Diaries Magazine

The Lost Art - Empathy

Posted on the 01 August 2022 by C. Suresh
Come to think of it, Empathy is not really a lost art. I mean, you can only lose something which you first had. And I am not too sure that most of us ever had empathy. As in being able to see the world from the point of view of another person - sort of walk in his shoes as it were. True that, like logic or honor or any such thing, empathy is one of those things which we had always been quick to identify as absent in the OTHER guy. But comes to one's own self...But, then, it used to be the case that we missed out on being empathetic primarily when the other chap talks or acts in a manner different from what we ourselves would do. You know, like, when you are non-smoker, it comes easy to you to see the smoker as a heartless person who revels in the death by secondary smoke of others. To put yourself in his place, see how you have become accustomed to it, and see why it can be just a habit and not a conscious decision to kill people around him...that requires empathy. (Ah! No, no, no, the idea is not that you AGREE that it's OK, just that you understand that he is not necessarily a heartless villain!)That, though, was the only sort of empathy that used to come difficult to people, this thing of understanding why others would do what you would never do. When it comes to what others do what you would do, it was relatively easy. Though, yes, even when it came to the other chap doing what YOU would do in the same circumstances, you needed to be reminded to put yourself in his shoes and see if you would act different. Empathy is one of those easily put to sleep emotions that has to be woken up in order to influence you.Not any longer, it seems, this idea that you understand why the other chap does what he does by checking out what you would do in the same circumstances. To that extent, yes, empathy is lost. Like, when someone opposed to you complains of an action by someone belonging to your side, that chap is a hypocrite who cries foul only when it suits him; as can be readily proved by the fact that he did not complain about a similar action done by someone on 'his' side. When the vice versa happens, the other chap is indulging in 'Whataboutery' when he points out that YOU remained silent likewise. So, yeah, what is Whataboutery when the other guy does it is a legitimate counter-point to his hypocrisy when you do it.I could possibly go on and on. When you call him names, you are merely identifying his nature; when he calls you names, he is indulging in ad hominem because he is unable to counter your arguments logically. When you disparage his religion, it is freedom of expression; when he disparages yours, it is fanning religious hatred. And so on. (There you go, getting precisely the wrong meaning. The idea is that YOU should not dismiss things airily as Whataboutery or call the other person names or disparage his religion. NOT that HE is justified in doing all that merely because you also do)So, yeah, someone points out that, in his shoes, you would act the exact same way that he does and you'd say, "I am not such an evil person that I will BE in his shoes in the first place". And THAT is the death of empathy. For, the moment you see a different way of looking at the world as villainous why would you even WANT to empathize?And, meanwhile, I can only remember a joke from a Tamil movie. "Un raththam rathham; en raththam thakkaali chutneyaa?" Loosely translated, it means, "When you are wounded, you shed blood; when I'm hurt, you see it as tomato sauce?"That, roughly speaking, seems to be the state of empathy these days!

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