Cong Corrales .
EMPATHY is an evolutionary necessity. It is the principle of self-preservation in practice. It is self-preservation in practice because it enables us to understand and share the feelings of others.
It is an ability that enables us to place ourselves in someone else’s perspective and understand where they are coming from. It is different from sympathy. Sympathy is a shared feeling, usually of compassion, for another human being. Empathy is being able to feel what that other person feels. It is to be in somebody’s shoes, so to speak.
When we are enabled to understand what another person is going through, then we could respond appropriately. That is why empathy is important for our very survival as a species.
However, it is saddening to see this human imperative continuously eroding from our collective psyche — as the Filipino people. Reading the threads on news articles posted on social media, it would seem that these people haven’t gotten over the hate rhetoric at the height of the 2016 campaign.
At least, then the hateful rhetoric was limited to political intramurals. But now, the hateful threads in Facebook appear to just injure other people’s feelings just for the heck of it. It seems that spreading hate is as regular as opening a can of sardines. As I have warned in my column a couple of years back, apathy is the most unfortunate by-product of impunity.
But I would like to proffer that empathy can trump apathy if we are to survive this post-truth era that we are all in now. How else can we survive this era if we continue down this path of hateful rhetoric?
Just over the weekend, I read the thread under a news post on Facebook about a teenager taking his own life because he was accused of touching a breast of a woman and he was afraid of the death penalty.
The responses would make you feel weak in the knees. Responses ranged from he got it coming, he was an idiot for taking his life because there’s no death penalty, and then we have the most common retort in this Catholic-dominated country — he will surely go to hell.
Hate has become the go-to, default if you will, response nowadays that it has given me a complex of sorts.
The human imperative to survive and flourish may be understood as selfish. As Dr. Richard Dawkins referred to it as the “selfish gene.”
In his book The Leap, Louise Erdrich wrote that whether survival requires selfishness or not is situational. We could debate, for or against, the idea that self-preservation requires selfishness. But that selfishness trait is not of the individual but of the species. By getting the grips of what this “selfish gene” is supposed to do to our own individual psyches, we can alter what it is supposed to do to serve us as a species.
As Dawkins wrote in his book, The Selfish Gene: “Let us try to teach generosity and altruism because we are born selfish. Let us understand what our own selfish genes are up to, because we may then at least have the chance to upset their designs, something that no other species has ever aspired to do.”
Why don’t we give empathy a try? Haven’t you had enough of the free-flowing hate rhetoric that has been going around? If we are to survive as a people, in this increasingly toxic environment, we must find our way back and assert our humanity.