Thanks to Allan and his great "a personal revolution" blog for introducing me to a speech by Elle Wiesel given at the Seventh White House Millennium Evening, Washington, 12 April 1999. I have to quote Allan's comment because he says what I want to say but can't seem to find the words...
"As I fight against my own indifference and as I groan at our collective embrace of apathy I also plead with God to awaken us to the extreme suffering in our world, that each of us would find our place in bringing His redemption to the least of these…. And not just temporarily where we feel we have done our bit or because our curiosity seeks to be satisfied but authentically, consistently, sincerely… *deep sigh*."I couldn't say it better Allan!
You can read Elle Wiesel's entire speech at this link to the pbs web site. Here are some highlights...
“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 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, and 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 neighbors 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 is always the friend of the enemy.
In a way, to be indifferent to that suffering is what makes the human being inhuman. Indifference, after all, is more dangerous than anger and hatred. Anger can at times be creative. One writes a great poem, a great symphony, have done something special for the sake of humanity because one is angry at the injustice that one witnesses. 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 is always the friend of the enemy, for it benefits the aggressor—never his victim, whose pain is magnified when he or she feels forgotten. The political prisoner in his cell, the hungry children, the homeless refugees—not to respond to their plight, not to relieve their solitude by offering them a spark of hope is to exile them from human memory. And in denying their humanity we betray our own.
Indifference, then, is not only a sin, it is a punishment. And this is one of the most important lessons of this outgoing century’s wide-ranging experiments in good and evil.”