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Empathy - An Old Fashioned Notion Whose Time Has Passed?

Posted by Ponderer 
Empathy - An Old Fashioned Notion Whose Time Has Passed?
February 11, 2015 04:39PM
It strikes me that the lack of empathy is really at the heart of an awful lot of our social problems in this country. Probably even the world. Why does there seem to be such a tragic dearth of it in our society? Is there less of it now than there was in the past? Is it about the same? Most people do seem to have empathy when it's on a one-on-one level. They see a suffering person and they do what they can to help. There does seem to be some basic individualistic empathy when it's that face to face. And many do give to charities. But the more removed we are from those who are suffering, the less likely we as a people seem to be to have empathy for others. It's almost like empathy is a radio frequency kind of thing, that the farther away from some people the suffering or injustice is, the less likely any of their empathy will be to reach them. And it's not just a distance measured in space. It can certainly also be a distance in philosophy, religion, race... anything that can be seen as existentially separating one human being from another or others. Is it simply just a tribal thing?

It just feels to me that there is precious little empathy anymore in the world and in this country in particular. The current Republican party and its sociopathic decline in this area stands out as a glaring example to me. It's feeling like empathy has almost come to be seen as a threat to our way of life or something. We have people screaming about how terrible people have it in our country today while at the same time declaring that the way to fix the situation is to take more away from them. What is this madness... this disease of the heart that seems to be overtaking too many of us and almost the entirety of the powers that be?

Re: Empathy - An Old Fashioned Notion Whose Time Has Passed?
February 11, 2015 04:44PM
Re: Empathy - An Old Fashioned Notion Whose Time Has Passed?
February 11, 2015 05:03PM
Here's an example... A group of murderous criminals have holed up in an apartment complex in the poor section of your home town. The authorities discover that they are there and they choose to deal with the situation by blowing the entire apartment building to smithereens, which they proceed to do, killing all the criminals and quite a number of innocent citizens in the building at the time. Though there is tremendous and incredulous outrage by the entire neighborhood, the authorities tell us that these were really bad guys and they needed to get them to protect the rest of us. Still, everyone is able to empathize with those innocent people killed without even thinking about it.

Now put that apartment building and those criminals in a poor neighborhood in Afghanistan or Yemen or Gaza. Where is our empathic outrage now?

Sam
Re: Empathy - An Old Fashioned Notion Whose Time Has Passed?
February 11, 2015 05:32PM
Powerlessness. There's nothing I can do about it so I just don't think about it which makes it look like I don't care. And maybe I just don't care unless it directly impacts me or mine. Not sure how to explain others' lack of empathy but mine is just downright Selfishness/Self-centeredness.
Re: Empathy - An Old Fashioned Notion Whose Time Has Passed?
February 11, 2015 07:32PM
"But the more removed we are from those who are suffering, the less likely we as a people seem to be to have empathy for others."

This.

Although Ponderer gave an example where "removed" was used in the sense of distance, physical and cultural, I think it applies to time as well. Today's society is undisciplined because we have it too good for too long. I sometimes think that America seemed to be on the right track in the 50's through the 70's because that generation, in their formative years, had been slapped in the face by a couple of world wars, serious financial problems and a few nasty diseases. In those years it seems that people were more empathetic because they knew what real hardship was. What percentage of today's society has ever faced any real problems?
Re: Empathy - An Old Fashioned Notion Whose Time Has Passed?
February 11, 2015 08:26PM
I honestly don't believe things are all that much different than they were other than one aspect - now we hear about. Media and the ability to disseminate information has grown exponentially. So it is much easier to hear about these problems and these people being hurt or abused or whatever.

Have no idea what you're talking about, Navy - we're (allegedly) in a "war" right now and really haven't been "not" at war except for the ones that were hidden from the public in the aftermath of Vietnam - Honduras, etc... There was Gulf War I in the 90s. Pondy, Sam and I are old enough to remember Vietnam. The AIDs epidemic, the Great Recession, 9/11, Gulf War Syndrome... Lots of people are facing great hardship right now because of the Bush disaster. I think it's easy to say "we had it better" or "they had it better" when really you would have to experience both up close and personal to really compare. We have it "better" because society, technology, etc... is further advanced than in the past - but every generation gets that benefit. The ones following us will have it even better in that regard.
Re: Empathy - An Old Fashioned Notion Whose Time Has Passed?
February 12, 2015 04:42AM
"Have no idea what you're talking about, Navy"

I know.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/12/2015 04:43AM by Navy2711.
Re: Empathy - An Old Fashioned Notion Whose Time Has Passed?
February 12, 2015 04:56AM
Ahhh... good move. When your argument has been eviscerated by fact - cute is usually the safest bet. thumbs up
Sam
Re: Empathy - An Old Fashioned Notion Whose Time Has Passed?
February 12, 2015 05:06AM
It could be that things are getting so much harder for more and more people that they are too busy trying to stay alive and well to worry about others who are trying to do the same. The poor are getting poorer. Prisons are overflowing. Social and political unrest abound. Everyone is fearful and worried if not about themselves then about people close by who they know and love who need help. No one has anything to give and people just get angrier and angrier. With that fear and anger, people attack. It's every man for himself, so to speak. Primal reaction to limited resources. We can't share so we can't care.
Re: Empathy - An Old Fashioned Notion Whose Time Has Passed?
February 12, 2015 06:10AM
Indy, it's a fact that you don't know what I'm talking about.
_______________________

Sam,

Interesting. You and I both think people nowadays have a "everyman for himself" attitude for the exact opposite reason. Do think people are angry and afraid more today than in past decades?
Sam
Re: Empathy - An Old Fashioned Notion Whose Time Has Passed?
February 12, 2015 06:34AM
Here in America? Yes, I do. We are more divided than ever and more aware of real horrors occurring all around us which we see as potential threats to any feelings of well being we might be able to muster. Leaders are using terror to control us and we know it and that makes us angry. Am I projecting, lol? Maybe. I was born in '57 and a lot was happening in the world that I, as a kid, knew absolutely nothing about. My dad was in the Navy but he didn't tell my mom or us anything about what was going on. He thought it was his duty to protect us not only from any real threats but from even knowing there might be a threat. Now any kid with a phone can see a daily beheading regardless of what their parents wish to protect them from knowing or experiencing. Information is a double edged sword and it cuts deep both ways. No one trusts anyone else and it's just easier not to care.
Re: Empathy - An Old Fashioned Notion Whose Time Has Passed?
February 12, 2015 06:35AM
No Navy - it's a fact you are wrong. As usual.

Read Sam's post - does that sound like we have it "too good"? Or does it sound like we have our own problems just like every other gen? Maybe you have had it "too easy" and being incapable of empathy yourself - you assume everyone else has the same life experience. Ever think that might be a possibility? eye rolling smiley
Sam
Re: Empathy - An Old Fashioned Notion Whose Time Has Passed?
February 12, 2015 07:06AM
Navy is rarely wrong. At least not that I've read. Even if/when I disagree with him it's not necessarily because I think he's wrong. It's usually just a matter of perspective which makes all informed views valid. If I ever did think Navy was outright wrong about anything, I'd have to say so and I imagine he would appreciate hearing why I thought so. Rational people tend to appreciate it when set straight about facts from people they have judged reasonable and stable.

As for you, Indy, you have a real boner for Navy which comes off as you being disturbingly insecure. You routinely attack people, not ideas and that's just not cool. I wish it had never dissolved into the personal putdown fest between us that happened but it is what it is and now it's just impossible to have a discussion around or with you.
Re: Empathy - An Old Fashioned Notion Whose Time Has Passed?
February 12, 2015 08:06AM
Sam - you're right. Our relationship has basically dissolved into a personal putdown fest... and that post is just another variation on the same theme. Any rational and reasonable person can recognize that. And you... Sam - accusing others of attacking people not ideas?
Re: Empathy - An Old Fashioned Notion Whose Time Has Passed?
February 12, 2015 04:34PM
Sam, I agree that an awful lot of people are struggling mightily nowadays. It's likely quite true that most people don't have much to spare to give to help others. But I'm not just focusing on monetary manifestations of empathy.

How much money does it cost a person to be outraged by atrocities being committed in their name against innocent people abroad? How much money does it cost someone to simply care and muster the attention to not blindly swallow blatant propaganda engineered to keep them from caring? How much money does it actually put back into their bank accounts by way of a tax refund to support the decimation of social programs? How much money does it cost someone to support civil rights?

The lack of empathy in this country is about much more than the exchange of money.

Sam
Re: Empathy - An Old Fashioned Notion Whose Time Has Passed?
February 12, 2015 05:59PM
People have run out of fukks to give. When people don't feel cared about they don't care about others. It's sad and unfortunate but not surprising. That said, how do you know people don't care?



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/12/2015 06:12PM by Sam.
Sam
Re: Empathy - An Old Fashioned Notion Whose Time Has Passed?
February 12, 2015 06:11PM
Fiddler, We both know I always attack ideas first and when the butthurt flares I get personally attacked and then the fest is on. If I say something about "you agnogs" that is not personal but you seem to take it that way and get pissy and go all emoticon. You should be embarrassed but you have no shame. I suppose if I say "your beliefs are retarded" you think I'm saying you are retarded. That may well be true but it isn't what I said. Try to look at the bigger picture if you can. I don't even know you but I do know you are prickly when it comes to criticism and maybe I should be easier on you since I know you are fragile that way but I don't really care how you feel or really care that much about you as a person. I'm here to discuss interesting ideas and always sorry when it dissolves into this kind of immature indiocy. You are an expert at pushing buttons which makes you nothing more or less than a manipulative asshole who is trying to distract from any discussion at hand so you can make yourself feel better. This is not a put down but an honest observation based on my experiences here with you. You think I suck as a person and I think the same about you. How about we avoid each other? I'm enjoying being here for the time being so can we just bury the hatchet or at least ignore one another?
Re: Empathy - An Old Fashioned Notion Whose Time Has Passed?
February 12, 2015 06:51PM
We often create the perceptions others have of us.
Sam
Re: Empathy - An Old Fashioned Notion Whose Time Has Passed?
February 12, 2015 07:02PM
Yeah, I guess I should have never put up pics of myself or told anything about my profession. I set myself up for ridicule. Ohwell, can't put hemorrhoid cream back in the tube. Rather just pretend assholes don't exist.
Re: Empathy - An Old Fashioned Notion Whose Time Has Passed?
February 12, 2015 07:24PM
I wasn't even thinking about photos you've posted or your profession. I'm referring to our online demeanors. People get a sense of who others are from the manner in which they discuss things online - the personalities they present.
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