THE DISCOVERY OF EMPATHY

Hitler, at the window of the Reich Chancellery, receives an ovation on the evening of his inauguration as chancellor, 30 January 1933 (from here (.en.wikipedia.org))

We tend to think of powerful people as people who weld a huge amount of brute force and use that force to bend others to their will. In reality, that does not seem to be true. To retain power, the powerful must manipulate people, not force them, to acquiesce to their will.

Consider the man pictured above, Adolf Hitler. His greatest success, as those inclined to evil measure success, was the conquest of Germany. How did Hitler conquer Germany? Through manipulation. By convincing enough people he should be their leader.

Hitler began his march to failure when he resorted to brute military force. Then the rest of the world recognized the threat. Then the rest of the world formed a coalition against him, and Hitler vastly underestimated the power of that coalition. That coalition thoroughly crushed him and his regime.

How do we manipulate each other? How do the powerful manipulate us? We and they make use of empathy. What is empathy?

This post is sort of a reblog, but not quite. The focus is The Highest Form of Knowledge by SaaniaSparkle. However, SaaniaSparkle focuses on the knowledge required to form decent  relationships between individuals. Unfortunately, anything good can also be bent to evil. So, here, we will briefly take a look at how people abuse the highest form of knowledge.

What is empathy? Consider how SaaniaSparkle ends her post.

Empathy works so well because it doesn’t require a solution. It requires understanding – when we step outside our own emotions to view things from the perspective of others. By thinking outside ourselves and feeling others, we develop a medicine this world needs. (from here)

Anyone can empathize with someone else. Consider a popular admonition.

 Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes. — Mary T. Lathrap (from here (grammarist.com))

To understand what another person has done, we try to put ourselves in their place. The desire to consider the feelings of others (or, if we have ulterior motives, to manipulate) takes the art of of empathy to a higher order. Instead of just trying to understand how someone feels now, we try to predict how they will feel if we butter them up under a certain set of circumstances.

How do the powerful in this country manipulate us?

  • They educate us. The public school system is run by politicians. The teachers all belong to a couple of labor unions. Our universities, even the so called private universities all bend to the will of the government in order to receive public funding.
  • They control the narrative. 90 percent of the news media in this country is controlled by five corporations. Because the relationships the CEOs of those corporations have with government officials, those corporations have a common interest in controlling what we believe.
  • They exercise political power. They offer us money, “rights”, and vengeance against our enemies in exchange for our votes.

How does manipulation work? We all have the desire to be part of the “inner ring”. In a speech at Kings College called the “Inner Ring.” C. S. Lewis described what that means. I would if I could quote a short excerpt from Lewis’ speech that gets to the heart of how he describes the quest to become part of the “inner ring”, but I did not find one. To be understood, some works have to be read in their entirety. So, I will quote an excerpt that describes what an “inner ring” is not.

And if in your spare time you consort simply with the people you like, you will again find that you have come unawares to a real inside: that you are indeed snug and safe at the centre of something which, seen from without, would look exactly like an Inner Ring. But the difference is that the secrecy is accidental, and its exclusiveness a by-product, and no one was led thither by the lure of the esoteric: for it is only four or five people who like one another meeting to do things that they like. This is friendship. Aristotle placed it among the virtues. It causes perhaps half of all the happiness in the world, and no Inner Ring can ever have it. (from here (lewissociety.org))

Surrendering to and furthering the manipulations of politicians seeking power may look like an offer of security and friendship, but it isn’t. It is simply an evil transaction with people we should not trust. If we want to be part of something worthwhile, then we must seek the welfare of others. We must love others in truth, not try to manipulate or deceive them by pretending empathy.

30 thoughts on “THE DISCOVERY OF EMPATHY

  1. I cannot believe that the current president is smart enough to manipulate anything or anybody. He must have some dark and capable puppet masters in his employ. Nevertheless, it is true that most voting Americans have been manipulated and the evidence of that is that there is a clown in the oval office. But that is not a problem either insomuch that whoever occupies the oval office reflects the character and nature of those whose votes put him there …. which tells me that an awfully lot of Americans must have been doing something else in school than studying and that they have managed to become a horde of mindless clowns themselves.

    And when I see their general refusal to wear their masks and do social distancing during a deadly pandemic, my suspicions are even more solidly confirmed.

    Like

    1. @John

      Smallpox is deadly. It spreads easily and kills about 25 percent of the people who get it. The flu is something we don’t want, but cannot stop. The flu kills about 0.1 percent of those who get it, and COVID-19 is probably 3 or 4 times more lethal, but we still are using estimates. Nevertheless, we don’t shut down the economy for something like COVID-19. We did so because we thought the virus would be worse than it turned out to be.

      You want to wear a mask? Probably a good idea, but leave the young people alone. Most of them won’t experience much of anything from the disease.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That idea about how the disease will affect the young is now being challenged in the science community. —- As of Thursday, in New York City, 39% of cases were among those ages 18 to 44. Out of Los Angeles County’s 7,194 confirmed cases, 2,409, or 33%, were in the 18-40 age range. Nearly half of those testing positive in Travis County, Texas, which encompasses much of the Austin metro area, were between 20 and 39. Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital, released numbers Wednesday showing that 40% of the district’s cases were ages 19-40.

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          1. The CDC stats are continually being updated and here is the latest on it …. “As the new coronavirus continues to spread throughout the United States, reports of young people suddenly dying from Covid-19, are beginning to surface .”
            And I think I can assure you that it will only get worse from here because the young seem to be too cavalier to be concerned.

            Like

          2. @John

            Testing is easier now. So, we will see people dying from who knows what with the virus in their system. If we didn’t have a video with that cop’s knee on his neck, George Floyd would have been a COVID-19 statistic.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Tom,

    a bit off-topic, If you have time to spare, I’d appreciate to hear your thoughts on this video by Vox.

    “How Southern socialites rewrote Civil War history”, the video itself is 7 minutes long.

    Like

  3. Hmmmm. Well, I don’t think it’s empathy. Trying to “make you care about what they think you better care about” has been used frequently, so I can see why empathy itself gets blamed. It’s not empathy however, that manipulates our behavior, it’s shame. Being accused of being racist is supposed to shame you. They don’t want you to empathize with any actual minorities because then you might start to really care about their well being and vote these fools out of office.

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    1. @insanitybytes22

      The manipulator empathizes with the manipulated. Does the manipulator seek to induce shame in the manipulated in order to produce specific behavior? Often the answer is yes.

      The empathy the manipulator has for the manipulated is part of what makes such manipulation so vile. The manipulator knows what he is doing the manipulated.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hmm, well now this is going to require an entire blog post, Tom. I’m laughing, quite a few people have written about the empathy factor, so you’re not alone in observing that. I’ll try to put some thoughts together more coherently. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Doug,

    What do people gain from all their labors
    at which they toil under the sun? (Ecclesiastes 1:3)

    When people sin, the usual motive is to obtain pleasure or profit.

    Frankly, speaking for myself, and possibly Tom’s Blogs, while we must somehow feel the necessity of expressing our views, neither one of us is profiting from our Blogs.

    As for myself, reading the news and commenting about the folly is not very pleasurable personally.

    Whether the result is positive or negative is probably minimal or results somehow to obtain a positive result, King Solomon wrote this verse.

    Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well. (Ecclesiastes 11:6)

    Which are you profiting from in your blog other than to blame Trump for everything under the sun?

    Or is Ecclesiastes verse 1:2 the result of all three of our blogs?

    “Meaningless! Meaningless!”
    says the Teacher.
    “Utterly meaningless!
    Everything is meaningless.”

    Because of this verse
    Is there anything of which one can say,

    “Look! This is something new”?
    It was here already, long ago;
    it was here before our time. (Ecclesiastes 1:10)

    You decide, is what we blog about positive or negative to promote or profit, or to deter sin or folly for both our readers and ourselves.

    Regards and goodwill blogging.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Which are you profiting from in your blog other than to blame Trump for everything under the sun?”

      My “profit” for starting my blog the day after his inauguration was pretty much the following…

      1. Rage at what I KNEW would befall the country (and while I obviously had no idea of the exact events.. I did accurately predict his behaviors)… and being American who loves his country I was venting this rage in one way I could.

      2. Therapy… because at the end of the day no one cares about my raging or anyone else’s for that matter.

      I’ve not been posting anyway.. preferring to let Trump and his minions simmer and destroy himself to the end.. which is inevitable. Hopefully the country can survive his being cornered and lashing out in all directions before his departure.. which in itself will be trying to the nation.
      Traditional Republicanism Trump has destroyed anyway… I’ll be shifting to Independent following the election. I can be personally satisfied that when all the election stats are computed down the line my meager and marginally significant vote will reflect being a registered Republican who voted Democrat.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Doug,

        You commented “Therapy… because at the end of the day no one cares about my raging or anyone else’s for that matter.

        Frankly, I would not discount your influence I am still impressed with your blog suggestion on the issue of illegal immigration to suggest immigrants remain in Mexico when applying for sanctuary into the USA.

        I had doubts Mexico would agree, yet somehow President Trump managed to make you suggestion result.

        Not saying this to aggravate you, only to compliment your idea which like I stated, never thought would come to fruition.

        My accolades.

        Regards and goodwill blogging

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Well, I didn’t mean to suggest with my “therapy” quote there was any measure of self-pity about blogging.. but rather acknowledge the basic reality about opinion blogging in general. Nonetheless, it was kind of you to express what you did, thank you. 🙂

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Doug,

            Perhaps you should add your suggestions what Trump should do in your opinion on your blog.

            Who knows maybe someone read your blog and passed on your suggestion about Mexico hosting the asylum seekers?

            Regards and goodwill blogging.

            Like

          2. Thanks for the encouragement, Rudy.. but at the moment I’ve not been inspired to post a thing on the blog as it’s all been said, opting to wait out the clock and hoping the country survives Trump through the election.
            How’s Elmhurst Hospital doing keeping up with all this Covid stuff?

            Liked by 1 person

          3. Doug,
            Their cases loads are available on line, I seem to remember about 65 average being treated.
            I had a doctor visit a couple a week ago and the doctor said the june cases were way down from April May.

            Stay safe wear a mask indoors.

            Regards and goodwill blogging.

            Like

  5. But.. because you allege to recognize all this, you are therefore above all this and know far more than the common masses… correct?

    Like

    1. @Doug

      1 John 1:8-10 New King James Version (NKJV)

      8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Good answer, although one might argue that the entire idea of repenting/confessing is to learn from it and not repeat it… not constantly seek forgiveness because you constantly sin.

        Regarding your Hitler example… he rose to power no differently than any other power monger seeks power over the masses.. convince them there is something to fear if they do not side with him (even if the fear is contrived). True leaders don’t show you what to fear… they give you hope and light the way.

        Like

        1. @Doug

          1 John 3:4-9 New King James Version (NKJV)
          Sin and the Child of God
          4 Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. 5 And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. 6 Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.

          7 Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. 8 He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. 9 Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.

          A born again Christian is a work in progress. So, I think the Apostle John would agree with the obvious.

          What about Hitler? Was he unique? No. Did he use fear? Yes. Did he offer hope? Yes. When we manipulate other people, we use both the carrot and the stick.

          Like

          1. Uh.. sorry.. when contriving fear to manipulate then the hope that follows is equally contrived.. and equally fearful, albeit not realized until it’s usually too late.

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          2. @Doug

            Don’t make it so complicated. What made Hitler a bad leader is that lied in order to persuade people to do bad things like systematically murdering millions.

            Like

          3. You’re almost there. What made Hitler the leader in the first place was convincing millions that the national scapegoat for Germany’s economic woes were the Jews… and Communists… the government “traitors” that forced the armistice of WW1… yada, yada, and that he was the only one who could save Germany. While we know much of that was not factual or in accurate context to events, Hitler himself thought it true, certainly when he wrote Mein Kampf. His oratory and personal mandates fed the common public opinion of the day and certainly the nationalistic fervor…. and Goebbels’ expertise sold Nazism as the solution. The people listened and put Hitler as their leader. Hitler had already demonstrated a personal lack of responsibility in his post-WW1 life; likely fed by the rage from the results of the war and the failed economy surrounding him. Everything that followed resulted from his hugely bad moral capability to lead. But to the more vulnerable public of the day… he made more “sense” than anyone else as the one nationalist person to fix Germany.
            Yeah.. you can say he was “bad” for creating the environment by which was justified some 11 million deaths.. but the real lesson is how such a badly defined person with such personal vindictive rage, no moral center, and barely acclimated to society beyond a common street thug of the day, got into the position to lead in the first place… beyond just his oratory to persuade the vulnerable.
            We can find blame.. and assign guilt.. to anything and everything. But understanding the problem from the beginning is how we learn.

            Liked by 1 person

          4. @Doug

            Almost to where?

            I have never been much for trying to explain history by trying to psychoanalyze individuals. If not Hitler it would have been someone else.

            All Hitler did was tell people what they wanted to hear. We like being told how superior we are. Did Hitler appeal to the fears of the German people? Yes, but mostly he appealed to their pride. They were the master race, and the Jews and other inferior races stood in their way.

            We commit the worst sins out of pride.

            Like

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