All We Need is Empathy

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zolkowski

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Edited By zolkowski

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TheDudeOfGaming

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#2  Edited By TheDudeOfGaming

This is awesome, it was a good choice to follow you. You're like the counter-balance to Yagami. A yin and yang if you will. And the universe (of Giantbomb) is now at peace.

Anyway it was a good read, although i think it's something most of us already knew. We accept things when we are young, things like ideas, principles. Some of them we'll never let go. But i still think that no matter how important a view or an opinion is to a person, they still might change it over time.

Anyway, congrats to you dude, awesome blogposts.

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Dagbiker

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#3  Edited By Dagbiker

Good post. I agree keep making them. Personally, I try to keep out of arguments on forums, and as a whole, but I will often make arguments and statements for both sides, and try to bring up points not thought about.

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zolkowski

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#4  Edited By zolkowski

@TheDudeOfGaming

Thanks once again. And yes, I am pretty sure most of us are aware of how to be empathetic, but rarely do we act upon it or think about it when the time is right.

@Dagbiker

It's hard to avoid arguments, though I think it's essential in challenging that 'environmental' influence by being exposed to things counter to what we believe. There's no use in getting involved with useless name calling when there are these arguments though. It's inevitable, and you can still engage with them, but just don't acknowledge the insults and it can usually keep the ball rolling in the right direction.

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VisariLoyalist

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#5  Edited By VisariLoyalist

Wrong all we need is liquid thorium energy

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pixieface

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#6  Edited By pixieface

Yay, rational thought! Good post.

This is why capital punishment has always been a weird issue for me. I generally don't agree with it, but in the case of mass-murderers and serial killers, such as Anders Breivik as you pointed out, well... What do we do with these people? If they are clearly mentally disturbed, do we give them three square meals a day under the roof of a clean mental institution, complete with doctor visits and a warm bed out of some notion of empathy? Give this monster things that innocent individuals might not even have the money for? Things that the family of the victims might not have? Or do we lock him up for the rest of his days, still with three square meals and a bed, except with the thought of his coming demise from the tip of a needle or the touch of electricity hanging over his head? Would that threat even register with someone so ill? What do we do?

There's no one hard-and-fast rule and no one universal morally correct law, obviously. It's uncomfortable. Were I in charge of The World, I would probably allocate more resources to rehabilitation and more community outreach programs to hopefully prevent more crime, yet still keep the death penalty for outstanding cases. From what I understand, the prison system (at least in North America) has moved away from just incarcerating criminals and blossomed into a happy, seedy business venture. It's a bit disturbing.

But, personally, as far as Breivik goes? Knowing the evidence mounted against him, I would see him dead. Or at the very least, shot off into space. That man is so twisted up in his own loathing of every human that doesn't look like him, so far gone in his own paranoid delusions of grandeur, his crimes so disgusting, that I just don't see him worth keeping around. He's not really the point of all this, but the thought of him makes me so mad that I wanted to say something.

Gets even weirder for me with pedophiles and rapists. It doesn't seem right to let them have consistent food and a bed. Then again, it definitely doesn't seem quite right to just immediately chop off their heads, either.

The world would be a lot easier if this was all just a video game where the heaviest moral choice amounted to killing a little sister or saving her. :P

PS, your little section about the inner-city kid going to a school that practically encourages failure reminded me of an awesome documentary I watched not too long ago called "The Cartel". It's about how public schools, New Jersey's in particular, are run by old timey, mustache-twirling crooks cleverly disguised as old slubby dudes on the school board. Fun! It's on Netflix instant if you want to watch, you might like it.

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SSully

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#7  Edited By SSully

Great post! Seriously, one of the most well thought out posts I have seen here that involves a very serius topic, and isn't trying to start some kind of flame war.

I hope to come back and give a better response on the topic itself, even if I dont I still look forward to reading this thread and your future blogs.

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Vodun

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#8  Edited By Vodun

@pixieface: Firstly, condensing a mental asylum into "three square meals a day under the roof of a clean mental institution, complete with doctor visits and a warm bed" gives a very wrong picture. It's not fun or cozy to be in a place like that, I would say it's a lot worse than prison. And a verdict of being criminally insane in Norway means he will most likely be locked away for the rest of his life. A prison sentence would have meant a maximum of 16 years (if I recall correctly, either way it means a time limit).

Secondly, how can you argue the right of one person to kill in revenge (or even economy) while judging the other? Breivik only executed those he felt deserving of death, how is that any worse than a group of people coming together and deciding that "this person will cost our society too much to keep alive, let's kill him off"?

Thirdly, however you feel about the morals of a death penalty you can never get away from the fact that humans are fallible and hence an innocent person will at some point be killed by the very system set up to protect them. I don't see that as a price worth paying, just for the satisfaction/monetary gain of killing the guilty.

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Vonocourt

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#9  Edited By Vonocourt

Kind of sad that I doubt many who would need to read this will read it. Definitely gonna check out that book nod though.

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pixieface

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#10  Edited By pixieface

@Vodun: Well, I didn't mean to aggravate anybody.

I recognize that capital punishment is an infinitely tricky issue. I said as much in my post. They're just my opinions, as confused as they may be, because this is a confusing issue to me. I'm still trying to figure out where I stand on all of it. I'm not declaring that they're firmly right or wrong in any concrete way. Please don't assume I'm telling anyone what to do or that I'm saying that this is the way it should always be because I said so. You didn't use those words, obviously, but that's just what I'm inferring from your post.

Again, in my eyes, what Breivik did was unforgivable. He brought destruction upon innocents. Upon children. If I were the law, yes, I would see him dead. Killing one man who killed near a hundred seems justifiable to me. I don't think it's economically wise to put money into detaining this man and I personally think a man forfeits a lot when he goes on a killing spree because of schizophrenic delusions of grandeur. It sure doesn't make me a saint but, well, there you go.

However, I am not the law, I don't pretend that my views are all The Only Way, and I have no political ambitions, so no one has to worry or get angry.

I would not want to dole out the death penalty to every single murder conviction, either. I have a very strong distaste for the frequency of its use in my own country. I recognize that innocents could be killed and have indeed been killed in the past, both recently and distantly. I'm not ignoring that and I recognize that this is a horrible, terrible thing. Again, I've said that this issue is confusing to me. I don't think I will ever reach a consensus with myself on what is correct. But in this particular case, Breivik had witnesses, he admitted to his crime (last I checked, anyway), and there was evidence of him planning out his actions ahead of time. I do not see the point of putting this man in an asylum for the rest of his days. Call me cruel and unfeeling and inhuman, but it's only an opinion.

I shouldn't have condensed insane asylums like that, you're right. In that same vein, I don't think it's wise to assume that all asylums are worse than prisons. It's more likely they're both generally terrible places but differ in shades of bitterness. I have been to neither so I wouldn't know first hand.

It's completely fair for you to think that having a system where there's even a slim chance of an innocent being killed is the wrong system to have. That's totally fine. Believe me, I understand. You're probably taking the morally higher path of the two of us. It's just that I look at this sick man, this killer of children, and those like him and I can't help but think... Why? What is the point? I literally do not understand why we put resources into him and the prison/asylum housing him when it could be allocated into programs that help innocent members of the public or otherwise help prevent crime.

If you would like to help me understand your point of view more, I'm happy to listen. Or, read, I guess. I enjoy learning. :)

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Lavapotamus

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#11  Edited By Lavapotamus

I don't really have anything to contribute to a conversation, but I love you for writing the sorts of blogs you write and am genuinely interested in reading through everyone's thoughts. Whenever you're inspired to do so, please keep going.

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zolkowski

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#12  Edited By zolkowski

@pixieface

Thanks! It's always an iffy situation on whether we are able to determine if someone deserves life or death. For the most part I am against it, but as you have said there can be cases where in such extremities it could be acceptable. We have this guy on camera doing the act, it's not like there's even a chance we have the wrong guy here. And even then I am still torn. Partially because of my evil biases I think death is too easy of a way out for someone like that, but secondly I wish we could rehabilitate someone like that and make them realize just the gravity of what they've committed. It could drive them to suicide, or it could drive them to maybe actually try to do good? I don't know, it's fun to play with dream scenarios like that.

Pedophiles and rapists is a pretty torn category for me as well. You can become a labeled sex offender for urinating in public (which I think is usually fairly harmless, unless it was in front of a daycare or something). There are many people who become falsely accused of sexual assault and rape, and it's already a terrible situation for them. And for real pedophiles I think there's just gotta be something wrong in their head - an experience or trauma that caused them to become who they are. I think pedophiles and rapists, on top of jail time, should be rehabilitated and not released until deemed worthy.

What sucks about nit picking the justice system into what would be right is realistically they probably don't have the money for it. I'm sure we could divert it from other major categories of our budget, but that requires a phenomenal amount of cooperation among everyone. It doesn't seem possible at this point.

Thanks for the documentary to check out. :) I'm sure I'll be intrigued. I have it bookmarked when I can watch it.

@SSully

Feel free to discuss with us whenever you feel like, and no worries if you don't want to! Thanks for your support!

@Vodun

We could argue the morals of when is something not deserving of life all day, but a more interesting question I like to put forth is if you don't have a chance to put someone to justice. You have one moment to kill them for a potential of evil they will commit. Do you do it? If you met Hitler after, say, World War I, before he's committed anything heinous and knowing what he would become would you still kill him? (Sorry to use the stereotypical Hitler as an argument, but it's a figure most are familiar with) Then there is the argument is it worth one innocent to save one-hundred? A million? It's actually ruled by the UN (if I recall, it could've been the Geneva Convention) that it's not worth the life of that one person so long as they remain innocent.

@Lavapotamus

I intend on it! And you are awesome for you loving support. I appreciate it! Seriously!

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#13  Edited By gamefreak9

Yeah i Like to summarize the first couple of paragraphs as context. I always consider context to be the enemy of objectivity. fun read though, i'm not sure if I'm convinced about the importance of empathy as you describe it. I'm more interested in "what works" and though this sometimes lines up with empathy, often it doesn't.

The Oslo killings happened, I don't really care if he is let go or not, what matters is that a minimal amount of innocents are damaged. If capital punishment in this case would help achieve that by deterring future maniacs then by all means go ahead. If we don't believe it will do anything then put him in prison, even let him go if you don't think it will cause direct or indirect harm(doubtful).

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zolkowski

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#14  Edited By zolkowski

@gamefreak9 said:

Yeah i Like to summarize the first couple of paragraphs as context. I always consider context to be the enemy of objectivity. fun read though, i'm not sure if I'm convinced about the importance of empathy as you describe it. I'm more interested in "what works" and though this sometimes lines up with empathy, often it doesn't.

The Oslo killings happened, I don't really care if he is let go or not, what matters is that a minimal amount of innocents are damaged. If capital punishment in this case would help achieve that by deterring future maniacs then by all means go ahead. If we don't believe it will do anything then put him in prison, even let him go if you don't think it will cause direct or indirect harm(doubtful).

Doesn't wanting what is best and what works also a concept of empathy too? Of course you are going to do best with what you currently have and it's not going to make everyone happy or safe. In perfect Utopiaville we could do all what we suggest, but realistically we can't. Having an empathetic train-of-thought just helps make you a little more of a calm person with a better evaluation on things. I think anyone in power is aware they can't display perfect empathy towards everyone, whether it's from their own biases or just the realistic limitations of our human nature and world.

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#15  Edited By Tatimus

@Vonocourt said:

Kind of sad that I doubt many who would need to read this will read it. Definitely gonna check out that book nod though.

It really does seem that way doesn't it. Its almost as if its a negative neurological feedback loop that reinforces apathy on a consistent basis.

@Zolkowski: Well thought out and well written scenarios. I find these traits to be most important in humans I consistently enjoy being around (lovers especially). In order 1. Empathy 2. Intelligence 3. Humor (specifically dry and witty). I pretty much agree with all of your points. From personal experience, I also find that empathy is much less likely to be applied when there is a drastic numerical difference and cultural difference (which you already covered) in debating sides due to the territorial and threatened aspects of our psyche, which are both physiological and environmental in the natural world. I've also noticed that these negative neurological feedback loops have somewhat of a temporal component, such as the old adage of "too old, stuck in your ways" - quite literally, and I feel that this is one of the major reasons politics fail to succeed on a fairly consistent basis here in America. We need more young, intelligent-empathic politicians in this country. Your post gives me hope that there is at least one more rational, empathic human being on the planet. +brofist +follow

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Vodun

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#16  Edited By Vodun

@Zolkowski: I would agree with the UN in that case. My moral compass says that as soon as you are willing to sacrifice a life then you are no better than the ones you are fighting.

As for Hitler, no I don't think I would kill him because it would accomplish nothing. But I have no idea. It's easy to sit behind a keyboard and make up things, but you never know what you would do in the heat of a moment. As much as I argue the sanctity of all human life I don't think it would be at the forefront of my mind of for example someone killed my family and I was put in front of the perpetrator with a gun. In those circumstances our primate brain takes over and we don't think, just act. That's why it's usually a bad idea to have the surviving family choose the punishment.

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medacris

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#17  Edited By medacris

This is why I feel pity for people who are assholes, even if I don't agree with a single damn thing they've ever done. I believe people are born neutral, and if they are bad, or even evil, something made them that way. This is also why I, despite being agnostic, harbor a bit of resentment towards those who try to force others not to believe in God. To me, it's not a matter of whether or not God exists or not, but as long as the actual act of believing makes you feel good and gives you the courage to live, even when you're in pain. The feeling of having something to inspire you, to live for when everything seems bleak, is a beautiful feeling. For me, personally, it's my friends, but it could be God, sports, gaming, a television show or movie, family, your pets, your kids, your significant other, whatever for anyone else.

I honestly don't know whether, if given the chance, I'd kill someone I think is completely devoid of positive qualities, like Hitler. Even if I was raised Jewish, I still couldn't live with blood on my hands, no matter whose it was. The point is moot, anyways- he committed suicide long before I was born, and I can't see me ever actually being in a time-travel scenario.

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RJMacReady

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#18  Edited By RJMacReady

I think "acting on" empathy as opposed to having the capacity to recognize the emotional state of another person is something that we should approach with more skepticism in a modern social order. I've posted about this before specifically in teh context of addressing the welfare state and transfer payments. Empathy facilitated cooperation but evolved under different environmental conditions then those that exist in a modern social structure. Because of distention and cognitive limits empathy can be deleterious as a person or institutions can evoke this response in the interest of their own interests rather then that of that person/institution without getting anything in return adn thus empathy can open teh door to modern forms of predation and result in asymmetrical exchange. This form of thinking is not optimized for large societies. As such there needs to be defense mechanisms against things like empathy and compassion because we cannot reasonably assess all the unseen actions of the individual that would be the putative target of this empathy.

Even inculcation itself might be a means to promote a behavior that causes the actor who conforms with that standard to act in ways that benefit those that inculcate them and so the act of advocating for a more empathetic social order could itself be a selfish strategy.

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N7

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#19  Edited By N7

Interesting read. It's good to see anti-Yagami threads going on lately. Not necessarily a jab at him, more of a "Hey, we need more coherency here".
 
I have recently began taking a look at my life and have decided that I am almost legally retarded, so it's about time I start learning things. Thank you for helping me.

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#20  Edited By AlphaDormante

Quite a lovely post, and the same goes for the earlier blog post you linked. I can't remember the last time I've seen such level-headed and open-minded discussions. It's wonderful to see, and while I'm afraid that I don't have the time to articulate my own thoughts at the moment, I've thoroughly enjoyed your work so far. Thank you for the interesting read.

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#21  Edited By sanchopanza

@Zolkowski: What you have just written is very close to the philosophy of Adam Smith, I encourage you to look up his 'Theory of Moral Sentiment', you can get it on PDF for free. You have an interesting take on the issue and this is a well written blog.

On the issue of punishment, to quote Smith directly: "mercy to the guilty is cruelty to the innocent". If you have actually studied the subject you might see how shaky 'morality' really is, and I think you realise this, whereas someone like Yagami is set in stone and instead of even considering counter arguments just goes in circles with "fighting bad, violence bad, me smart you stupid".

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AhmadMetallic

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#22  Edited By AhmadMetallic

I read your first blog and commented on it, and based on your reply I saw that we see eye to eye. 
 
However, I stopped reading this halfway through the first paragraph. For centuries it has failed to go against the current and try to abide by theoretical principles and life styles that get shat on in practice. Stop preaching about empathy, my friend, and live like others live.

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gamefreak9

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#23  Edited By gamefreak9

@Zolkowski said:

@gamefreak9 said:

Yeah i Like to summarize the first couple of paragraphs as context. I always consider context to be the enemy of objectivity. fun read though, i'm not sure if I'm convinced about the importance of empathy as you describe it. I'm more interested in "what works" and though this sometimes lines up with empathy, often it doesn't.

The Oslo killings happened, I don't really care if he is let go or not, what matters is that a minimal amount of innocents are damaged. If capital punishment in this case would help achieve that by deterring future maniacs then by all means go ahead. If we don't believe it will do anything then put him in prison, even let him go if you don't think it will cause direct or indirect harm(doubtful).

Doesn't wanting what is best and what works also a concept of empathy too? Of course you are going to do best with what you currently have and it's not going to make everyone happy or safe. In perfect Utopiaville we could do all what we suggest, but realistically we can't. Having an empathetic train-of-thought just helps make you a little more of a calm person with a better evaluation on things. I think anyone in power is aware they can't display perfect empathy towards everyone, whether it's from their own biases or just the realistic limitations of our human nature and world.

I guess you could call it empathy... though you could call it fear... i want to maximize everyone chance of being happy because i recognize that I myself could have been born any one of those bodies and I won a lottery being born in the western world.

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#24  Edited By JCTango

I agree with most of what you talked about, but to me there are some things that we should, as human beings, know are inherently right or wrong.

Also, don't forget that just because you are able to see how someone could have certain insights/opinions on things, or have done the things they have, doesn't mean it justifies any wrong doing! Just as we should strive to see the other person's side, they too, should strive to see how their ways of thinking/acting could have a negative impact on society.

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zolkowski

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#25  Edited By zolkowski

@sanchopanza said:

On the issue of punishment, to quote Smith directly: "mercy to the guilty is cruelty to the innocent". If you have actually studied the subject you might see how shaky 'morality' really is, and I think you realise this, whereas someone like Yagami is set in stone and instead of even considering counter arguments just goes in circles with "fighting bad, violence bad, me smart you stupid".

Right, I was afraid of giving that vibe for this which is why I added the 'bit towards the bottom on the Oslo shootings. Thanks for the PDF, I'll check it out :)

@AhmadMetallic said:

I read your first blog and commented on it, and based on your reply I saw that we see eye to eye. However, I stopped reading this halfway through the first paragraph. For centuries it has failed to go against the current and try to abide by theoretical principles and life styles that get shat on in practice. Stop preaching about empathy, my friend, and live like others live.

I think we might be at a misunderstanding. As I have just replied to sanchopanza about, I think you got the wrong message here. Living in perfect empathy is not realistic, and it's certainly not possible to even think about it at times.

@JCTango said:

I agree with most of what you talked about, but to me there are some things that we should, as human beings, know are inherently right or wrong.

Also, don't forget that just because you are able to see how someone could have certain insights/opinions on things, or have done the things they have, doesn't mean it justifies any wrong doing! Just as we should strive to see the other person's side, they too, should strive to see how their ways of thinking/acting could have a negative impact on society.

That's why I raised the question on the end of where you should draw the line on empathy and punishment. Punishment in itself is also a deterrent for those to keep doing wrong. If your worst punishment was a therapy session for murder, I think it would become that much more appealing.