These are fascinating times. Competing, and equally extreme, groups are vying for our heartstrings and lives are literally on the line in their self-inflicted wars. I propose that such animosity and blind hatred is born from a surplus of affective empathy and a dearth of cognitive empathy. As a empathetically blind observer, I have no dog in the fight between the extremists on the left and those on the right, except inasmuch it may ultimately affect me if either side should prevail. However, let’s explore in particular the atrophy of (cognitive) empathy that is fostering this current environment of dehumanization and violence.
The vanity of misery is not enticing and is not wanted by those caught in the maelstrom. We live in a connected age in which every dream and desire of an individual is reflected for the world to see on digital media. People with little self-confidence (or, a perverse surplus of narcissism) flood our streams with selfies and with poorly thought out monologues that do little to stimulate our intellects. Weeding out signal from noise becomes ever-increasingly more difficult as the self-imposed prisons of the noise-bearers coalesce into view. I believe that we are becoming more simplistic as a species with all of this ill-conceived content. We need to care not for the simplistic and shallow that fill our televisions, social media streams, and conversations and care more for those directly in our lives: those in front of us.
Political violence in a democratic nation is unacceptable. Measures exist, up to and including changing the Constitution (in the U.S.) or electing a new government (for parliamentary systems), to enact change peacefully. As such, violence is a short-sighted and inhumane. Yet, it seems to be in vogue as clowns on both the left and right find new and exciting ways to kill each other in the name of laziness – changing governmental laws and structures is, by design, difficult. Can we all just agree that political violence is unacceptable? Is that really such a radical thought these days?
There is a fine line between reality and caricature. If we think of reality as being the pivot point of a disorder and caricature as lying too far on either pole away from that pivot, then the picture should be clear. To lie to the left is to be cured; to lie to the right is to be lost forever in chaos. While I suspect there is some sort of Gaussian distribution to disorder, there must be some minimum criteria for disorder, and there must be a point where the individual crosses the borderlands from humanity into wanton destructionist. I’m skeptical of self-actualized beings claiming to be at these poles, for either they would be “normal” or not long for a free life in this realm of existence. And if I, a self-actualized but disordered individual, am dubious of the poles of disorder, then you should be as well.
I find the duality of life as experienced by both political poles to be especially interesting. The left kills their own out of convenience and the right kills others for the same reason. Sometimes we kill others via inaction, sometimes will kill with our hands. I propose that we are all murderers, and it is an easy proposition to make when one’s position in life is that of an inactive observer, which is what I am. We all have blood on our hands, after all, and I propose that we should acknowledge such rather than deluding ourselves into false innocence.