Michelle Sicignano, LMSW

Michelle Sicignano, LMSW

Social Justice Solutions | Staff Writer
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The Opposite of Love is Not Hate, It’s Indifference, It’s Apathy

An article I read today sickened me, speaking of the “prevision files” Boy Scouts of America was recently ordered to release based on a ruling from the Oregon Supreme Court. 14,500 pages document a long standing history of sexual abuse covered up by the BSA, and public, official collusion to keep this topic silent to protect the “good name” and good works of the BSA.

The Boy Scouts of America are not alone in this organized collision. Religious institutions, educational institutions, and entire communities remain, to me, oddly silent and passive when definitive action should be taken.

There is an old theme that runs throughout history:

“The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of great moral crises maintain their neutrality.” –Dante Aleghieri

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”Edmund Burke

“Slums may well be breeding grounds of crime, but middle class suburbs are incubators of apathy and delirium.” — Cyril Connolly

“Tolerance it a tremendous virtue, but the immediate neighbors of tolerance are apathy and weakness.”– James Goldsmith

“Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all – the apathy of human beings.” –Helen Keller

I’d even stretch it to say we are socialized toward apathy, and encouraged to ignore wrongs. We live in a society steeped in a CYA (Cover Your A**) mindset.

Though most of understand that “character is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking,” I concur with J.C. Watts and see, “too many people who think that the only thing that’s right is to get by, and the only thing that’s wrong is to get caught.”

Is Elie Wiesel correct in saying, “the opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference?”

When we remain largely silent, letting those who suffer continue their suffering without acknowledgement or assistance, we are guilty of complicity. When we numb ourselves to the injustices and crimes and ills of life, as we blame the poor for their poverty while ignoring the societal conditions that support its generational nature, as we look the other way when our leaders and co-workers and sometimes even friends act in damaging, irresponsible, and even criminal ways, when our kids ignore bullying, we are guilty of collusion.

“As Albert Einstein noted, “The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” With the power of the Web, we’ve never been more connected; yet, it is that same close connection to everything and everyone that seems to be disconnecting us from intellectual progress, problem resolution, and achievement. Apathy is distancing ourselves from each other. And apathy and ignorance” indicate values and priorities that aren’t consistent with freedom.” We tout our love of freedom, and respect of self-sufficiency, yet our apathy leads us down roads which make it impossible for some to live self-sufficiently.

I’d like to think that the bystander effect, and the belief that someone else must have intervened, is what keeps people from taking appropriate and timely action. But I agree too readily with Leo Buscaglia, and I have a very strong feeling that the opposite of love is not hate – it’s apathy. It’s not giving a damn.” Will we learn to give a damn before there is no one left to speak up?

“In Germany they came first 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 trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. 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 no one was left to speak up.” –Martin Niemoeller, German Lutheran Pastor

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