Free Essay

Empathetic Era

In: English and Literature

Submitted By graceface
Words 950
Pages 4
Human beings are born with the ability to sense the feelings of others. Even at a young age humans can tell when someone is happy, upset, or enraged. People are also born with the aptness to empathize for others, automatically sympathizing when someone is hurt, whether we know them or not. As people grow older, the sense of empathy for others is lost and the focus becomes more about ourselves. Solitary confinement, the “me versus them” mentality in America, the sentencing of Socrates to death show people acting in ways showing no empathy for others. So if we, as humans, are naturally empathetic, why are we so un-empathetic in our actions? In The Age of Empathy, Frans de Waal says that empathy is a trait humans are born with, but society has told us it is not one to be shown in public. “We live in an age that celebrates the cerebral and looks down upon emotions as mushy and messy” (de Waal, 7). Emotions are part of our being and how we feel, and because of this we should be expressing them and acting in ways that portray them. As humans, we long for interaction with others that gives us the opportunity to express ourselves and are not meant to live in circumstances that prohibit this, such as isolation. Though I do realize we have to have consequences for those who break the law, is this the best way in which to do so? According to afsc.org, solitary confinement has lead to visual and auditory hallucinations, hypersensitivity to noise and touch, uncontrollable feelings of rage and fear, increased risk of suicide, and post traumatic stress disorder. These mental health defects cause serious problems for those affected when, or even if, they make it out of solitary confinement. What happened to our sense of empathy when dealing with these people? It seems as if when dealing with criminals we loose the empathy we originally had for them before they committed a crime, and feel empathetic for ourselves, wondering what we did wrong to have to deal with these types of people. In America, we always have this me-first mentality where we have forgotten we have the obligation to help other people. “You are only as strong as your weakest link,” but we seemed to have lost this sight along the way.
Even though America is considered to be “the land of the free,” a place where many of our ancestors came to start a new life, that mentality has faded. As stated in the “People Like Us” video, “America is a nation of tribes, and every American is a member of at least one of them.” America has developed social classes that separate us from one another and brandish us for life through the jobs we maintain, the places we live, or the clothes we wear. A common misconception in America is the idea of being able to move up through social classes if one really works at it, though this rarely happens. Ironically, approximately one minute into “People Like Us,” the song “When You Wish Upon a Star” plays in the background, the lyrics saying that anything you wish for will come true if your heart desires it. Though it seems as if many people scoff at those who have high hopes and dreams, instead of empathizing for them and rooting for them to one day accomplish their goals. It seems as if we would rather turn the other cheek and pretend we didn’t see them than to go and lend a hand. Acting with empathy would have Americans helping each other through difficult situations and understanding supporting one another even when they seems like they are trying to reach the impossible. In Plato’s Apology, Socrates tries to defend himself even though he knows he has already been sentenced to death. In his speech he says, “It is much more honorable and much easier not to suppress others, but to make yourselves as good as you can” (Plato, 47). If this is true, then why do we tend to the opposite so often? According to Socrates, we should be helping one another and lending a hand when possible, as Socrates prophesized others would do after his death. “There will be more men who will call you to account, whom I have held back, though you did not recognize it” (Plato, 46). If empathy truly is ingrained in humans, why were there not more people acting upon this injustice? I think it is simply because they were afraid to end up in a situation like that of Socrates, so instead of feeling empathetic for Socrates and trying to help him out of an extremely tough situation, many people just turned from the situation as if nothing wrong transpired, not wanting to involve themselves. If more people would have been more empathetic to Socrates, would he have lived and been able to teach other students about the empathy others had shown him, or would more people have been killed by the un-empathetic Athenians who condemned him to begin with? Empathy is a characteristic humans are born with, but some people seem to work harder to suppress it rather than to utilize it. If Social Darwinism, the idea that those who are at the top deserve to be at the top and those at the bottom deserve to be there as well, is indeed true and we aren’t using empathy to remain at the top, then future generations will begin to born without the ability to empathize for others. How are we supposed to relate to others on anything if we can’t relate to how they feel?

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