Tuesday, October 31, 2006

On the Empathy Deficit

Common Dreams has posted a thought-provoking essay by Robert Jenson on "The Consequences of the Death of Empathy." Here's a quote:

Looking back, I can see that even though I don't come from the wealthy sector of society, the unearned privileges that I enjoyed had diminished my capacity for empathy. I had access to lots of information, but I was emotionally underdeveloped. I could know things, but at the same time not feel the consequences of that knowledge. That meant I could avoid the difficult conclusion that would have come from a deeper knowing and feeling -- that the inequality and injustice in the world was benefiting me at some level, and therefore I had a heightened obligation to confront it.

As I became politicized later in my life, I realized I not only had to learn more about the world but also had to fight to reclaim an ability to empathize. For me, that process started at the intimate level, by recognizing the misogyny and racism in the pornography I had grown up with. From there, it moved to the global, by recognizing the poverty and violence suffered by the targets of U.S. power.

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