whole new positive trajectory. The new me that I am choosing to be supports only sustainable farming practices, and I am happy with that choice.
Let’s not be silent and put an end indifference
This is not difficult. It’s just a matter of finding out the available information (balanced and unbiased) and making our own decisions. Based on what we now know and what we’ve learnt from our experiences, how do we want to be now? How can we be better?
Let’s not be indifferent. Let’s be different. Let’s choose to be better than we’ve ever been before. If we do that, we’re definitely on the path of life in the right direction. That’s what we’re here for (and I’m sure we can all feel that).
What other areas of dangerous indifference are prospering in our world at the moment?