Friday, May 5, 2017

"The Dangers of Empathy"

"It can distract us from rational thought and meaningful compassion."
[R]esearchers studying the brain can actually see how the various centers controlling certain feelings light up when we observe or imagine the experiences of others. “If you feel bad for someone who is bored, that’s sympathy,” writes Yale psychologist Paul Bloom in his brave and brilliant new book, Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion, “but if you feel bored, that’s empathy.”

Bloom, a liberal transplant from Canada, distrusts empathy because empathy is like a drug. It distorts our perspective, causing us to get all worked up about an individual or group. He compares it to a spotlight that illuminates a specific person or group, plunging everything and everyone else into darkness.

“When some people think about empathy, they think about kindness. I think about war,” Bloom writes. He’s got a point. Look at the Middle East today. Sunni nations empathize with the plight of suffering Sunnis, and that empathy causes them to further hate and demonize Shiites. Many people around the world empathize with the Palestinians, blinding them to the legitimate concerns of Israelis. And vice versa.

Adolf Hitler was a master of empathy — for ethnic Germans in the Sudetenland, Austria, and elsewhere. The cause of nationalist empathy for the German tribe triggered profound moral blindness for the plight, and even the humanity, of Jews, Gypsies, and Slavs.

Again, Bloom is a squishy liberal by his own account, but he’s also a leading scholar of how the mind actually works, not how we wish it would work.

Human beings are naturally inclined to sympathize and empathize with people like them. There has never been a society where people didn’t give priority to helping family and friends over strangers. This tends to blind us “to the suffering of those we do not or cannot empathize with,” writes Bloom. “Empathy is biased, pushing us in the direction of parochialism and racism.”

Look at the intractable debate over the phrase “black lives matter.” The slogan itself is a kind of spotlight, argue supporters, highlighting the legitimate complaints of African Americans. But it also blinds them to why others respond to the term by saying “all lives matter.”

I don’t go as far as Bloom in detesting empathy.
Link to the whole article.


edutcher said...

How do you hate if you have empathy? And Dolf's manipulation of empathy was about finding scapegoats, objects of hatred.

And Lefties must hate.

Chip Ahoy said...

You know what would be a good date or a part of a date? Add food to this, make it a two part thing, a restaurant perhaps, and it can be something.

I told a woman downstairs that I was on my way to plant nursery, and could I bring her back anything in particular?

She asked how much they cost. I said 6 or 8 bucks.

She said she likes white, no red, no wait, purple .

I made sure to buy a couple of purple things.

Came back and showed her the purple. She loves it. But she also loves the lime green leafy plant (sweet potato). They go together very well and they will be spectacular together, even without anything else. So I gave them to her.

Now see, that right there is empathy. Because I feel in my bones how much women WANT THAT F'K'N THING So it becomes sharing with myself at that point and I'm not missing anything. In fact someone else is tending them.

You should see that place, it's fun. City Floral. Kearny at Colfax. It's amusingly extensive.

On the way out at checkout I mentioned I couldn't find any triangularis bulbs. The look like little brown bullets.

A tall thin slender middle-aged woman with naturally masculine mien and mannerisms joined the discussion, "Triangularis, triangularis, triangularis ..."

"Ox-Alice," I think.

"Oxalis! Yes."

I turned to the teenage clerk, "See, you have to say the magic word."

"March is the month for those. In March we have all varieties. We have oxalis coming out of our ears up in here. But now, zip.

"That guy took my little trolly."

"You need a cart?"

"Yeah." *shrug*

The tall thin slender middle-aged woman with naturally masculine mien and mannerisms moved in and picked up my box, "Where's your v-hickle parked?"

She walked with me the whole way to the truck and we chatted it up while she carried my box to my truck.

See how people are?

She could have said, "cart's over there."

I'm stunned. And charmed. I'm charmed by all the empathy extended on me all the time. Lately it's noticeably women who've been first engaging and secondly helpful in these ways at these points of contact. And among women it's noticeably women with naturally masculine mien and mannerisms who have been engaging and helpful in these ways at these points of contact. It's a charmed life, when I let it. When I let people be engaging and helpful.

I am so stoked I can hardly stand it.

Two days ago I attained a new plateau in walk-correction.

I've been trying for almost two decades to plant my heel when I walk but that has not been possible.

Until two days ago.

Finally! The heel hits first. And I can keep it up comfortably. It changes everything. Everything is suddenly a lot more comfortable. I can feel my foot inside my shoe being squeezed. I can feel the muscles down there tweak all over the place with every tiny correction, the torque in my legs when I twist my foot, and it feels great. Turns are improved. Gait is improved. Stride is improved and so is speed and balance and muscle coordination. Everything feels better all at once.

And the next day it held.

And the next day it held.

And just now something collapsed, I have no idea what went wrong, everything was great until it suddenly it wasn't and I'm reaching for the corner of the table holding the television and going down hard. I twist, as always, half down I'm now reversed and my back shoulder slammed into the glass patio door. It made a huge racket and vibration. I'm down. And it hurts. My coke can is crushed. The carpet is wet. A bag of caladium bulbs is soaked with Coca Cola, my arms and legs are twisted around one of my wooden canes.

But nothing broke. No furniture, no appliance, no glass door, no bone broke. Win. \o/

No permanent scratches.

I don't know about bruises.

Did I just now say charmed life if I let it? What a f'k'n klutz.

ricpic said...

If it held before it'll hold again.

ricpic said...

Can anyone really get inside anyone else's skin, put himself in someone else's shoes? For me the answer is no. Which is why I find the very word empathy suspect. Sympathy is another matter. Although even sympathy, in its modern usage, is a diminished term. The original definition of sympathy was finding correspondence in another person, being in harmony with another. There was a largeness to sympathy. Now it has been reduced to feeling pity or sorrow for someone in dire straits or someone who has suffered a loss. A narrower scope.

AllenS said...

One step at a time, Chip.