It’s dismissive and often seen as callous. Hand waving away the problems of another that one could realistically help address but chooses not to. After all, your problem does not affect me directly and I have problems of my own. No one is helping me, why am I wasting resources on you with no possibility of return?
When analyzed, it’s difficult to call this attitude callous when it is related to the aforementioned lack of resources. There is a limited amount of time, energy, money, and goodwill but no end to suffering, everyday or existential. It isn’t possible to extend a helping hand to everyone who asks let alone everyone who is in need. An inability, not so much an unwillingness, to do so can lead to a feeling of unease at best and malaise at worst. This question of suffering creates an inherent wish to better the world around us but encountering endless roadblocks leaves one with a choice: accept that you cannot help everyone or fail in the attempt.
As simple as it may seem to state the obvious, that you cannot help everyone, it is of no comfort knowing that one could at least help some or likely some more. And if they are helping some, whether or not that is proper or even adequate. I am giving to charity, couldn’t I give more? I am volunteering my time, couldn’t I spare some extra for the needy? Worse yet, even if I am satisfied that I am doing all that I can, am I focusing my resources in the right areas where they can be most efficient? Are my efforts even reaching those in need or are they being siphoned off by misuse or corruption? Will my vote or protest in hopes of a better society result in the complete opposite with me being culpable? The mind does not so easily accept the unknown. We have an excess of illogical terrors to vouch for that.
Hopelessness in the face of all one can muster results in a battering to our subconscious. That wear can necessitate a callousness just as a workman’s hand hardens with toil. We find it easier and more psychologically calming to write off all problems not our own as not worth reviewing lest unanswerable issues take their toll yet again. It is a coping mechanism, if an inadequate one, to dismiss others as a matter of course. Yet it may be the only solution an individual can choose when encountering so much suffering.
In the same way that the alcoholic turns to drink to numb their pain, so too do the empathetic shut out the ails of the world in order to endure. Until they eventually find themselves no longer able to claim the title, forever wrestling with an inner good nature that has been left to starve. The truly uninterested and the selfish are mercifully a minority in our world, even if they naturally seek out positions of power and through influence exaggerate the number of their ilk. Many mistakenly counted among them being those who are only shielding themselves and self soothing while wishing they could do more. Paralyzed by the enormity of the problem before them.