And Why Does That Bother Me So Much?
I once wondered how some people slept at night. I would consider a monster like David Dukes for example, preaching white supremacy and inciting violence and death. It was difficult to imagine someone like him enjoying a good night’s sleep. I wanted to imagine him tortured and tormented by his own thoughts and guilty conscience. Unfortunately, he likely sleeps better than most of us.
A person that does not feel guilt or remorse would have no reason to find themselves at fault for something that they did with the intention of hurting another person. To a person high in psychopathy, their actions can always be rationalized to be the fault of another person.
Guilt (emotion) – Wikipedia
Thinking Of Others (Empathy)
Not sure, why but as I get older I seem to be paying more attention to the notion of empathy. I’m assuming I was more self-centered when I was younger and I’m pretty sure that’s normal. There do seem to be people who think of others a great deal. I’m sure it’s a combination of genetics, parenting and the environment. There has been a good deal of public discourse about this lately because of the Pandemic and U.S. leadership. I don’t believe people as a whole are any more or less empathetic than they once were.
A couple of questions to consider:
- Are we born empathetic?
- Does our compassion for one another change over time?
- Can a person begin to feel guilt over time?
- If a person does not feel guilt, what does he or she feel in place of guilt?
- Can you push guilt down so far that you cannot detect it at all?
- How are family members affected by the lack of a guilty conscience in one of their own?
- How can we function knowing these people live among us?
- How do we repair the damage done by someone who only thinks of themselves?
Thinking of Oneself
We all know people who never think of anyone else save themselves. Call them selfish, narcissistic, self-absorbed, vain, or whatever label you want to put on them; labels these people often deserve.
Portugal’s social democracy is a reminder to me that the desire to care for those who cannot care for themselves or do not have the same advantages, is a very noble way to live. The middle class is much larger in Portugal than it is in non-social democracies. It’s not that wealthy people do not exist, it is just a fact that there are fewer extremes: wealth and poverty. Does that mean that Portuguese people care more about other than Americans do? I don’t believe that is necessarily true. The country went from a dictatorship to social democracy. People in Portugal and other dictatorships (i.e., Spain and Germany) were ready to embrace the idea of more equity and services/programs provided by the government.
I don’t want to get into a debate about what is better for society. What I do know is there are fewer homeless, everyone has access to healthcare, no one has to go hungry, groceries are more affordable and therefore, people have easier access fresher and healthier foods.
I like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, but I assumed neither would be the democratic candidate because the U.S. is nowhere near ready or open to socialism. Tribalism and an every “man” for himself attitude is pervasive in the States and it is only becoming more the case as each day passes. I don’t have an answer for it, however, I do believe a catastrophic event could change people’s attitudes. The Pandemic does not appear to be that event.
Is it Possible to Change?
I think it’s possible. I believe that someone who never felt guilt or empathy, can start to think and feel beyond their own lives. What I’ve noticed thus far is this: there almost has to be a catastrophic event in a person’s life in order to shake them up to the point of change. For example, a guy who has been selfish and self-serving who meets a wonderful woman who is willing to overlook all of his flaws, falls deathly ill. She has a horrible cancer that kills her slowly and she suffers with pain she cannot hide. This man watches the person who loves him unconditionally, waste away. During this time he can either play the victim and blame God or everyone else, or he might slowly realize that he is losing, or has lost, the one person who would tolerate his flawed character. He might miss her to the point of finally recognizing that the good in her could possibly save him from himself. I know this sounds far fetched and unrealistic; however, I’ve seen a glimpse of hope on a couple of occasions. The question is, would it last for that individual? Sometimes I guess it might.
I stopped being Pollyannaish a long time ago. It’s a sure-fire way to set yourself up for disappointment. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be optimistic and realistic. What I want is a slow and steady move toward a better world for all of us — now and in the future; a world where humanity as a whole considers the well-being of all of humanity.
Climate change is a big one for me; I think about the planet and what we are doing to destroy it. Many of us would not be affected by future catastrophic events, but that shouldn’t matter to any of us. What we are passing down to our children and their children, should matter. Those who are in denial who deep down think it will not effect them personally, are the worst among us.