Monday, January 23, 2006

Questions on lack of empathy 

You know, I am very intrigued regarding a particular form of psychosocial development (for lack of a more precise label/categorization ) which is the capacity for empathy.

And an experience I had yesterday made me think about it once again. I spent the afternoon talking to a man who appears not to exercise empathy regarding any problem or suffering in the world. And there was a truly bizarre contradiction in his personality, because we were engaged in a variety of school and leisure activities, and towards me, he was always very polite and considerate. But whenever any subject came up in the conversation regarding any issue of violence, injustice, suffering, harrassment, insult on a macro level or on an individual level, his response was always to snicker at the victims or the violence process itself. He never felt empathy or said something sympathetic or caring or showing sensibility. And, at times, it really irritated me.

Now, it is certainly (unfortunately) not the first time I have come across a person with this psycho-social profile. I have come to conclude from observation and interactions that this type of personality complex (based on specifically detached and insensitive attitudes) is quite cultivated in certain families, environments, (national or sub-national) cultures. I wonder also about gender differences (does it happen in a more salient way in men than women? As a result of gender conditioning? )

Another intriguing question I have regarding prevalence of such lack of empathy is : do we find such a profile in larger proportions in liberals or conservatives? It may as well be equally distributed, but I have found so many liberals who have this profile. And they usually share some very similar traits.

They all have a passionate hatred of religion and love that we have a (hypocritical ) separation of Church and State, which goes along with our very hypocritical "democratic" system - nothing short than a considerable failure in terms of political participation. Such insensitive liberals have no respect for women, specially those who are victims of every type of violence (porn, prostitution, harrassment, rape, abuse, infidelity, etc) although they may treat you personally with manners. They usually frame a problem such as prostitution as a debate between what they call the "puritan" position (con) vs their self-acribed "progressive and good" liberal position (pro). Their pro position equals being in denial of every aspect of exploitation, abuse, disrespect, and violence that is inherent in prostitution systems, for example, which applies to just about everything else.

I tried to explain to this insensitive moron that there is a third --and correct-- way of understanding prostitution which takes into account all the exploitation, etc, inherent in prostitution, porn, etc, but the liberal trash just snickered continuously throughout my explanation.

One can conclude that such liberals love not to have religion officially in politics because it gives them the illusion that they are more free this way, instead of viewing just how dehumanized and nazi-like they are. I've employed "nazi" here to highlight the snickering at violence and suffering aspect of their personalities.

As we continued our afternoon political debate, although he gave me several examples of countries where religion was mixed with the government and who had horrible governments and societies -- and I concur they were all horrible and corrupt --, when I then counter-argued by listing several countries that were putrid and violent and which have this hypocritical separation of church and state, instead of acknowledging that I was also right, he tried to insist that the religious states would always be worse, simply not to admit that I had proven his entire liberal simple-minded appraisal of political structures and systems wrong. And this is why I hate talking to most liberals, because they are so puny and stupid in their reality checks. They have primitive dogmatic minds and whenever you prove to them that they are factually incorrect about reality, they simply go into denial.

Nevertheless, this conversation /debate did give me material to reflect upon, and I concluded that to so-call separate or not separate Church and State does not have any deterministic effect on the level of violence and corruption and disgusting qualities a society may have.

(added on jan 24:)
To me, a society that fabricates a large number of human beings who are incapable of empathy is a nazi production plant. And even though, such people are usually very thick skinned, and this gives them certain advantages in climbing up various hierarchies in business, academia, or other institutions where the environment can be rough (even brutal, emotionally speaking), a person who cannot feel empathy is a kind of monster. Someone who has no capacity for empathy will live their entire lives as beasts. Given all that, it was very jarring to interact with this man who was like this and at the same time, he was very polite towards me in our local interactions.

As far as I understand human psychology, intellectual input has usually no effect on deeply ingrained emotional structures, and usually when it does have any effect, it takes a long time to happen. Which is why I find humans so irritating and frustrating because I am always expecting (or wishing) that the rational will instantly or rapidly correct and override these deformed psycho-emotional structures, and... it never does.

Not in an intellectual rational speed of comprehension anyways.

When humans with such mental structures start to be confronted with data that proves they are wrong, instead of changing their internal reality model and affective structure, they go into denial or distort even further the data that is being presented. Which is why the social sciences are very little science and a lot of denial.

I have also been reflecting for some time on how the function of denial came about or is useful (or not) from the perspective of biological evolution. I will make just one comment that relates to this post. It is contradictory in some ways that the more complex the human brain became, the more vulnerable it became to function in a very primitive stunted way as well. I find this so intriguing! What an ironic twist of fate for human evolution. We now have brains that have extremely powerful abilities and extremely complex dynamics between emotions, cognition, and conscience. However, this very mental scaffolding (for lack of a more precise term) is exactly what makes human beings vulnerable to falling into these mental traps, of being structured as dumb beasts, with entirely bound minds, like in a psycho-social straight-jacket. Usually, the psycho-social straight-jacket will form the basis for a person's ideology (individual set of values and beliefs, norms and attitudes re themselves and the world) and rational operations are bound to the mental straight-jacket as well, rendering a lot of intellectual thinking powerless to more primordial straight-jacket (conscious or unconscious)dynamics and filters.

Which is why I always wish I had been born 10 billion years from now, when hopefully the human race will have gotten past all this primitive beast-like stuntedness and become more pleasant to interact with.


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