I'll go off topic at the end of the blog, but I just want to jump right into it now. Before you start, however, I recommend reading my first blog if you have the time :) I appreciate you taking the time to read my thoughts. http://www.giantbomb.com/profile/zolkowski/battling-your-own-misconceptions-and-ignorance-to-yagami-you/30-89180/
If you read my other post, you would have seen I used empathy to describe what it means to connect and understand others on where they might be coming from. So what is empathy, exactly? I'll start by giving you the definition and how it actually applies.
Empathy - the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.
It's the ability to analyze fully (to the best of your ability) the position from someone else. Not just what their standpoint means, but also how and why they might have reached those conclusions. It applies to how one may act, speak, feel, walk, do, and just about anything else behavioral. I feel like this can be best explained more through examples rather than explaining the concept. *Mystical fade*
You're born in a pretty secluded, low populated, town in Mississippi (United States, for those from far away). Every Sunday you are brought to church, you learn to be obedient to your parents, you are constantly told how much greater your country is, and there are no outside influences in your life to ever indicate any other 'truths'. This is what you've known and has become who you are. It's the identity of almost everyone from the small town you come from. This is YOUR culture.
Que for the first time in your life an interaction with someone from the city, going to college for astrophysics or something of the like. From as far as you know, your belief in God is a part of all of your friends and family. The astrophysicist starts to ask you some weird questions about your faith. Faith? How can these truths you been told be faith? They are truths! Just as it has been for everyone you ever loved. You start feeling offended because this man is questioning a very fundamental tenant that you've followed your entire life and held dear. It's attacking your identity. Of course you're going to react a little hostile. Wouldn't you if someone started questioning/criticizing your parents, friends?
Now let's zoom away from that master-work of fiction to another. You are born in a very low income part of Chicago. You grow up with a dad you hardly ever see and a mother struggling to get by. Your situation seems to be pretty normal for the area, and you hang out with kids in other unfortunate living conditions. The police arrested your father several times, and it seems like your bigger brother and the people he hangs out with have troubles with the police too. You are wrapped in a culture that seems to idolize money, fancy cars, Women, and guns.
One day after school a group of kids your brother has warned you about jumps you, punches you, and steals your money. It's unsafe where you live, so as a way to have more protection you join the group your bigger brother hangs out with. You drive around town, every day, listening to music encouraging behavior to enjoy yourself and take revenge on those who do you wrong.
Your school is also set up for your failure. The drop out rate is so high where teachers aren't paid enough to give a damn. Funding for your school is absolutely piss-poor and the expectation of just dropping out as many of your friends already have is looming over your head. Why should you stay in a place that looks down on you and expects failure while your friends are out trying to make money and having a good time? And even if you do graduate, the standard of your high school is on a level where colleges will over look your application to more reputable schools.
One more final zoom to get my point across. You live on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Your father has fought during the Soviet-Afghan war and is someone you've always looked up to. Your community and culture is completely based upon the religion. The rules to these religion are absolute truths, and it's all you know. The group your father associates with will stone people to death for adultery and many other brutal punishments for crimes. Of course, this is all you know. These executions are common place and even you are handed stones to throw at those who broke your community's, your culture's, your religion's law. How dare they go against everything you live for?
You are told of the evil's of western powers. How their success is from their greed and have a religion against yours. Where you are taught that if one does not convert you may kill them. And if you start to doubt your own religion, you also may be killed. You hear of how a western power is now in Afghanistan killing people who are part of the group your dad is Associated with. Your father asks you to fight this power and you do so willingly. These greedy people with their false god. Why would THEY try to enforce their beliefs on us? (In case people were getting confused here, the father was involved with the Taliban)
One could argue exactly how much of our lives are affected by experience and how much is affected by our Genetics. What is causing that behavior, their experience or genetics? Which raises another very critical question. If you are completely empathetic, at what point to you draw a line? A perfect example would be the Oslo shootings. The man was declared insane, which could remove any criminal action against him. He was declared as someone who "...displayed blunted and inappropriate affect and a severe lack of empathy. He spoke incoherently using neologisms and acted compulsively based on a universe of bizarre, grandiose and delusional thoughts." After reading that and realizing what empathy is, what sort of experience would be required to reach that level? Can we even comprehend it?
So then it begs the question at which point do you draw a line on empathy and start to punish? If you draw the bar too low you start to dehumanize, too high and everyone gets a get-out-of-jail free card. That really isn't the point of this post though, I just thought something interesting to ponder on.
I would like to finish by bringing up the Oslo shooter's psychiatrist quote again, "...displayed... a severe lack of empathy." When we can't grasp empathy we lose our ability to try and actually perceive each other as humans. It leads to how you might be so easily call someone a racial slur, the road rage we have, why we are so quick to dismiss those to the death penalty, and calling one another names over the internet. It all leads hand in hand. This is why, to me, empathy is one of the strongest traits someone can hold.
...annnnnd SCENE! To be honest I am pretty nervous about how the reaction is going to be on this one. Hopefully you've enjoyed it thoroughly enough to at least give it a read through. If you didn't find it interesting I'd greatly appreciate you telling me where I could improve(and preferably without the use of insults.).
For my book recommendation this time around isn't really going to be related, and is actually some hefty serious reading. So I would recommend holding this one off until you are finished with exams and are on break. :p It is called 'Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001.' The title is wonderfully self-explanatory, but in all seriousness this book has shed so much more light on Afghanistan and the cold war than I could have ever hoped for. Why would I recommend this book? Because there are such strong opinions on the war that I feel very few are actually well informed on the matter. It's just one more instrument in helping empathize and understand.
Thank you to everyone who followed me. The reception has been absolutely wonderful, and I am even happier on how well the discussion went on the first blog. No flaming and all good. :) Getting 26 followers already (or at all) was totally unexpected. I started this blog for me to exercise my thoughts and actually see them out in front of me. Even while writing these I learn and think about more on the subject than what I did before. So thank you for giving me the opportunity and motivation to continue!