It is another year but the same old dog and pony show. Empathy can easily be weaponized, and true manipulation preys on it. This time around, empathy is being used to further a cause without the participants paying the required price for civil disobedience. Yes, I’m talking about the recent walkouts across America by underage political activists seeking to severely weaken (or abolish) the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. I have no dog in this fight at the surface, but I do believe that the rights bestowed upon the American people should be as wide and far-reaching as possible and that attempts to limit or take away rights, no matter the rationale or net impact, should be placed under the most objective gaze of scrutiny. What interests me, however, is the common and far-reaching attempt to use empathy as a weapon in the war for the hearts of man.
Modern technology has us all convinced that we are more important than we are; that networks are proper surrogates for deeds. People measure their worth in the number of followers or page hits that they have, and no longer view themselves objectively through the lens of accomplishment. This false empowerment leads to a self-induced psychopathy at worst and an equally self-induced narcissism at best. We are witnessing a young generation feeding into their own echo chamber, in which their thoughts are amplified but no actual deed is created.
If you haven’t read Edgar Allan Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death, you really should. It tells the tale of a kingdom facing ruin from a devastating plague, holding its valued citizens in relative safety within the walls of its castle. There, they eventually hold a great costume party where all are hidden behind masks. The masquerade ends with the unveiling of one of its participants: the red death itself. A modern reimagining of this classic could be framed in terms of identity politics, where each member of some “sacred” group is forced to wear a mask to appear pure to the larger mass. The coming end will be revealed once the mask falls and everyone realizes that no one actually cares about each member of the political alliance; that it was effectively a charade of deception. Forced purity and the coming ruin is the focus of this post.
Same story, different day. Every time there is an act of mass murder, the same debate always pops up. Namely, neurotypicals – used here as meaning not mentally ill – want to know how they can protect themselves from the dreaded neuroatypicals. People with mental illness are categorically seen as guaranteed time bombs waiting to go off. Are there some mentally individuals that will lash out because of disordered cognitions? Yes. Are there many more that just wish to live their lives free of the pressures of a neurotypical elite and majority? Also yes. Bad things happen to good people every day. A free society will never be able to protect themselves fully, but they can ensure that the playing field is level.
What dystopian universe exists in which human beings can merely allege wrongdoing and have another’s life ruined without any form of due process? This one. An uncivilized people waste no time in circling the waters once the prospect of blood has been raised. The elite, who believe themselves elevated because of their intelligence and power, partake in this sadistic game, wasting no time in throwing others under the bus for the promise of even the most minuscule gains. The commoner gains disproportionate power in their endeavor to bring down those unlike them through simple allegation. Finally, the actual process of law and justice is never conducted as popular opinion goes looking for victims, regardless of truth. If this doesn’t sound frightening, you must be aloof to the shifting reality of the world around us. Innocence is presumed false and guilt known to be true.