A Predator of Information

Our songs will all be silenced, but what of it? Go on singing.

The Politics of Empathy

26 March 2018 6:46 PM (politics | society)

To claim an individual or group of people lacks ‘empathy’ is to dehumanize them under the imprimatur of pseudo-scientific authority. I don't know about you, but no worthwhile people I know made a habit of creating pseudo-scientific frameworks for dehumanizing people.

More to the point, it's false. Empathy as commonly defined is an emotion. It binds to your in-group. You don't feel empathy for those who, in your estimation, deserve their unhappiness because in your estimation, they deserve their unhappiness. This is how empathy works. This is why conflicting groups, if you actually look at them show every sign of responding to the emotions of their in-group and being less responsive to the emotions of their out-group. Just like you do.

You might argue that the people they condemn aren't actually hurting anyone. There's a pretty good chance you'd be right! But this has nothing at all to do with ‘empathy’ this has to do with an analysis of the world and how people in it interact and what leads to human flourishing and what doesn't.

You want to do something worthwhile, flush this self-righteous ‘empathy’ garbage down into the sewer where it belongs and practice compassion. Compassion does not believe in deserved suffering and if that's a problem for you then you, brother, should rip the plank out of your own eye before you go back to dehumanizing people. Compassion is impartial. It does not have an in-group. It reaches around the world. It doesn't involve sharing anyone's feelings, it involves trying to develop an accurate theory of mind, coolly understanding other people's condition and wishing for their happiness, even if you don't like them.

You want to condemn people for lacking compassion? Be my guest, but only if you recognize that proper compassion is hard and even people who work at it all their lives trip up and fail at it repeatedly, because it is not some merely instinctive animal resonance attuned to those with whom one feels a sense of kithship. Compassion is a skill that guides your reasoning. If the thing you have just makes you hate a bunch of people and open your mouth and say something stupid, it's empathy. If it doesn't really have anything to do with your personal orientation toward people and guides you to help everyone, it's compassion.

No responses

Leave a Reply