I think I'll call fuzzy or just plain wrong-headed thinking put forth by the "creative" class, aka people we're told are the creative "elite," Slurb from now on. Feel free to suggest alternative names. Some call it "b.s."
Doesn't this guy look just like a blonde Al Gore? This is Yale psychology professor Paul Bloom and if that's not a TED talk picture, it's something very similar.
This man has an advanced degree, though not like the OTHER Yale Bloom (Harold), a named chair. But he's not doing too badly.
The reason I know who he is, is that I was looking for actual research on empathy. I meant the perception and emotional intelligence that I and others similar to me have. I didn't mean it the way Bloom's Google-dominating New Yorker article meant it.
Bloom is using the term "empathy" to describe a social behavior that arises from a desire (for whatever reason) to help others or to act to make some type of positive change. I was searching for research into actual empathy, the ability of an individual to perceive the physical and emotional state of others.
It would appear that the majority of academic research into "empathy" has focused on social behavior. Since about 90% of people lack much of the capacity I have to an extreme (and I'm being charitable - maybe it's more like 95%) this is neither here nor there. The majority of people don't take an interest in the problems of others out of Bloom's social "empathy." This term may be used to describe the behaviors that he describes; however, a genuine "ability to feel the pain and suffering of others" is at the root of maybe 5% of those who reach out to help in the wake of a disaster, or, in Bloom's leading example, sit glued to their television sets while little girls are rescued from the bottom of deep, dark wells - he mentions the 1949 case of Kathy Fiscus, who fell into a well in San Marino of all places, and the more recent case of "Baby Jessica," who fell into a well in Texas in 1987.
No one needs an advanced degree to figure out that the majority of people watching those rescue operations unfold were watching out of a mixture of morbid curiosity, some sympathy for the parents (mixed with "How could they let her play there?") and of course, schadenfreude, a term introduced to me by my friend Mary Petite. You don't sit in City Hall for a whole career and hear the town's gossip and not have schadenfreude demonstrated on a daily basis.
Having people be more like me will hardly help Bloom (a Canadian!) in his efforts to promote President Barack Obama's social agenda. You know -- because as he starts his article, the President responded to a little 8-year old girl's letter by saying that her generation was responsible for introducing more empathy to the world.
Her generation will do so. Because just as there are more kids with autism and autism spectrum disorder born every day, so are there more like me. And we don't think like other people.
If you can truly see into someone else and feel what they are feeling, first of all, that affects you. Second of all, you can also easily see that most of the time, there's nothing you, the empathetic person can do. The only real thing an empath can do when confronted with someone else who is in pain and suffering is provide sympathy and acceptance. What we can do lies far more in the area of not doing, than it does in doing. There's not one thing on Bloom's long laundry list of things that are "spoiled" or ruined or held back by the form of "social empathy" that he describes, from rescuing hospitals that are going to go out of business due to lack of government funds to - of course - stopping global warming through various government proposals, that would contribute to the long-term betterment of anyone or anybody except bureaucrats and politicians.
This takes me back to my Family Service days, where I realized that the people we "helped" were mostly best-helped ... by not being "helped." Give emotional support, confidence, information, encouragement -- all free. Or, heck. Throw some groceries at them, pay their bills, treat them like they're ignorant children, or worse, like they're not even human. In the parlance of the Blooms of this world (Canadian -- really? I'm shocked) - that's "help." And if people refuse to do that, why it must be because they are "cruel." They lack Bloom's "social empathy."
In one very simple example, if someone gives an alcoholic groceries every month, that basically affords the alcoholic one or two more bottles. Maybe even more if he's drinking T-Bird or Night Train. Or Sterno. Now if the alcoholic is starving, you feed the man as needed if that's your job. This is every "Midnight Mission" known. There is no one way by which the alcoholic can be "helped" to quit drinking. No, that's not true. There are basically three ways: one, incarceration without the substance (not easy); two, death; and three, he chooses for whatever reason to stop drinking. A genuine empath knows that if she exhorts the individual to quit drinking and especially, if she shames the alcoholic, he or she will go right out and suck down as much Night Train or T-Bird as possible, as fast as possible, for as long as possible. Because that is alcoholism and that is the cycle that person is trapped in. The empath knows this based in observation and common sense. He or she also feels it. You can instantly feel the alcoholic tightening up, bristling, upon the mention of drinking. They know. They're drinking in part because they know, because the shame drives them to drink further. Being told nothing by an empath, but just feeling the empath letting them know she knows they're hurting themselves ... I have to say that may have contributed to a couple of people quitting that I've known over the years. But only a couple.
So I was looking into research into this type of non-verbal communication and cognition.
Not some Obama operative telling me how much "empathy" I lack because I don't want to follow proposed government actions to "stop global warming."
Big Yale chair in psychology, expert on language, morality, fiction and art. Doesn't know the first thing about why people do what they do, or how they feel or perceive things. Give that man a raise. How lovely his wife is a "noted expert in infant psychology," according to Wikipedia. Why, Mr. Bloom -- of course she is. And furthermore, Mr. Bloom, it's not your fault. You were born this way.