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What do you mean by "casting a blind eye to scenes of misery around them." ?

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The usual idiom is to turn a blind eye, which means:-

Fig. to ignore something and pretend you do not see it.

The usher turned a blind eye to the little boy who sneaked into the theater. How can you turn a blind eye to all those starving children?

Probably the most famous instance of this was Admiral Nelson at the Battle of Copenhagen, who is said to have disobeyed Sir Hyde Parker's order to withdraw by holding his telescope to his blind eye to look at the signals, and then claiming not to have seen them.

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    This was Parker's intention, as he had no idea what was happening and he wanted to give Nelson the choice of withdrawing or not. The Royal Navy had a habit of executing admirals who withdrew without good reason – Henry Oct 10 '13 at 21:01
  • Turning a blind eye is a popular phrase with a meaning that is almost literal. Therefore it doesn't satisfy the definition of idiom. The figurative part is using visual blindness as a metaphor for closing one's mind or empathy. But dictionaries commonly give one of the meanings of "to see" as to grasp, or understand, etc. – Kaz Oct 10 '13 at 21:49
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The verb cast is often used to mean

to direct (a glance, attention, etc): cast your eye over this

To cast a blind eye is to not see something.

The phrase has a slightly ironic flavor since casting an eye is a deliberate act. So casting a blind eye suggests deliberately not seeing something that you do not want to see.

  • p.s. I agree with Brian Hooper that turn a blind eye is the more common phrase, and an ngram confirms it. That phrase also has the same deliberate quality. – bib Oct 10 '13 at 21:47

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