Without a Care in the World … August 21, 2013

People say things and do things that hurt worse than any knife. Incidents happen that embarrass to such a degree that you wish you could crawl away and hide. Small things occur in life that are magnified by careless words, sharp criticism, from blunt unthinking people.

Then there are people, people like me, perhaps like you, who never forget. Each insult, each thoughtless act of which you are the target, accumulates over time. With this passage of time the memory of these things becomes clearer instead of fading as most memories do. They play themselves again and again, over and over, if not in conscious memory, then in nightmares. The anguish each time is nearly duplicate, if not greater, than when the offense was received. The embarrassments express themselves too, repetitively.

Sometimes I wonder if these miscreants that commit such social blunders, insults, barbaric actions, suffer from some genetic malady. It has been revealed by science that some people lack or have diminished numbers of what are called mirror neurons in their brains. They are incapable of putting themselves in the shoes of others. They can not seem to be able to feel what it is like to be in the other man’s shoes. They seem to lack the capacity for empathy. Many these days are diagnosed with autism to one degree or another. Perhaps autism has always been with us but identifying it has been the problem. It just could be that almost everyone suffers from it to some degree, perhaps depending on the development of these ‘mirror’ neurons in their brain. In any case, empathy seems something in short supply within the human race.

Maybe feelings are the problem. Maybe some are born who have too sensitive a setting and take offense too easily. Perhaps this is what is meant when someone says you are too highly strung, or tightly wound. Should instead people be capable of withstanding the barrage of barbs coming their way daily, impervious to the sting? Should they laugh off the actions of those they find contemptible? Would it be better to be done with emotions? Is there a way to desensitize the overly sensitive?

When your brother tells you that they wish you had been born ten years earlier so that you would have turned out differently and therefore would have been closer, should you take offense? Should you take offense if he insults your wife, telling her she’s fat, to her face, in front of everyone,  and that she should lose weight to please her hubby? Is it too sensitive, for this, to take offense?

What if your mother told you that you were a failure and that you would fail at the new endeavor you just told her about? Could your ego withstand such lack of confidence so expressed?

There are those people in this world who simply are not human. They look human in the physical, they have human needs, they may even act human. Yet, when you explore them even in a shallow way you find they lack some of the things that, at least I think, make them human. Empathy is an important quality. In my opinion it is the quality that allowed us to consider the needs of others as humanity emerged. It is what holds society together, makes us human. Without it, it is everyone for themselves.

As the numbers of humanity increase I note a decrease in empathy. People care less and less for their fellow human and more for what they can amass themselves. As the population increases more and more wars are fought over the dwindling land and resources. Somehow it has become okay for Tom and Jerry to be potential sacrifices as long as Larry remains behind to carry on the line. Are not Tom and Jerry of equal value? I suppose Tom could remain behind, but that lessens Larry’s worth and he must go if called. Suzy, Mary, and Joyce, though three, are considered equal value and are protected from harm even though humanity is so large that their absence from its genetic pool would not be missed. As humanity grows, even this is changing. Lives male and female are diminished in value. But I digress…

The main point is that it seems empathy is in short supply. Social taboos are emerging and becoming common behavior. ‘Who cares if some are living in poverty as long as my wealth increases’ is becoming accepted thought.  ‘If you suffer offense, it’s because you’re too sensitive, not because I’m insensitive’ is the rule.

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3 Responses to Without a Care in the World … August 21, 2013

  1. john zande says:

    Natural empathy is being bottle-necked.

  2. Fred Levins says:

    Stanton Samenow, a psychologist, wrote “Inside the Criminal Mind,” a book for the general public. Dr. Samenow has an interest in developing methods for effective habilitation and correction. During his work with criminals, one said to him (approximate quote), “About this empathy thing, what’s in it for me?”

  3. drenn1077 says:

    Wow. I am glad that such people are in the minority. If this were not the case humanity would never have survived. Empathy, being able to put yourself in the shoes of others, allowed the concept of reciprocity to develop. Help someone else now, later they will return the favor. Empathy takes the edge off otherwise aggressive predilections. I think murderers have a twisted sense of empathy.
    Sometimes empathy yields little reward. You might have empathy for someone, but they, like the criminal mentioned in your comment, do not exhibit that empathy in return. You might save them from a rushing river directly after which they will throw you in.

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