Commenting on my friend Sojournerscribe’s post, “Empathia“, made me think about the idea of violence as an offshoot to empathy. At first I thought it was an odd association, one I’d need to over explain to make it seem sensible. But its not odd, and its not complex. Of course violence stems from empathy, all the time, every day.
To avenge someone is to act on empathy. Simple. See an injustice done, maybe the same injustice has been done to you, maybe not, if the urge to set things right is manifest in violence, the violence is from empathy.
Collectively its an even more powerful motivator. Lately Ive seen images that, if I can string them together here, show the progression from empathy to violence.
Here, the Italian Welfare Minister is weeping over the austerity program her country has been forced to embark upon. Indisputably this is an image of empathy. In and of itself its a moving image, as she considers the effects this reduced funding for social welfare programs will have on the infirm, the elderly, the poor. Hers is noble empathy for as its object it necessarily focuses on those for which sympathy should come easy. There was a time when it would have been sympathy, not empathy, that drove policy. Sympathy is easier to temper with reality. That wouldn’t do, it wouldn’t do at all. Comes the paradigm shift to empathy, orchestrated by or at least coincident with the rise of all things feminine taking a rightful place in the hall of virtues. It was never enough to sympathize with the plight of women (recall the faux headline so illsutrative “World Ending, Women Hit hardest”), it had to be empathy, empathy is more than a motivator by external input, its a motivator to action AS IF the injustice were being perpetrated on you, personally. Its in the shift from sympathy to empathy that feminist leanings began to paint politics, and the policies that result ultimately painted the citizenry into a corner. By choosing empathy, the minister can also isolate the emotion from external influence and avoid considering any responsibility for what has likely been a lifetime of empathetic support for more and bigger social programs that help the people.
This image is becoming more common, globally, as the economic reality takes what was once easily sold by politicians speaking in a grave tone and furrowing the brow (ever growing social programs) and turns it into at once a real feeling of sadness for the innocent victims and a solid wall between that and any culpability for creating the problem in the first place. That wall, brick by brick, is built from empathy.
Collectively where do these feelings lead? This minister is likely not personally impacted by these decisions, but what of those that are? What of the victims of the coming austerity, and what of those who are not poor or infirm or needing of a social safety net but who have emotionally invested in supporting these programs their entire lives (those who crave empathy )? And lastly, what of those many who have silently exploited the largess of well intended empathetic people like Elsa Fornero, the minister pictured above?
They joined in group empathy, empathy by including self, or empathy that incites a need to avenge, or just bad feelings that appeal to n’er do wells, feelings that manifest in lashing out.
They show up here:
These are Greek riots. The newly coined term “The Olive Belt” describes the region along the north shores of the Mediterranean Sea, where social programs have drained nation’s ability to stay solvent. Somewhere a Greek mother is weeping, because she, like those in generations recently passed, expected her offspring to have the right to retirement at birth.
Seeing the image of the crying minister, and the images of the rioters, do you think of empathy in both cases, either independently or as a connection? You should, you need to, because its there. Many people see riots empathetically, just as they see the crying minister. A shared emotion between these two seemingly very different things exists and its name is empathy.
This is social pathology manifest, born of feminist influences that necessarily exploit a woman’s desire to feel empathy and the male desire for female happiness, as well as the male and female sense of entitlement (vicarious or personal) from which feminism draws its strength.
These could well be the dystopian streets of Empathia, my friend’s aptly named not so imaginary world.