Your Circle of Empathy
One finds countless excuses why conservatives are so different than the rest of America, excuses that range from authoritarian followers, to misplaced morals, to compartmentalized thinking, to downright sociopathy, to just plain ignorance. Many times you will see writers trying to fit all or even most of the symptoms into one shoe box or another. You will also see writers trying to put these in a less than honest light to help buffer some of the raw ugliness of their findings.
I’m going to present another perspective. This isn’t so much separate from all the rest but is rather a unified theory that includes many of the other findings and concepts.
Your Circle of Empathy
Humans have a natural inclination to feel and exhibit empathy. Your degree of empathy and the size of your circle of empathy is primarily dependent on one thing, your feeling of safety. There are other less influential factors, such as mental illness like sociopathy but this essay does not deal with those. But, it has been found that the vast majority of ruthless business owners are clinically psychopathic, finding gratification in stealing candy from babies. This is no exaggeration.
But, alas, that is a whole blog post all in itself.
Kinds of safety affect ones circle of empathy
There are many kinds of safety. Primarily, safety can be defined as freedom from want and fear. Are you afraid for your personal safety in your home and neighborhood? Are you afraid of the Mexicans invading America to steal our jobs? Are you afraid of the mooslems coming for ya? Are you afraid you won’t have enough food to feed the family tonight? Are you afraid you’re losing your home? Are you afraid that lump in your breast or throat is cancer and you don’t have decent insurance? Are you afraid you’ll be shot by a vigilante on your way home some night? Are you afraid Omaba’s commin’ for your guns?
There are countless types of fear and uncertainty that we face every day.
How Fear Reduces Our Empathy
When you have little fear and are adept at dealing with you fear, your capacity for empathy is naturally quite high, your circle of empathy contains the entire universe. You feel for the wildlife losing their habits to human encroachment, you feel for the oceans that are being poisoned and are dying around us. You feel for Mother Earth. You would probably even feel empathy for life on other worlds if they existed.
That is the natural state of human empathy.
Why do you suppose that is? Caring for the earth has allowed our small clans and societies to coexist in the world. If the cave men hadn’t survived by coexisting with the world, you and I would not be here today. Therefore, empathy is in our genes.
Now, let’s take away some of the safety. Let’s consider two small societies, living close together. When the food becomes scarce, the loving neighbors become competitors for the scarce food. They become “the other.”
If your town is hungry, you don’t have time to worry about the health of the rain forest. It’s time to slash and burn so you can feed your family. It doesn’t matter how many plants and animals have to die.
Your circle of empathy has just gotten much smaller. Even your next door neighbors are now looked at like possible competitors. In fact, when food becomes even more scarce, the loving community becomes bitter rivals. Now, it’s each family out for themselves.
Even more scarcity, more fear of hunger, and families start to split apart. Siblings are left to fend for themselves. One parent abandons the family, some times just to go out and die of hunger, leaving the food for the remainders. Sometimes parents will even abandon children when things get bad enough. This is a point where this theory ends. Some will sacrifice for the kids and many will not. The argument is, “They’ll all just die when we’re gone anyway, and we can always have more kids when things get better.”
Still some will stay together and die together and some will not. Seldom will both parents remain. We see this all the time in hunger stricken countries in Africa.
At this gruesome extreme of the safety scale, nothing is safe. The family dog starts to look like possible nutrition to keep the children alive. The size of our circle of empathy at this point includes just ourselves, and maybe our children. That’s a pretty small circle compared to the first circle encompassing all the universe.
“Let Him Die”
How big is the circle of empathy of a person who yells, “let him die” when asked about medical care for a sick but uninsured neighbor? In this example, it wasn’t just a single person, but the entire Republican debaters and audience. Not a single person disagreed, though many were too embarrassed to admit out loud that they agreed.
Cultivating the Culture of Fear
There is no hiding the fact that the Republican party cultivates fear and capitalizes on the irrational voting behavior of their followers. The psychopathic millionaires and billionaires running the Republican party, you know, the ones without any empathy, reduce the empathy of their followers through fear and then add to that fear by reducing the safety of the American voters by destroying the things that make us safe, like industry regulations, water and food safety, drug safety, Social Security, Medicare, sitting idly by while religious fanatics attack America, taking us off to war on illegal wars.
If you don’t control your fear, the Republican party will control you.