I find it interesting how the empathy of a mass for a demographic can be used to ostracize those that criticize said demographic. For instance, we have right-winged individuals that immediately turn defensive when religious groups are criticized and we have left-winged individuals that lose themselves when historically criticized groups such as ethnic or sexual minorities are subject to any sort of critique. The core mechanism is the same regardless of the direction one comes from. Empathy drives an individual to become overprotective of a larger mass, regardless of any actual stake in the survivability of that mass.
It’s typical in-group / out-group dynamics, really. Neurotypicals consider those that they empathize with to be members of their in-group. Whether it is the conservative backing the perceived rights of the business owner that relies on a demographic to stay in business or the liberal doing the same but for some minority, empathy drives the individual – often past rationality – to come to the perceived defense of the group in question. This raises an interesting point for those that lack affective empathy and that are judicious with their cognitive empathy: psychopaths. Who do we ally ourselves with and for which reasons?
I’ve encountered psychopaths on both sides of this issue and I suspect that the degree of psychopathy plays a part in determining the degree to which a psychopath can be bothered to ally with (or defend) others. I’ve communicated with those that are staunch believers in social progress and whose cognitive empathy extend to other minorities. Others, like myself, tend to ally with those championing individual liberty regardless of progress for a demographic as a whole. I should mention that I’ve also seen arguments from psychopaths that state that the only individual worth defending is the self, something I am also closely aligned with (as it is a direct privilege of personal liberty).
Empathy, cognitive or affective, is a strong driving force behind those we ally with and those we hold off-limits from criticism or attack. In this sense, psychopaths and neurotypicals are not that far apart even if the mechanisms in place differ. I remain steadfast that no group must be held sacred, partially because I cannot be bothered and partially because I believe in discourse, no matter how ugly it may be. The degree of self-centeredness and psychopathy may cause my psychopathic brethren to behave in one fashion or another. Psychopaths may not have affective empathy but we certainly can select whom to embrace with our cognitive empathy. Who will you champion? Will you become blind with rage when your group is attacked or critique or will you sit back with an intellectual indifference? I know what I will be doing.