The Opposite of Love

The opposite of love, it is said, is not hate — it’s indifference.   I think this states a profound reality– it is a very cruel fate to experience utter indifference to your suffering.    There is little difference, to the person suffering, between deliberately inflicted cruelty and that inflicted by nonchalant indifference to your suffering.   

Love and hate are related by a strong feeling towards another — indifference is the absence of any human connection whatsoever.  Indifference utterly erases the humanity of the subject of its neglect in a way that even hatred does not do.  Not to defend hatred, of course, but I’m trying to make this distinction between love and indifference as clear as possible.

It can be illustrated by a famous historical example.   The debate took place between former prisoners of the Nazis and former prisoners of the Soviets about which form of cruelty was worse.   The Nazis were known for expressing hatred and contempt for their captives, deliberately humiliating prisoners, subjecting them to sadistic treatment.    The Soviets were known for their utter indifference — to prisoners freezing in extreme cold, losing digits and limbs to frost bite or gangrene, to prisoners dying of disease or starvation.   The Nazi jailers made their hatred known, the Soviets made their indifference plain.   The verdict: pick your poison, both will kill you just as dead.

In comparing an administration that singles out a despised class of people for harsh treatment, as in babies ripped from their mothers’ arms at the border and sent to cages far away, with one that actually murders those babies in front of their mothers — well, obviously, the one that actually kills the children in front of the parents is worse.   

Though, of course, that’s not a thought that offers much consolation to the mother of the infant who is snatched and sent far away, never to be seen again.

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