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Apathy biggest threat to humanity, says Elif Shafak


Through the pandemic, we’ve all been tracking numbers — how many infections, how many deaths, how many jabs given. So much so that it has made us all apathetic and numb, Elif Shafak, Turkish-British novelist and activist, told viewers at the Times Litfest.

“But that is so wrong. Indifference is the biggest threat to humanity right now. The inequalities in the world are deepening and widening and they feed on us. So rather than being a single-issue person, we need to see the connections. And we cannot forget that we are citizens of humanity first,” says the author while speaking on ‘Passion, pain and loss’.

At a time when there is a lot of noise on social media, Shafak says that we need to develop a personal voice through literature. “We don’t learn from the echoes, we learn from the differences. Diversity is precious. A collective mindset builds an authoritarian mindset. But when we read a novel, we become an individual and it helps us to connect with each other,” says Shafak whose latest novel is titled The Island of Missing Trees.

We also need to be aware of misinformation and hate speech, she stresses. “Though we are bombarded with information, we get very little knowledge and even less wisdom. We need to change that ratio, have little information so that we can process it all,” says the 49-yearold author, who faced the backlash of migration at a young age.

The author misses Istanbul and it is visible in her writings, but she believes in multiple belongings. “My home is in my soul and sometimes even a small thing as the smell of roasted chestnuts triggers all the emotions. But that said, I also believe in multiple belongings. I do see myself as someone from Europe and the Middle East. I also see myself as a citizen of the world. I have global attachments and multiple belongings,” she says.



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