People hold empathy for different groups in manners that are unequal. Consider the activist that spends her time fighting for cause X. Those afflicted with X get an unequal share of her empathy and her efforts. Maybe the rest of the groups around her are in a relative deficit, but that does not mean that she need be antagonistic to those that are not aligned with her cause. However, more often than not, we see empathy applied in a manner that grants it to one group while taking it away from another. Consider, rightly or wrongly, the religious freedom bills being passed in many states recently. The lawmakers are empathizing with small business owners while leaving other groups’ fate to hang in the balance. Alternatively, you could think of those championing LG rights as being antagonistic toward the small businesses that would operate more comfortably with more autonomy. It’s all about perspective.
People get hurt all the time with this state of “peaceful” violence as everyone turns their empathy elsewhere. Maybe no knives are drawn, but the effect on groups that have a disproportionately small share of empathic blessings from the mass is clear. Consider those sympathetic to the plight of victims of violence. Clearly this would result in a dearth of empathy toward those who have been incarcerated. Taken to the extreme, the state as well as these sympathizers take power away from those that have been imprisoned. We are left with shoddy clothing and food being given to prisoners as well as, unfortunately, mental health care. Often, the victims of selective empathy are not found until the damage is too great, be it small businesses that are forced to close due to irreconcilable religious beliefs or the prisoners that commit suicide or severely harm themselves without the mental health care they so terribly need. It should not be clear why I put the word ‘peaceful’ in quotes to open this paragraph. It is peaceful simply because the crimes of selective empathy are not heard. If there is suffering but no one cares, then the narrative would remain that of peace.
Everyone that has empathy has a responsibility to use it judiciously. Allowing one group to suffer due to preferences for another is immoral. A dialog needs to be opened between competing groups rather than a “free market” model of empathy being applied in which the more “savory” groups are elevated by force to cherished status. But, leave me and my kind out of this. We are impartial, having no empathy to give. Everyone is equally damned and equally blessed in our eyes. We have no blood on our hands.