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Friday, November 17, 2006

Empathy

From ZNet:
One of the most devastating consequences of unearned privilege -- both for those of us on top and, for very different reasons, those who suffer beneath -- is the death of empathy.

Too many people with privileges of various kinds -- based on race or gender, economic status or citizenship in a powerful country -- go to great lengths not to know, to stay unaware of the reality of how so many live without our privilege. But even when we do learn, it's clear that information alone doesn't always lead to the needed political action. For that, we desperately need empathy, the capacity to understand the experiences -- especially the suffering -- of others. Too often in this country, privilege undermines that capacity for empathy, limiting the possibilities for solidarity.
This was a great article for me to read today.

Invalidating someone's experience and judging them is easy when you are in a position of privilege. Blaming the victim, a topic I have definitely written about before, is one example of the consequences of lacking empathy.

Examples: Those who condemned the people of New Orleans, calling them "whiners" (don't believe me?). The dude I was conversing with the other day about the Palestinians (comments on this post) - he made a lot of very well-reasoned arguments, but this always seems to be accompanied by an unwillingness to really take in the pain and suffering of the Palestinian people. Recent articles like this one dismissing date rape, or those who deny the prevalence of violence against women and children also show a willful lack of empathy.

As Rabbi Michael Lerner wisely said - men didn't know patriarchy even existed until women told them. We need to listen more and judge less.

I think that's one reason I admire Amy Goodman so much. Her stories are not just news - they are truths, they allow the voiceless to be heard, and they are delivered with empathy.

More Solidarity and Reflection

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

With respect, if I have shown an inability to empathize with the suffering of the Palestinians, you have shown an inability to empathize with the suffering of Israelis who are killed by terrorist barbarians in their coffee shops and malls.

You have shown an inability to understand why they would build walls, an inability to understand why they would use their armed forces to suppress their attackers, and an inability to understand why the prosperity of another is seconded to their own security. Who is blaming the victim?

One of the fundamental flaws of left-wing thinking--if you are the weak and powerless party in an equation you are the victim regardless of your own conduct. I do not accept that argument.