The Taxonomy of Indifference
"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.
There are three conditions which often look alike
Yet differ completely, flourish in the same hedgerow:
Attachment to self and to things and to persons, detachment
From self and from things and from persons; and, growing between them, indifference
Which resembles the others as death resembles life,
Being between two lives—unflowering, between
The live and the dead nettle.
- Little Gidding (The Four Quartets), T.S. Eliot
(Slate) Prince Charles: Why Britons are passionately two-minded about his upcoming marriage. By Inigo Thomas. February 11, 2005.
Many Britons ... said they didn't give a damn about the forthcoming marriage. "Who cares," wrote one on a newspaper message board; "WHO CARES!!!" another. The largest group of respondents to a BBC poll, around 40 percent, agreed with that sentiment, while another two percent expressed "indifference" to the marriage. The oddly precise distinction between the groups—the non-caring and the indifferent—itself points to a curious characteristic of British public life.
When someone says "who cares?" what they often mean is "WHO CARES?" as in "I care very much and I'm not going to stop telling you that I don't care until you tell me you care as little about this as I do." Many Britons, you could say, live according to various adaptations of Descartes' formulation on human consciousness: "I don't care, therefore I am." Indifference that is rarely indifferent and saying one thing that often means another are expressions of an endemic British trait of two-mindedness. Britons are of divided opinion about Britain, its gorgeous climate, ever-harmonious social classes, and especially about its monarchy. Some like the institution, some hate it, and many leaven their loathing with some liking and vice versa. Two-mindedness, in Britain, can take the form of passion.
Here is an empirical example for Hong Kong. The telephone rings. I pick up. It is some underpaid survey interviewer who asks, "Do you think Hong Kong should have a referendum on direct elections? Please answer YES or NO." I yell, "I DON'T CARE! I don't care if this referendum is held or not, because it can't change anything. Why don't they find something useful to do instead?" I slam the phone down.
Yes, you can say that I care. A lot, in fact.