Surviving In A Society That Is Indifferent By Design

Bottled Water
Image used for representation only.


Indifference is a lack of concern, unconcern, apathy, nonchalance, lack of interest, disregard, obliviousness, uninvolvement, heedlessness, mindlessness, carelessness, dismissiveness, boredom, weariness, unresponsiveness, lack of enthusiasm, impassiveness, impassivity, dispassionateness, aloofness, insouciance, emotionlessness, lack of feeling, lack of sympathy, callousness, poco-curantism.

Indifference means we don’t care about outcomes that don’t affect us. 

Indifference describes aptly, but incompletely, the attitude of our representatives to representation. Few representatives recognize representation is about experiencing the reality of those represented, feeling their pain, recognizing the joys and desiring to make a difference for the same reasons as those they represent.

When representatives propose to make India a five trillion dollar economy, they show indifference as much as they show ignorance. They fail to experience the injustices that are part of the lives of those represented. They fail to suffer the same indignity that those they represent do. Their liberties are not identical to those available to the people they represent. They do not encounter the inequality that those they represent do. That is precisely why the indifference creeps in. Their risks and rewards are driven by different indicators than of the people they represent.

You may substitute the representative with a bureaucrat, or a judge, and you will have the same indifference. The representative fails to represent, the bureaucrat fails to solve our problems or build a better world for us, and a judge fails to deliver justice because all three are indifferent.

Their realities, the reasons they do what they do, and the indicators of success and failure are completely different from ours. How can they be anything but indifferent?

As we increasingly design a world of independence, using the ingenuity of technology, the ruthlessness of the market, and the vile of politics, we ensure the shared concerns that co-dependence brings transforms to cold indifference from independence.

To each his own we say, failing to recognize our co-existence and co-dependence. We use, liberally, the instruments of technology, markets and politics to insulate ourselves from the responsibility to each other and to the environment that sustains us. We declare ourselves as free men and women but refuse the burden of responsibility that comes with the freedom.

We add ignorance to indifference.

When we convert a stream to a sewer, green belts to tennis courts, forests to metro stations, and mountains to expressways, we are not just indifferent, we are ignorant.

When we watch sensex and not the index of clean air or water, we are both indifferent and ignorant. When we judge our economy by the trillion dollar GDP or its growth rates, we are not only indifferent, we are ignorant. When we use air-conditioners to “solve” our feeling hot, bottled water to quench our thirst, market pricing to decide how we use our land, use greed and ambition to justify that we must do, we are indifferent, ignorant and unwise. 

Our society is indifferent by design.

Do the outcomes of the actions of our representatives affect them in the same way they affect us? Do the outcomes of the actions of our bureaucrats affect them in the same way as they affect us? Does a judge who remains unaffected by the outcomes of the judgement in the same way we are, able to comprehend the meaning of justice? 

When we chose to outsource our problems to representatives, executives and judges, we fail to ensure that they experience the same pain and pleasure as we do, in response to the same acts that we do. We fail to ensure that they are co-dependent on the same relationships as us, to experience the same consequences as us, when those relationships work, or when they fail.

We design problem solving structures that work on rewards and punishments that are independent or even very different from those that matter to us. We create structures where we are not in the same boat. We design indifference.

Ancient wisdom tells us to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Treat other people the way you would like to be treated yourself. To do this we need to understand the pain and pleasure we would feel if we were others. If we use technology, markets and politics to insulate ourselves from the responsibility to others we remain ignorant of the pain and pleasures of others. When we use the instruments of technologies, markets and politics to address our interventions we give up our responsibility to do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

Indifference is the instrument of the short-termer. Indifference destroys the Short-Now, or a hundred years. It destroys the lifetime of a child born today.


Anupam Saraph

Anupam Saraph

Dr. Anupam Saraph grew up in a Pune that was possibly a tenth of its current expanse and every road was lined by 200 year old trees. He’s committed to the cause of de-addicting the short-termers.

He can be reached @AnupamSaraph
Anupam Saraph

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