About Empathy

2018-09-13_07-38-39.pngI am convinced that, as a general rule, my Republican friends pretty much lack empathy to any degree. I know this could be “painting with a broad brush” type thing but hear me out. I find example after example of this fact in my daily life. Let me give you a few examples.

I have a Republican friend who goes on and on about how all those people on welfare are freeloaders.  To him, they are just too lazy to go out and get a job.  I try to tell him that on the average most people are on welfare less than a year. He has admitted that his sister was on welfare, but he assures me that she really needed it.  He just can’t seem to understand that people who have temporary circumstances need and should get help. To him, everyone besides his sister is just lazy freeloaders.

Then there is Betsy DeVos, the current leader of the department of education who is now in the process of making sure that for-profit colleges get the money they need to pay their shareholders lavish dividends while at the same time making it harder for students to pay off their college debt. There just seems to be a serious lack of empathy among those who call themselves Republicans.

Then there is the soon to be ex-congressmen/ house leader Paul Ryan. His adoration of Ayn Rand along with her “Empathy is the scourge of mankind” certainly shows that he lacks empathy to any degree.

One thing I most admire about Jesus of Nazareth was that he had a huge amount of empathy. He even said that if your neighbor needs help give him the shirt off your back. He said that if you adore money give it all away to the poor and then you can follow him. Sadly, there are just so many who call themselves Christians who seem to believe the exact opposite of Jesus’ teachings! They rail against anyone getting something they didn’t work for. But isn’t that the foundation of Christianity.  “You don’t deserve it but since Christ died for your sins you will live an eternity in heaven.” Talk about freeloading…

A Free Ride vs. Earning Your Way

This post has been sitting in my “draft” box for quite some time because I just don’t seem to see it as complete. I don’t want to insult people who think differently on this subject but I want to get my point across as to the potential harm being privileged might cause. Complete or not its time has come to move it to a daily post.

I want to admit upfront that I am prejudiced on this topic. When I find that a person has pretty much had a free ride in life I become very skeptical about their successes and accomplishments. Maybe this is due to my having to earn my own way for so much of my life. Maybe it is jealousy, who knows. I am one to believe that adversity builds character and when it is absent privilege dominates a person’s attitude.

canstockphoto24086664When I was ready to go to college I applied for hardship scholarships but found out that since my mother who abandoned me when I was ten went on to marry a pretty rich guy I did not qualify for them. My mother had no inclination to help me with college as she didn’t see anything in that for her.  I did manage to borrow $200 from her once because I was panicked that my tuition payment was late. When I finally earned enough to pay her back the check I sent was quickly cashed. I understand now why that happened. Narcissism is totally about self, there is just no room for others in a narcissist’s mind.

Getting back to the topic at hand, some people probably think I mean when I say “free rides” are people like the current Oval Office occupant who was given a “mere $4 million” (equivalent to $40 million now) to start his way in the world. Yes, he and people like him are absolutely included in this list but I go beyond that to other categories.

Many parents think they are giving their children a headstart in the world by providing for all their needs. But that often leads to a lack of empathy for others.  Having to earn your own way breeds humility and empathy for those who are worse off than we are. Privilege too often breeds contempt which often manifests itself in looking down on others.  The irony is that the privileged are more likely to demand that if people cannot pull themselves up by their bootstraps then it is their own fault.

I just hope that all those parents out there who are giving their kids a free ride in life are also giving them strong lessons in empathy for others who don’t have the advantages that have been given to them.

On another topic in this area, I am very much in favor of the inheritance tax or “death tax” as my opponents like to call it.  Prior to income taxes that was one of the primary ways to fund the government. In my humble opinion, inherited money probably ruins more lives than it helps and the recently passed tax legislation will only make this problem worse. Inherited wealth should at least be counted as income to the recipient and taxed at that rate.

An Ounce Of Empathy & Two Ounces Of Brains

I am a dreamer, always have been and always will be.  When times are bad I dream of better times. When times are good I thank the Lord. I have always dreamed that every citizen of our country has at least an ounce of empathy and two ounces of brains.  I have come to doubt that belief, especially since the person in the Oval Office doesn’t even seem to pass the bill.  I guess this particular dream will have to wait a while before it can be realized.

canstockphoto18418248.jpgNow don’t misunderstand me, I don’t expect everyone to be overflowing with empathy, but another way to describe it is “brother’s keeper” and since that is a Christian term coming from the mouth of its founder I would hope that all of us who call ourselves Christians strive to get a little more empathy each day. But sadly then I see so many so-called Evangelicals who seem to be totally ignorant of caring for others and that is almost devastating.

canstockphoto5430637As far as brains are concerned I am talking about intelligence, not particularly the amount of grey matter you have. Where intelligence is concerned I follow another axiom and that is “If you don’t use it you lose it”. Each one of us should strive to become just a little more intelligent today than we were yesterday. But then I see so many of us who seemed to be ignorant on just how flawed the person is who they voted for president it dashes my dream in this area also.  With a minimal amount of study it was obvious to me just how deficient the one who they voted for was from the get go. How could so many be confused about what was totally obvious to the rest of us?

As a final thought, maybe even those born in the country need to pass a test to be citizens. As Thomas Jefferson said a democracy cannot succeed without an informed electorate.  I don’t enjoy saying “I TOLD YOU SO” after only 1/8 of his time in office but I told you so.

 

 

The World of Pretend…

2016-03-26_12-51-39.pngA good portion of my life was spent around someone who lived in a world of pretend. My mother was that person. She abandoned me, my brother, and her husband when I was about ten years old to marry someone much richer who could provide her with the luxuries she so wanted in life.  I would not have any sort of relationship with her again until twenty years later when that husband divorced her to marry his much younger secretary.

It was not until this re-introduction that I realized that she primarily lived in a world of pretend.  Reality had little to do with her mentality. She lived in a dream world of her own making. Since she left school at the age of fifteen to bare her first child it is unlikely that she ever graduated from high school. But to her that was not her reality. Throughout her life she made up stories about how she was a doctor, a head nurse at a prominent hospital, and a myriad of other occupations and circumstances.

She was pretty much a bigot and did not have much room for empathy in her life. But to show that she wasn’t she would occasionally “adopt” a person of lower standing than she perceived herself to be.  But then she would drop them as quickly as she adopted them. In reality she very seldom looked beyond herself for any reason.  I would later learn that she was the epitome of a narcissist. She lived in her own world of pretend throughout her life. Tragically, in the end she became an extremely spiteful person who looked down on everyone and everything around her. I was the only one of her four children that had any kind of a relationship with her and even that was very limited in the final year.  I think she finally discovered that the world of pretend was a cage, not a cocoon and that was devastating to her ego.

In a way I am thankful that she was in my life, it gave me a perspective of what I didn’t want to be. To counter her narcissism I went the other direction and became an empath. I purposely try to always tell things as I believe them to be. I probably do this to a fault. I just don’t want to ever want to live in a pretend world.

The world of pretend is in itself not a bad place, but when it invades and even takes over the real world it becomes a strangling cage.

 

They Deserve Their Failure….

2015-11-07_08-53-00That is the moral-ideological core of conservatism today. It presumes that life is a competition or race, that people are unequal in talent, drive, and ambition, and that those who end up on top deserve their victory and rewards — and those who come out on the bottom deserve their failure and hardships. Any attempt to overturn or even mitigate this moral order — whether through government regulation or changes in habits or assumptions in school or on the playground — amounts to an offense against justice itself.

Source: What defines conservatism today?

I want to spend a few posts in the coming week or so on morality and to a lesser degree empathy. But then to me the two are very intertwined. It often disturbs me how I see those who consistently vote Republican just don’t seem to have any sympathy for those who are not like them.  As a previous viewer of this blog frequently said I often seem to paint with too broad a brush. That is true, but it is really a matter of degree. The question is “what percentage of the GOP voters have little sympathy for others?” It is obvious that the top three GOP presidential candidates in that party all share that characteristic but how many of those who back them also share it? Is that why they back them or is it something else?

Those questions aside let’s get on to the quote above.  Is this the core of conservatism today? If it is then in my mind it has several fundamental flaws.

  • The teachings of Jesus just don’t agree with it – A large part of the “conservative” base claims to be Christian so you would think that their founders words would be extremely important to them. There are just too many places in the Christian bible where Jesus tells us to give the shirt off our back to those less fortunate than ourselves. The “What you did for the least of these you did for me” should make it totally clear that He did not believe that those on the bottom deserve their failures! He tells us to take care of the poor and homeless not to just abandon them because they made poor choices.
  • We don’t all start out the same – The above logic might make some sense if all of us were presented the same opportunities and some chose to make the most of it and some didn’t.  But that simply is not the case.  Some of us, particularly those who are from affluent families, have many more opportunities than those who are born to families stuck in minimum wage jobs or no jobs at all.
  • It doesn’t give much of a chance for improvement – The logic in the statement above seems to say that if you made the wrong choices then you are stuck at the bottom and there is nothing we who succeeded need to do to help you survive. This is clearly a “survival of the fittest” mentality and has no place in American morality.
  • It reverses the Golden Rule – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” just doesn’t align with this supposed conservative core.

Living On The Outskirts Of Hope…

2015-09-26_17-00-20I want to pen some final words about Pope Francis here. The title of this post is a recent quote from him that truly inspires me. There are just too many people in the world to who the very idea of hope seems unknowable. They live in such despair that all they can manage is just surviving day-to-day.   It is said that Pope Francis views the world from the Bottom up. I have never thought of it in those terms but it is an accurate portrayal of him and I hope to a certain degree myself.

Most of us, especially those of us living in the U.S. view life from a top down window.   We all dream of getting rich someday so that we can buy whatever our hearts desire.  We feverishly follow tweets from all the rich and famous people dreaming to be like them someday. We seldom take time to think about those living below us and in some cases very far below us.

I know that GOP congressional leader Paul Ryan’s hero Ayn Rand called empathy a scourge of mankind and that is probably how Mr. Ryan and many of his GOP friends view mankind. They seem to deem those that have nothing are just lazy people looking for free stuff.  Empathy is putting yourself in the shoes of those less fortunate than yourself. Many simply refuse to go there.

To see the leader of the biggest Christian organization in the world living with a bottom up view is inspiring indeed. I hope his empathy is addictive to all those millions who went out to see him recently.  I know that Catholic Services is one of the strongest and most active religious organizations out there. If only all of us who call ourselves Christians were actively involved in such services we might just live up to the expectations of our founder.