Sunday, 9 March 2014

ARE YOU INDIFFERENT TO “INDIFFERENCE”?

© Yves Messer
"One percent" (2012) © Yves Messer

“Indifference” is originally a philosophical concept that was developped and defended by the “Stoics”.

What is Stoicism?


Stoicism is a school of philosophy founded in Athens by Zeno of Citium (Cyprus) in the early 3rd century BC.
The Stoic philosophy is about becoming a “good man”. This can be achieved only by being “virtuous.” The cardinal Stoic virtues are: Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance. Only those ones are considered as good. (Have you noticed which ones are missing?)
The main objective of the Stoic is not to be virtuous in order to do good, but to do good in order to be virtuous. “Stoic virtue” is his only way to become a “good man.” The good/virtuous man has to live his life according to “universal reason” (logos) in order to follow “nature’s (physis) laws” (but which ones?). Morality becomes then a purely rational action.

But how? The Stoics believe that in order to act “rationally” a good and virtuous man has to free himself from excessive desire, passions, and emotions. Why? Because they think a man under the chaotic forces of his emotions, becomes “irrational” and won’t follow the “rules of nature;” he won’t be “virtuous” and “good” any more. Therefore the Stoics are obsessed with CONTROL, without which they will lose their “virtue.” They advise that since we don’t always have control of everything, yet we do have control over how we react to circumstances, so they suggest people should learn to accept their situation rather than change it. Stoics call this: “indifference.”

"Your life is what your thoughts make it." (Marcus Aurelius) 
 “Nobody will harm you, unless you consent, evil will come only when you deem it hurts.” (Epictetus)

Stoic “indifference” (apathea)

"Indifference, to me, is the epitome of evil. The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of beauty is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, but indifference between life and death."
Elie Wiesel (US News & World Report - 27 October 1986)

Zeno of Citium, the founder of Stoicism, defended this radical proposition that “virtue” alone, free from emotions, was sufficient for “Stoic happiness”. Everything else (health, wealth, even life itself), was therefore irrelevant. This is called Stoic “indifference”: apathea, that is being, acting “without pathos”, without emotions or feelings. Apathea  implies that a Stoic should not care (i.e. “emotionally”) about “things” if and when they conflict with “Stoic virtues”. Stoic men have to be indifferent to “things” like emotions (passions), to distance themselves from them in order to remain “virtuous & good men”. Emotions, they say, are irrational and are due to excessive attachments to lust for the pleasures associated with fame, social status, possessions, money, love, etc. So Stoics are ultimately indifferent to them. It is a form of “ascetism”.

Stoicism teaches to show concern only for what is in our control, that is our personal actions and thoughts, and to show apathy or “indifference” toward what we don’t or can’t control. Strictly speaking, and in comparison to virtue, the life or health of every person is “indifferent” to Stoics, even their own child or loved one!
This Greek term apathea has given us the word “apathy” in English which is also known as a psychological state of “indifference,” a lack (or suppression) of feelings, of emotions, of interest or concern, compassion, empathy (ie “beyond words”) for others, or anything (except ourselves).

Stoicism as Vanity (narcissism)?


“We must love ourselves first and foremost before we love anyone else. And at the moment we truly love ourselves, we will then understand our connection with everyone else for we will see that they are part of us and like us. 
As for egoism and narcissism, it is actually not self-love but pride that is at their root. And since pride and love are not compatible, where pride is love does not live. For love in its true form must have humility at its core. The reason for this is that only by humbling ourselves are we able to love and accept ourselves and therefore other people in spite of both our flaws and theirs.” 
From “Shall We Love?” by Sascha Norris.
Stoicism: no real empathy

The narcissist lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others. 
The American Psychiatric Association's DSM-IV-TR
Maybe, you have realized by now that “love” is absent from the Stoic list of “Virtues.” This is no accident. Yet, the Stoics preached some abstract “Universal Love”… but not a love as involving emotions, but “love as a principle.” No passion means no compassion. Welcome to Stoicism! 

Stoicism: feeling of superiority (Godlikeness)

“… 'I should like to be God'. Many philosophers have had the same idea. […] This concept of god-likeness appears in a more modest form in the idea of 'superman', and it is revealing - I shall not say more - that Nietzsche, when he became insane, signed himself in a letter to Strindberg, 'The Crucified'. “
From “What Life Could Mean To You” by Alfred Adler (1931)
Stoics consider their “virtues” as far above our mere human feelings. The Stoic ideal is some psychological invulnerability and superiority: the Roman Stoic Seneca even compared the wise person (i.e. the “Stoic”) to a god!
“But what you (Serenus) desire is something great and supreme and very near to being a god - to be unshaken.”  (Lucius Annaeus Seneca (the Younger), The Stoic Philosophy of Seneca: Essays and Letters.)
“Live among men as if God beheld you; speak with God as if men were listening.”  (Lucius Annaeus Seneca (the Younger), Letter X: On living to oneself, line 5.)
Feelings of superiority with no empathy are all key symptoms pointing to a known psychological disorder called “Narcissistic personality disorder” (NPD).

Some of its symptoms are: the NPD needs/wants to be recognized as superior and special, (yet without any special accomplishments), s/he envies others and believes others envy him/her. The NPD is preoccupied with thoughts and fantasies of great success, attractiveness, power, intelligence but lacks the ability to empathize with the feelings or desires of others… NPDs simply do not care about thoughts and feelings that conflict with their own. So, do not expect them to listen, validate, understand, or really support you.

Here is a testimony from one of these NPDs; narcissist and author Dr. Sam Vaknin from his book :
I am aware of the fact that others have emotions, needs, preferences, and priorities - but I simply can't seem to "get it into my mind." There is an invisible partition behind which I watch the rest of Mankind and through which nothing that is human can permeate. I empathize more with my goldfish than with my "nearest and dearest." […] Over the years, I have deciphered the code. I have learned to imitate and emulate expertly the more common affect and expressions of one's inner landscape. But this veneer is easily breached when I am frustrated or humiliated ("narcissistic injury"): the mask slips and the real Me is out: a predator on the prowl.” (From "Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited")
"As opposed to what Scott Peck says, narcissists are not evil – they lack the intention to cause harm (mens rea). As Millon notes, certain narcissists 'incorporate moral values into their exaggerated sense of superiority. Here, moral laxity is seen (by the narcissist) as evidence of inferiority, and it is those who are unable to remain morally pure who are looked upon with contempt.' (Millon, Th., Davis, R. - Personality Disorders in Modern Life - John Wiley and Sons, 2000). Narcissists are simply indifferent, callous and careless in their conduct and in their treatment of others. Their abusive conduct is off-handed and absent-minded, not calculated and premeditated like the psychopath's."
(From http://samvak.tripod.com/personalitydisorders15.html)
"When the egocentricity, lack of empathy, and sense of superiority of the narcissist cross-fertilize with the impulsivity, deceitfulness, and criminal tendencies of the antisocial, the result is a psychopath, an individual who seeks the gratification of selfish impulses through any means without empathy or remorse."  (Millon, Th., Davis, R. - Personality Disorders in Modern Life - John Wiley and Sons, 2000, p. 299-300)

Stoic obsession with “control” v. "changing the word"


Stoics are obsessed with “control”. The Stoic’s ideal is to become "apathetic", in order to not care for anything outside of his power, and own ego. It is a philosophy that can make sense when you have a lot of power (and ego), like Marcus Aurelius a Roman stoic emperor, but as a “normal” person, this means only one thing: you can only do what is in your power and if you have none (except for our own personal choices and actions)... too bad for you, mind your own business! The stoic’s advice is “indifference” and as we have seen; indifference leads to apathy, to lack of empathy and to pessimism.

Being involved as an activist myself for decades, I can assert you this is the first reaction of people when they defend the idea of not doing anything, not being involved: “We are not in control, it s beyond us, blabla… “
Supporting (right) the "Justice for Jeremiah" campaign, in Wiesbaden (Germany) in March 2009.


But how do we know what you are really in “control” of or not? Isn’t a philosophical reason (excuse) for passivity, apathy?

Was Gandhi in control of the British Empire he fought against? Nope! Yet he contributed to defeat it and gain the independence for India and Pakistan, not because he had “power” (he had none) but because he cared, he had moral values (no “stoic virtues”) and passion for them! Was Moses in control of the Hebrews’ fate, or of Egypt? Was Martin Luther King Jr. in control of the situation of “racism in America”? Nope. And there is a long list of these non Stoic historic individuals who had passions serving their ideals (and vice versa). They often paid the ultimate price for this like a Socrates whom the Stoics consider as an example of "stoicism". They are wrong; Socrates had passion for his ideas, he was no Stoic!

Those who act and don’t accept their “fate” as Stoics do, do so according to their moral values, because they can feel other people’s sufferings, their injustice. They have moral principles (Kant’s imperatives), they can empathise, can feel compassionate to injustice. And if they can’t (care or empathise), they will use the “Stoic excuse” for indifference, i.e. “I don’t care”.

Stoicism’s “dark side”: pessimism and depression


Whoever has nothing to hope, let him despair of nothing.” (Stoic Seneca)
"Death is a release from the impressions of the senses, and from desires that make us their puppets, and from the vagaries of the mind, and from the hard service of the flesh." (Stoic Marcus Aurelius)

Stoics borrowed some ideas from “sad and weeping” pessimistic Greek Philosopher Heraclitus such as “All is Flux,” ever changing. Heraclitus is often painted as the sad or weeping philosopher, often put against a laughing Democritus.
"Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away." (Stoic Marcus Aurelius) 
No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.” (Heraclitus)
To defend this “indifference”, Stoics use the “things could be worse” negative argument, technique to free themselves from excessive desires. “Things could be worse” is the stoic’s guide to happiness…
So, “indifference” (apatheia) leads to “happiness” for the Stoics. But does it?

This “indifference” leads indeed to apathy. It is a psychological syndrome for some depressed people, in which they get a sense that "nothing matters"; a form of existential nihilism as a Niezsche, under the influence of Heraclitus’ philosophy.
As a loss of motivation, apathy can however appear without being associated to depression, but long-term state of apathy tends to lead to some form of depression which in turn can cause even more apathy. It is a typical vicious circle.

Suicide can be justified
"The wise man will live as long as he ought, not as long as he can."
(Roman Stoic Seneca; Letter LXX: On the proper time to slip the cable, line 4.)
"No man can have a peaceful life who thinks too much about lengthening it."
(Roman Stoic Seneca; Letter IV: On the terrors of death, line 4.)

Death of Socrates (David).
In contrast to Christian and Jewish values (Sanctity of Life), the Stoics considered that suicide could be a "rational decision" when one cannot achieve "stoic happiness," that is living a "virtuous life." They take the example of Socrates's death as honorable and "virtuous." In fact "virtue" for Stoics is more important than life, even ours. For example, if our “natural advantages” (e.g., physical health) are required for us to be happy then ending our life neither enhances nor diminishes our moral virtue; suicide is thus "rationally" justified.
In other words it is the quality, not the quantity, of one's life that matters. It this case, suicide may be justified, regardless of the character or virtue of the individual in question.
From that perspective, had Beethoven also considered (Heiligenstadt Testament) to end his life when his hearing was being impaired, we would have never heard of his music since his Symphony #3! Had Professor Stephen Hawking decided early  in his life to commit suicide after he learned his  quality of life will be seriously diminished by "motor neurone disease", he wouldn't have achieved what most of us with healthier condition can but dream of!
The Stoic philosophy is in essence a "rational pessimism".


Stoicism (reason) v. Epicureanism (emotions)?


The Stoics say that emotions are excessive impulses disobedient to reason (logos), that emotions are movements in the soul contrary to nature (physis) and try to avoid them because their “reason” cannot control them. Stoics are not “against” emotions because this could imply… emotions! So, Stoics are just “indifferent” to them although they consider them as “bad”! Stoic’s “sadness” was contrasted with Democritus and Epicurus' joie de vivre. :-)

Epicureanism was an ancient Greek school of philosophy named after Epicurus, an atomic materialist in the steps of Democritus. His materialism led him to a general attack on superstition and divine intervention. Although Epicureanism is a form of “hedonism,” as it defends pleasure as being “good,” its advocacy of a simple life makes it different from our "hedonism" as it is commonly understood. Epicureanism was at first a challenge to (neo-) Platonism, and later it became the main opponent of Stoicism.
Democritus, another Greek philosopher was known as the laughing philosopher because he found amusement in the folly of mankind. His philosophic system was contrasted with that of the earlier Heraclitus of Ephesus, who was known as the ‘Dark’ or ‘Obscure’ and was reputed to be melancholic.

Heraclitus and Democritus by Dirck van Baburen (c.1595-1624).

Towards a (non stoic) happy conclusion?


“The stoical scheme of supplying our wants by lopping off our desires, is like cutting off our feet, when we want shoes.”
Jonathan Swift (1667 –1745). an Anglo-Irish satirist, essayist and political pamphleteer.


In the last part of Jonathan Swift's satirical “Gulliver's Travels,” Gulliver finds himself stranded on an unknown land inhabited by an extraordinary race of rational philosophical horses; the “Houyhnhnms” who possess a superb capacity to reason, surpassing, in Gulliver’s opinion, even that of the human species he belongs to! The Houyhnhnms are super-reasonable. They have all the virtues that the Stoics and Deists advocated. They speak rationally, they act justly, and they have simple virtuous laws. They never argue since each knows what is true and right. But they are so reasonable that, like the Stoics,  they show no emotions. They are untroubled by greed, politics, or lust. They act with indifferent compassion. They would never prefer the welfare of one of their own children to the welfare of another Houyhnhnm!
The Houyhnhnms represent Swift's criticism of the philosophies of pure Rationalism, Stoicism and Deism.

But, the Houyhnhnms are not the only inhabitants of this imaginary land… there also exists a species of savage humanoid creatures called the “Yahoos,” the precise opposite of the Houyhnhnms who exhibit the essence of sensual (hedonist, epicurean) human sinfulness. The Yahoos are neither animals nor humans; they are repulsive in appearance and… are irrational subhumans. They represent Mankind depraved. Yet they are utilized by the Stoic, rational and virtuous Houyhnhnms as servants.
Note: Yahoo! Founders Jerry Yang and David Filo selected the name because they considered themselves yahoos like Gulliver did!



Gulliver’s time spent with the Houyhnhnms causes him to hatred of not just the Yahoos, but of humankind as a whole.

This Swift’s satire was aimed at the British class system and it s Puritan "keep a stiff upper lip", a Christian version of Graeco-Roman Stoicism. The Houyhnhnms-horses symbolize the English upper class. The subhuman Yahoos symbolize the lower classes. No wonder Stoicism was popular among upper class Romans, including their emperor Marcus Aurelius. Indeed Stoicism like Puritanism often produced great nobility of character in its adepts with their astonishing heroism and selflessness. But both showed frequently a coldness and harshness, with no sense of humour or joy which unwittingly seek to be "superhuman," but all too often is downright inhuman. See my Oliver Cromwell's mportrait here.

Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?”
(Twelfth-Night; or, What You Will; Act II. Scene III By William Shakespeare.)

In conclusion I will quote Kathleen M. Williams:

“... unlike the rational society of Houyhnhnms, humans are not capable of guiding all of their decisions and passions by reason. Although this does make human civilization much more unstable than that of the horse people, there are certain innate qualities that spring from that instability such as a love for life and for other people.
(in “Gulliver's Voyage to the Houyhnhnms”; ELH Vol. 18, No. 4 (Dec., 1951), p. 281; Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press)
From http://english1101.50webs.com/houyhnhnms.html

Midway between the poles of the Houyhnhnms and the Yahoos, Swift places Gulliver, the average person. Like him, a man or a woman is capable of BOTH reason (yet not always), AND compassion (yet not always). 
Using them both together, is what makes us human(e), that is incomplete...

On this theme of “Indifference”, view my "Indifference" painting/post.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Brian Eno explains why/how he urinated in Duchamp's urinal


Brian Eno understood that Duchamps' readymades were just "jokes" thrown at the art establishment face and should NEVER be taken seriously by ANYONE. Well done Brian. 

From Brian Eno - Ron Arad interview, Encounter documentary, 1993

Monday, 17 February 2014

Indifference


What are we fighting for?


My story of the 1992-93 Alsace-Sarajevo aid convoy

A Citizens' aid convoy to besieged Sarajevo:
A personal account

© Yves Messer


I (that is the author of this Blog, Yves Messer) was living then in Strasbourg (Alsace, North-East of France), a city famous for its wine and among other things for hosting the European parliament.
It was the time when Europe was watching, impotently, the first war and first crimes against Humanity on its soil since the end of the Second World War: the new strong man of Yugoslavia, Slobodan Miloševic had used “Serbian nationalism” to justify military action against newly independent Yugoslav republics like Slovenia or Croatia. This was 1991, the year that saw the end of Soviet Union. The Yugoslav republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina also declared its independence that year. When they held a referendum for its independence, their vote was boycotted by their sizable Serb population (35% of Bosnian population), which advocated a continued union with Miloševic‘s Yugoslavia. Immediately following the international recognition of the republic's independence in April 1992, the country's Serbs and Croats, backed respectively by Serbia and Croatia, began to claim large chunks of the country's territory. The referendum was however declared valid, the opinion of the Serbs was ignored, and the Bosnian republic's government declared its independence. The Bosnian Serbs immediately declared the independence of their Republika Srpska. Sarajevo, a city famous for hosting the Winter Olympics in 1984, was under siege from Bosnian Serbs and their infamous snipers in the surrounding hills and suburbs. Daily atrocities were committed in front of everybody's eyes...


Being politically involved at the time I had the chance (thanks to common Serbian student friends who were horrified by what was happening to their country) to meet somebody who, like myself, wanted to do something about this tragedy. We wanted to act as Citizens despite the criminal apathy of our governments and institutions. This was December 1992. His name is Yves Dubois, a journalist presenter at the local TV network FR3 and his partner Vera Simic, a former TV presenter from... Sarajevo. He had many, sometimes foolish, ideas but the soundest and most realistic one was to organize and send an Aid convoy to Sarajevo. Such a Citizens' initiative was unprecedented and wasn't to the professional NGO's taste... 

At that point he was desperate because of the lack of response from anyone he had contacted so far, especially "established" persons… and was about to give the idea up altogether. I and my partner at the time, Kathrine, proposed him to start with a demonstration and see the people's reactions from there…

We printed out and distributed some 4,000 small leaflets in Strasbourg calling for a protest demonstration against the massacres in Yugoslavia, to be held in front of the European parliament on the 16th of December...

Despite of the lack of time because of the urgency of the situation (he wanted to reach Sarajevo next month...) and despite of the relatively small size of the demonstration, the event was noticeable enough to be covered by the TV news (obviously) and in the local press

The leaflet
















First signs...

.

... and finally some 300 showed up!!



The operation was a success! The day after, we held a meeting to officially create the "Alsace-Sarajevo" association in a room packed with hundreds of people! People of good will, from all walks of life, touched and horrified by what was happening there and angry against their own government (Mitterrand's France was de facto siding with Miloševic's Serbs). They would become the core of the whole operation. Normal citizen would show to the world they do care. They will become one-time heroes of an unprecedented humanitarian operation.

A key person joined us; Ms Anne Schumann who, thanks to her organizing abilities and political connections, helped the operatrion to gear up. Thanks to her, we received the support from a major local political and historical figure and respected from all: Mr Pierre Pflimlin. This was essential for the next stage of the operation: the fundraising. 


The practical decision was that we preferred to collect money rather than goods. Why? Because we know from experience that one could be appalled by what people would literally "get rid of" for "charity." We didn't want that. The other reason was time. It would have required far too much time to pack objects of various sizes, sort them out etc... And we were in an emergency situation. The option was to create one standardized "aid-pack" parcel whose size would optimize the space in the trucks, and also guarantee the quality and necessity of their contents: i.e. nonperishable food, products of hygiene (like soap, toilet paper or make-up set for women...), etc... that is for people living in exceptionally rough conditions.


So, one month later, on January 17, the "City Councils Open Day" operation was launched and announced by all local medias, an operation by which local authorities would help us with their staff to collect people's donations.

People were moved to know they could help doing something about what was happening in Sarajevo, however small their contribution was... I remember seeing on TV an old lady, who remembered the Second World War's atrocities, putting some of her small savings in the box, with tears in her eyes and saying to the camera: "Thank you...!"

In total some €880,000 (about US$1 million then) were raised.

With that money we were able to hire lorries and buy some 350 tons of goods for a city of 200,000 people. One parcel per person....

A month later, on February 17, the convoy finally set off (despite some difficulties which delayed it ten more days). The day before, all the lorries were safe-guarded at the Illkirch-Graffenstaden military base. In all, the column was made up of over 60 vehicles: 34 trucks, 12 vans, 6 coaches, 6 4x4, an ambulance and some



private cars. 130 people were accompanying the convoy: 77 drivers, 40 guides and a dozen of journalists. The convoy would grow bigger progressively: several French and foreign associations would add their trucks to it. A particular effort was made on the safety of the convoy: all the vehicles were in radio connection and a safety leaflet was distributed to all, which detailed attitudes to be adopted in the event of control. Risks exist for this human mission in a country in war, since it wasn't part of the "regular" official aid operations....

The night before, we had a contact with three trucks from Toulouse (South of France), which were like our "scouts". Good news!; they managed to enter to Sarajevo. After Salzburg (Austria), the convoy had to load additional goods at Ljubljana (Slovenia) then to spend the next night to Rijeka, a Croatian port on the Adriatic. Then off to Split, Kiseljak (Bosnia), a station occupied by the UN blue helmets where they would await for the necessary green light to enter to Sarajevo.


Which they did after one week of travel through very hard wheather conditions on February, 24... The drivers were exhausted and sometimes close to mutiny... All of that disappeared at the gates of Sarajevo, the ultimate destination! Now the delivery operation! All of the parcels were stored in 8 different safe places and distributed by local district associations and hospitals. The majority of the drivers were invited in host families, feeling what it is living in cold winter with no running water, no electricity, no heating... The following day we all had to go back to our usual comfort, leaving behind so many emotions from thankful people who realised they weren't completely forgotten... Was that the reason why security was temporarily forgotten? To the exit of Sarajevo, the convoy left without any Bosnian guide and was found itself in ... Dobrinja, the most bombarded and exposed district of Sarajevo!
Eventually they all came back safe on March 1rst...


 













The local newspapers and medias covered, on a daily basis, the progress and successes of the convoy...

In conclusion:

How is that that in two months time a tiny, unknown, inexperienced association of a handful of dedicated persons have made the dream of an aid convoy to Sarajevo in wartime come true?

The lessons are that sometimes, apparently the impossible can be achieved by people like you or me...


What happened next?

As far as I am aware, people who were involved in this operation kept little contact with each other, all getting back to their normal lives... Anne Schumann, one of the key organizers received recently the medal of the city of Sarajevo by its new mayor, Mrs. Semira Borovac.

As for myself I returned eventually to my home country, Belgium, ... to help organizing yet another demonstration in front of the EEC in Brussels (is this an obsession?). I had then the opportunity to meet somebody who managed to escape from Sarajevo's thanks to his then-Belgian girlfriend (this is another story that was eventually published in a book). He told me he remembered the parcels quite well, "That was good, we were hungry..." he said. He took the chance to study cinema in Brussels (he was one of the Bosnian army cameramen...). In 2002, he won the Oscar for the Best Foreign Language Film for his film "No Man's Land". His name is Danis Tanovic.
Now, I am living in the U.K. and hope this will inspire some.


alsace sarajevo
Posted by Yves Messer on Friday, 30 October 2015

The Alsace-Sarajevo aid convoy announced on National French

Indifference

"Indifference, to me, is the epitome of evil. The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of beauty is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, but indifference between life and death."
Elie Wiesel (US News & World Report - 27 October 1986)



I started this painting when attempting to participate to a Brussels-based art competition. The theme was “border”, but it was eventually cancelled as it didn't attract enough contestants. I resubmitted it to another art competition, organized by the City of Brussels which I won the second prize of in 1996. The painting is based on a photograph I took years before, showing a scene of arguing passer-by. I was intrigued, even more when I developed the picture (it was before digital age) to realize there was somebody lying on the ground, holding his head!
City of Brussels' second prize in 1996
I called my painting “Indifference”. It contains several “hints”. Pay attention to the car poster on the wall behind the crowd. Pay attention to the “red man” traffic light… 
I decided to dedicate it to my friends Erica Duggan and Molly Kronberg who are confronting a similar wall of indifference in their respective personal tragedies. Both have lost loved ones because of the same “LaRouche organization”, an international destructive “political” cult which I was once associated with. Both face indifference. I am supporting their struggle for justice both publicly and privately and in doing so, warning the world of what such a cult could do to individuals and therefore to society, in hope it won't happen ever again.

I am aware that by revealing some of my past I take the risk of being stigmatized. I will here paraphrase: "Let s/he who never made mistakes, cast the first stone." 

Here is my paper ARE YOU INDIFFERENT TO “INDIFFERENCE?