Friday, June 09, 2017

Weekend Reading: On Empathy

You should read Katha Pollitt on empathy toward Trump-voters, or rather the lopsided demand that the "lefty elitist" show such empathy, but must not demand any back in return.

Empathy is valuable and even necessary, as I wrote in my earlier post (which also referred to that problem of lopsidedness).  But our empathy should be aimed at the economic troubles of rural towns in some parts of the US, and our understanding should be applied to solving that problem and the associated problem of poverty-driven drug addictions.

It's not empathy toward certain right-wing values* that is needed, but empathy toward all who suffer, even those who might wish us to suffer more, and the best way to demonstrate that empathy is through proper economic policies, good education systems and an adequate safety net, with encouragement for people to be self-reliant and hard-working and so on.

As an aside, two questions about this conversation fascinate me:  First, why is it assumed that if I lean left politically I am not hard-working, self-supporting or resilient?  In other words, why do many assume that the stereotypical left and right values cannot be held by the same person?

Second, note the sleight-of-hand in the way the basic problem is so often defined by first constructing all of the left as "elitist" (and not the party of the poor, say) and then demanding that those "elites" -- because they now are viewed as elites -- must attend to the grievances of the down-trodden Trump-voters (who are actually in power)?


*  Unchanging human hierarchies based on either presumed divine decrees or essentialist biological thinking, patriarchal gods telling all of us what to do, flawed market models as a form of religion and so on.