I don’t care; a damning phrase

Is there a more damning phrase than ‘I don’t care’?

There are a lot of things you can say that are more crude, rude, ugly or shocking but I’m not sure within normal social conventions there is a worse phrase than this one. You convey disinterest, a flavor of apathy, misanthropy, conversational awkwardness, abruptness, and a number of other undesirable traits. The thing that seems like a problem is how to talk about not being able to care or upon examination of one’s internal state finding that you do not in fact find a sense of caring.

Let’s take the first case, not being able to care. Few it seems to me would argue that the ability to care is unlimited. We know that our attention is finite as is our time. Given a person possessed of perfect empathy these limitations would keep that person from being able to care about everything that could be cared about. In the second case, we see a person make a genuine appraisal of their state of being about some topic and come up dry. They simply do not have a strong feeling about it. It seems hard to judge that as inferior.

In some senses, this comes down to signaling behavior. Saying that you don’t care is a strong contrary social signal at odds with accepted behavior. We are supposed to care about a long list of things and calling out that we in fact do not puts us at odds with others.

If there is no socially acceptable way of conveying this, how can there ever be a conversation about what underpins this lack of caring? How is it possible to identify and validate that not being able to care about everything is a standard human trait?

PS. For the purposes of this conversation I ignore using the phrase intentionally as a means to convey disinterest, apathy, etc. This of course is a very common reason for using it.


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