The Death Of Empathy
It’s a hard word to find in today’s constant turmoil over gun violence, psychotic white 20-somethings and the parade of virtue signallers on both sides of the debate.
But at its core, the events that tear apart American society all have empathy at their heart. Or, to be precise, the lack of empathy. Even as modern post-industrial society has advanced to the greatest refinement in human history, its ability to empathize with its fellow citizens is headed to a dark place.
From the latest crazed loner in Parkland, Florida, to the pitiless beasts of ISIS, young men raised in the most sophisticated society in history are able to commit the most unspeakable murders in a clinical, premeditated fashion. (After his shooting Cruz rewarded himself with a Subway sandwich.)
No one with even a shred of human empathy can imagine such barbarity, let alone countenance it. And yet we see the killing repeated ad nauseam on TV screens, in pop culture and in social media. The young white male loner (they’re almost always young white males) as cruelty incarnate.
Even as the incidence of gun crimes had dropped, these random acts of cruel mass murder obsess the media. Some wish to blame the availability of guns in America as the root cause of this terror. Others talk about the FBI’s failure to follow its own procedures for tracking these murderers.
But in the media’s overheated gotcha debates, few point to the absence of empathy. The coarsening of society in popular culture. After all, this is the society that believed enough Sesame Street, enough social-support networks would catch those who fall by the wayside in society. How’s that worked?
There once were safety nets. Empathy was preached and practiced in conventional religions. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Or in two-parent families. In an increasingly secular society young people now take their cues from Stephen Colbert or Kendrick Lamar, pop figures saturated in sanctimony. Whatever feels good must be good.
Destroying empathy has been delivered in glossy colour by Hollywood and the Quentin Tarantino purveyors of gore. The same media companies having an aneurysm over guns in Florida are the same ones producing films, TV and software that glorifies gun play, killing and detachment from the suffering of others.
In a pain-free blend of hyper realism and cruelty, players chalk up body counts and victims like they were stacking wood. A generation supposedly sensitized as children to the John Lennon Imagine fantasy are plied with a rage in Resident Evil, Sniper Elite or Conan Exiles. An adventure movie not bristling with guns or weapons that shoot is not serious about finding an audience.
Even during the Olympic broadcasts, the trivialization of empathy in Hollywood splashes across the screen with new shows that features sympathetic women characters brandishing guns white robbing a bank. Yet no one calls out the industry of Jimmy Kimmel righteousness. It’s about guns. Not empathy.
If you want to see young men divorced from empathy, watch a mixed martial-arts competition. Constrained in a steel cage, it's a mix of the wrestling stagecraft and the brutality of boxing. To watch the damage inflicted on these fighters is to detach yourself from pity. It is a disheartening experience for anyone who has ever been punched or kicked in anger themselves. But the current generation, protected from any real violence or physical pain themselves, lap it up.
The media debate on the empathy gap has bifurcated into guns versus mental health. You’re supposed to choose one or the other. Liberals are all for blaming the guns/ NRA motif. CNN and MSNBC talk of nothing but. Yet virtually no one in the media knows how they work. While 120 million Americans have guns, not one of the major news outlets has a reporter dedicated to the gun issue.
But blaming guns allows the Left to avoid the messier aspects of the mental-health argument, which is a festering liberal sore. As we wrote here, liberals have romanticized the protection of mental-health sufferers to where they’d rather see them on hot air grates outside on a winter night than locked up in a safe place.
They also don’t want to confront the mental-health implications facing many young men brought on by a feminization of their education and training.
As Jordan B. Peterson writes, the nihilistic urges of the Nikolas Cruses of the world do not operate in a vacuum. The world of heightened sensory and sexual stimulation is countered by a hostile society. “As privileged beneficiaries of the patriarchy their accomplishments are considered unearned. As possible adherents of rape culture they’re sexually suspect. They ambitions make them plunderers of the planet. They’re not welcome.”
Most of the disaffected find help before they find a gun or a truck to quench their Columbine fantasies. But lost souls like Cruz, driven by resentment and rejection, do find a self-defining heroic moment to show the world its “evil”. In targeting a vulnerable school or church they think they’re actually holding a mirror up to the world. They have convinced themselves they are heroes in a corrupt world.
There are marches against guns now planned by actors, high school kids and their parents to frame this empathy gap as a gun issue. They’re grieving and well meaning. And they’re diverted from the real causes, which are too terrible for the liberal mind to grasp. If you still think it’s guns that kill, you’ve lost the plot. Empathy is dead.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy.is the host of the podcast The Full Count with Bruce Dowbiggin on anticanetwork.com. He’s also a regular contributor three-times-a-week to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster, he is also the best-selling author of seven books. His website is Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com)