The seduction of indifference, again and again and again

Published on Online Journal, by Gaither Stewart, Dec. 17, 2007.

Yesterday, I ran into a poem I had read as a student in Germany, written by Luthern Pastor Martin Niem’r, who broke with the Nazis in 1933 and became a symbol of the German resistance. His words prompted me to take a look more closely at the complex subject of indifference he speaks of.

Niem’r wrote the following at war’s end in 1945: 

First they came for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Communist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me,
and by that time there was no one
left to speak up for me.

In my mind the subject of indifference is not a closed end affair. You don’t even need a password to enter this site. Most certainly I cannot relegate the matter to ‘oh, that, well, we’re all indifferent to many things in life’.

If so it would imply ‘indifference to indifference’, which in my mind is located still another ring deeper in the Dantesque Inferno. In that respect; I hope that here, as Baudrillard writes, words will prove to be carriers of ideas and not the reverse …
… Ignorant and deaf indifference is bad enough. But today, in Europe and the United States where information abounds, we have to call conscious indifference to war and injustice, and also its brother ‘indifference to indifference’, criminal and evil.

Here is an example of active indifference, the Chavez referendum in Venezuela:

A former journalist acquaintance in Rome when he was the correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, today an editor and columnist of the New York Times, in his articles about Chavez on the eve of the referendum, was remarkably indifferent to what is really happening in Venezuela. A talented but overly ambitious journalist, he, like the newspaper he works for, is aware of but indifferent to the reasons that Venezuela and most of Latin America are striving for independence from the USA, whether its struggle is called ‘Socialism of the 21st Century’ as in Venezuela, or ‘Agrarian Revolution’ as in Bolivia … (full long text).

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