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Empathize With Caution

‘Empathy is biased: people tend to feel for those who look like themselves. It can incite hatred and violence—as when Donald Trump used the example of Kate Steinle, a woman murdered by an undocumented immigrant, to drum up anti-immigrant sentiment, or when Islamic State fighters point to instances of Islamophobia to encourage terrorist attacks. It is innumerate, blind to statistics and to the costs of saccharine indulgence.’ ~ THE CASE FOR COMPASSION, NOT EMPATHY

A great review (and premise), which I agree with in many ways. As a psychology graduate who opted for the critical path (I didn’t take all the mainstream classes, and had really good teachers who encouraged healthy and robust skepticism of all positions, especially popular ones, always looking for that extra bit of info that might shed light on any given theory or axiom in order to move things forward) I say with confidence that empathy, although crucial in certain occasions, is tricky, and is indeed being abused by both the left and the right, by religions across the board, by all kinds of tribes looking to rally the troops and win the day through public outcry and momentum.

Empathize with caution, and whoever tells you that being critical of empathy makes you a bad person, show them the zealot door and wave them through it. Then formulate your arguments with reason, making a positive difference.

In the end, no one likes a fanatic, no matter what side of the aisle he or she or ze is on. Trigger-happy and too-easy-to-trigger have too much in common.

As the reviewer puts it: ‘Empathy is easily exploited, marshalled on either side of the aisle to create not a bridge but an impasse of feelings. In a time of post-truth politics, [Paul Bloom’s] book offers a much-needed call for facts.’

I feel you, Economist! You make sense.

From your socratic Spin Doctor,

Eyes open, mind sharp.


For The Economist’s article, click below:

https://www.economist.com/books-and-arts/2017/01/26/the-case-for-compassion-not-empathy