Indifference is a state of apathy or lack of concern about something or someone. It can manifest in personal relationships, social issues, and politics. At work, indifference is a lack of engagement, resulting from a lack of motivation and resulting in a lack of productivity and a lowering of morale. Indifference hinders progress towards solving problems. Here are some quotations on indifference:

Without revolution, civilization comes to halt, because with complacency arrives indifference, and with indifference comes the fall of civilization.

— Abhijit Naskar, Revolution Indomable

The case for doing what one sees as one’s duty must be strong, but how can we be indifferent to the consequences that may follow from our doing what we take to be our just duty?

— Amartya Sen

The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges and to beg in the streets and to steal bread.

— Anatole France, 1894

Being a Jew, one learns to believe in the reality of cruelty and one learns to recognize indifference to human suffering as a fact.

— Andrea Dworkin

There are three modes of bearing the ills of life; by indifference, which is the most common; by philosophy, which is the most ostentatious; and by religion, which is the most effectual.

— Charles Caleb Colton

We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.

— Cynthia Ozick

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. (attributed)

— Edmund Burke

When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.

— Edmund Burke

I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.

— Edward Everett Hale

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.

— Elie Wiesel

For one who is indifferent, life itself is a prison. Any sense of community is external or, even worse, nonexistent. Thus, indifference means solitude. Those who are indifferent do not see others. They feel nothing for others and are unconcerned with what might happen to them. They are surrounded by a great emptiness. Filled by it, in fact. They are devoid of all hope as well as imagination. In other words, devoid of any future.

— Elie Wiesel

Now my friends, I am opposed to the system of society in which we live today, not because I lack the natural equipment to do for myself but because I am not satisfied to make myself comfortable knowing that there are thousands of my fellow men who suffer for the barest necessities of life. We were taught under the old ethic that man’s business on this earth was to look out for himself. That was the ethic of the jungle; the ethic of the wild beast. Take care of yourself, no matter what may become of your fellow man. Thousands of years ago the question was asked; ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ That question has never yet been answered in a way that is satisfactory to civilized society.

Yes, I am my brother’s keeper. I am under a moral obligation to him that is inspired, not by any maudlin sentimentality but by the higher duty I owe myself. What would you think me if I were capable of seating myself at a table and gorging myself with food and saw about me the children of my fellow beings starving to death.

— Eugene V. Debs

The horrors which we have seen, and the still greater horrors we shall presently see, are not signs that rebels, insubordinate, untamable people are increasing in number throughout the world, but rather that there is a constant increase in the number of obedient, docile people.

— George Bernanos

The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them; that’s the essence of inhumanity.

— George Bernard Shaw

Indifference is the essence of inhumanity.

— George Bernard Shaw

If a person loves only one other person, and is indifferent to his fellow men, his love is not love but a symbiotic attachment, or an enlarged egotism.

— Germaine Greer

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

The near enemy of equanimity is indifference or callousness. We may appear serene if we say, “I’m not attached. It doesn’t matter what happens anyway, because it’s all transitory.” We feel a certain peaceful relief because we withdraw from experience and from the energies of life. But indifference is based on fear. True equanimity is not a withdrawal; it is a balanced engagement with all aspects of life. It is opening to the whole of life with composure and ease of mind, accepting the beautiful and terrifying nature of all things.

— Jack Kornfield

Indifference is the strongest force in the universe. It makes everything it touches meaningless. Love and hate don’t stand a chance against it.

— Joan D. Vinge

Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.

— John Stuart Mill

We should not permit tolerance to degenerate into indifference.

— Margaret Chase Smith

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

— Martin Luther King Jr.

First they came for the Jews. I was silent. I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Communists. I was silent. I was not a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists. I was silent. I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me. There was no one left to speak for me.

— Martin Niemöller, attibuted

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 Niemöller, attributed

When Hitler attacked the Jews … I was not a Jew, therefore, I was not concerned. And when Hitler attacked the Catholics, I was not a Catholic, and therefore, I was not concerned. And when Hitler attacked the unions and the industrialists, I was not a member of the unions and I was not concerned. Then, Hitler attacked me and the Protestant church — and there was nobody left to be concerned.

— Martin Niemöller, attributed, US Congressional Record, October 14, 1968

The individual is capable of both great compassion and great indifference. He has it within his means to nourish the former and outgrow the latter.

— Norman Cousins

Deep caring about each other’s fate does seem to be on the decline, but I do not believe that New Age narcissism is much to blame. The external causes of our moral indifference are a fragmented mass society that leaves us isolated and afraid, an economic system that puts the rights of capital before the rights of people, and a political process that makes citizens into ciphers.

These are the forces that allow, even encourage, unbridled competition, social irresponsibility, and the survival of the financially fittest. The executives who brought down the major corporations by taking indecent sums off the top while wage earners of modest means lost their retirement accounts were clearly more influenced by capitalist amorality than by some New Age guru.

— Parker J. Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life

Democracy, like love, can survive any attack—save neglect and indifference.

— Paul Sweeney

Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.

— Paulo Freire

Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.

— Paulo Freire

The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment.

— Robert M. Hutchins

The golf links lie so near the mill
That almost every day
The laboring children can look out
And see the men at play.

— Sarah Norcliffe Cleghorn, from “Through the Needle’s Eye,” 1916
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