Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Elie Wiesel on Indifference

Elie Wiesel, the renowned novelist, philosopher, and Holocaust survivor presented the Timothy and Sharon Ubben Lecture, "Building a Moral Society" to an audience at DePauw University.

In his concluding remarks he encouraged his audience to be open to the voices of others and to the world. He then spoke about the perils of indifference:

Be Concerned
“I do believe that students today should open themselves to other people’s voices and whatever is happening in the world. Be concerned.”

"We have a character in Scripture known as Job. He is a man who suffers and he is part of Scripture, except in our tradition [the Jewish tradition], we don’t see Job as a Jew but we study him to teach us. He is not Jewish but his suffering concerns me.”

Be Questioning
“I don’t know what to do about suffering but the question must be raised. As long as you are asking the question it will lead you to know for you are ready to know and to receive. If you have no questions you turn your back on yourselves and others and then you are indifferent.”

Be Not Indifferent
“There is nothing worse in life than indifference. Indifference to evil is evil and at times worse than evil…”

“The opposite of love is not hate but indifference.
The opposite of knowledge is not ignorance but indifference.
The opposite of art is not ugliness but indifference.
The opposite of life is not death but indifference because he or she who is indifferent is actually dead without knowing it.”

“In a moral society the first lesson is also the last—you must fight indifference. Whenever you fight and whatever you fight, ultimately you have fought indifference.”

Source: Elie Wiesel, "Building a Moral Society", ‘Timothy and Sharon Ubben Lecture’ DePauw University, Greencastle, Indiana, 21 September 1989. Web link:
DePaux University, News.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize recipient.