Thursday, September 29, 2011

Empathy Survey - How Do You Feel When You See a Child Suffering?

I just bought a book by one of my favorite political columnists, Ted Rall. In the foreword, he talks about compassion and empathy. 

He wrote about a time he saw a homeless man and thought, "Thank god, if it weren't for a few lucky breaks, that could have been me." I've thought the same thing before many times too.

How about you?

I agree with what Ted writes in the book and will have a review of "The Year of Loving Dangerously" soon... But, until then, this...

I wonder about people today and think there are far too many people who feint compassion and concern, but it's all an act. Take, for example, the disaster of the earthquake and tsunami of March 11 in Japan. So many people I know were actually sincere and got off their asses and did something...

But I also thought there were way too many people who only helped and contributed because it made them look good doing so. There's nothing so wrong with that, I suppose, as long as people are honest with themselves and open about intentions.

There's a word for this and it's Crocodile Tears.

I also think that there is far too little compassion and empathy amongst people today as a general rule.

Take, for example, the poor people who have suffered in Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures. Terrible situation indeed... But the mass media seem to have gone on and people are losing interest.

Is it human nature to do so? Or are we all just robots with heart strings being pulled by the mass media?

I wonder why people will get together to make (at least the appearance of) an effort to help people who are on TV and suffering far away, yet, in their own neighborhoods, they scorn and look down upon the unfortunate in their own neighborhoods?

For those ends and my own research, I've made a survey at the right of this blog. It is asking the question:

"When you see a homeless person, what do you think?"

I hope you will help me by taking 5 seconds to answer the question (as many answers as you wish)... I will post the results on 10/31/11. 

Note: I changed the name of this post from "When you see a homeless person, what do you think?" to "How Do You Feel When You See a Child Suffering?" Because I know that if I write "Homeless" that is a distasteful subject and many will not bother to read the post.


Andy "In Japan" said...

I don't automatically feel either sympathy or antipathy toward any homeless people. Each one has his or her own individual reasons for being homeless and each one may or may not be worthy of empathy. We just can't know.

How many people feel sympathy or empathy towards those people who suffer at the hands of American politicians who bomb their country?

The act of commission (bombing and destroying the bodies, livelihood and property of innocent people) seems far worse to me than the act of omission (not having empathy toward or supporting someone who doesn't have any money).

Anonymous said...

"When you see a homeless person, what do you think?"

That is so odd, I saw a regular today and thought the same thing.
I thought of asking him for survival tips and then give him a few bucks to help him out,... but, what else can I do? He is, after all, a regular.

I also think, He is surviving.
And, Why *Does* he wear insulated coveralls in Summer?
I wondered what others think, could they see themselves in that position?
"Not likely" I thought, as most People only hear Happy Talk and think bad things only happen to "other" People. You'd have to be nuts to think otherwise. Or so "they" say,... and act like.

A very very skinny seemingly homeless man panhandles off I-80. In response a nearby hotel puts up a sign offering help and a room,... no takers.

Maybe the guy can't read? Or maybe he makes $300 per day? Idk.

This photo will stick in my mind for awhile, the homeless around me don't seem to be close to this condition,... hope the link works:

I'd adopt a Fukushima orphan, or other, but the red tape and attached inspections are too much. ... Or am I just limiting myself too much? Idk.

As for the question, How Do You Feel When You See a Child Suffering? Man, with the exception of the photo above, I don't ever see such, not face to face. And hardly ever in photos or video, but when I do, I feel,... bad, sorrowful. I don't feel quite the same way when I see a homeless Person. ... If Only there weren't minimum wage laws and other regulations I think I might try and hire them all,... somehow.

All People who are homeless deserve sympathy, no matter the reason how or why they wound up that way. There is no, "they are not worthy of sympathy" But of course I'm more the good Samaritan type, other sociopathic leaning People might not be able to see this perspective.

Not having any empathy towards someone who does not have any money seems like it's a stepping stone or building block towards not having any empathy towards innocents (or even the slightly guilty) who are being bombed and destroyed in other countries, or having their lively hoods destroyed in this country or having their lives ended or upended by the police state here.

Hope those points come across ok, I'm up too late.

- clark

Anonymous said...

My daughter and I help the homeless; we give blankets and quilts, and when we go out for dinner - if we have leftovers, we give them to the homeless people where they hang out. We all have to help each other in this economy. "there by the grace of God go I" is something the A.A. book mentions. It is relevant. Thank you Mike for your inspiration.

Murasaki Shikibu said...

If you felt empathy, every time you saw someone suffering you'd die of a broken heart and be miserable every second of your life in this day and age of the Internet where you can find out about these things at the touch of your keyboard.

For some it's simply a self-defense mechanism to not feel a twinge of horror and sadness when they see a homeless person.

However, I do feel the kind of *positive thinking* where a person transforms the misfortune of others into feelings of happiness are not quite right either. Do we need to go to these extremes? Why does it have to be miserable or happy? Why not something more in between?

On another hand, maybe the distressed person doesn't care what you are feeling so long as you help him/her out and this is what counts, not what you genuinely feel.

It should be noted that you can feel genuine empathy for a person and also not help them out at all.

It's a difficult question.

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