Empathy, Shlempathy: Who Cares?

I have to admit I am becoming increasingly bewildered by the online world.

You have Facebook, which can be a funny, nice online thing to read….until you get the “poor thing” spammy posts, that go something like: “My friend’s sister’s cousin’s best friend sent me this picture of this POOR CHILD! It’s so sad, he/she is dying/scarred for life/missing/chronically ill.  Like this page and pass it on!!”

Sometimes there is a link to a crowd funding site, so you can send money too.

Sometimes it isn’t a child, it’s an adult.  I saw one post on FB where a woman was asking for money – preferably in person from a celebrity – so she could buy a large-screen tv.  She is on disability, you see, and never has money for stuff like that.

You can imagine what I said to her.

Regarding the children ones, I used to look them up on Snopes but it got so that there were so many of them that I didn’t want to bother anymore.  Why should I be the one to look up a hoax?  They all have internet access, too, and if they are too gullible to just believe everything anybody says, well….not my problem.

The children postings, if you look at the source, quite often come from FB pages where there are nothing but these stories.  Usually it is a middle-aged or older woman, who seems to collect them and pass them on.  No vetting, no nothing.  Just hysterical, “brought tears to my eyes” posts.

I can’t call what these people feel “empathy”.  It’s more like they are just easily manipulated and get their “crying buttons” pushed.  Like when you watch a movie.  No one would say they felt “empathy” for the couple in “Titanic”, for example.  It’s not the right term for it.

I think the more exposure this kind of post gets, the more it serves to shut people down entirely.  I mean, you can’t help everyone, right?  And when you think about it, “liking” a post on FB does NOTHING.  It doesn’t help the person who is supposedly in trouble/sick/dying/whatever.  So, what’s the point?

The point is to show everyone how empathetic you are, without actually having to be empathetic, or to act on that feeling and really help someone.

It’s easy, and it’s lazy.  And fake as all get-out.   And, even when you point out that it’s a hoax, some people just dig in more and insist it’s not.  Because damn, then they would look gullible and stupid, instead of caring and on moral high ground.

It’s part of the fakery that is the online world.  I am puzzled by it all.

It also is dismissive of real-world problems, and what people can do to change them.

It’s easy to “like” a page on FB.  But it’s hard to:

~ Visit an elderly shut-in

~ Visit a sick/dying person in the hospital

~ Offer to run errands for people in crisis

~ Go out with volunteer search teams to help find a missing child

~ Volunteer anywhere, to do anything…

These actions really do help.  But they also make people aware of others, and other peoples’ pain, and so elicit the kind of real empathy that seems somewhat lacking in today’s world.

When you think about someone, someone you have talked to, and the kinds of things they are going through, and how it affects them, and suddenly you feel sad or angry…

That’s empathy.

When you are moved to do something – anything – that can ease someone’s burden or pain, because you will ache inside until you do….

That’s empathy.

If even one post I have ever written here moves you to action, to help someone else…

That feeling of being moved, that’s empathy.

This other stuff on the internet?  Not so much.

Oh I won’t bitch about people sending money on crowd funding sites, if it really helps someone.  That, too, can be the result of empathy.  Some people have neither the time nor the ability to get out there and physically do something, and that’s ok by me.

I am disabled, with no transportation, and would only be able to volunteer if someone could give me a ride.  That would be empathy, too…a “2-for-1 deal” where you would not only be helping me, you would be helping me help someone else.

Ha, I did try to volunteer at 3 places around here – at the library, at a ‘feed-the-homeless’ thing sponsored by a church, and at the women’s shelter that helped me 5 years ago when I showed up on their doorstep.

The minute I asked about car-pooling (hey, I’m not cheap, I will pay for gas), didn’t hear a word back, ever.

That’s definitely not empathy.

I’m not sure what that was, actually, but it saddened me.

If I ever win the lottery, I will start a non-profit that includes transportation for people who want to volunteer.

My dream, of course, is to start a women’s shelter that is run in a logical manner (as in, it actually helps women and their children and pets), has a way to make it easy for people to volunteer (like a van), and has a small side-business for the women to work in until they find work elsewhere (if they want to).

I say “win the lottery” because at this point, as poor as I am, I can’t see how that’s ever going to happen.

Heck if I could get a job that paid well, I would use my own money to start a shelter.

But right now, as it stands, all I can do is write.  Write about the issues that the poor, the disabled, the disenfranchised, the survivors of domestic abuse have.

And try to evoke empathy.

I don’t have any book recommendations this week.  Originally, I was going to recommend Dee Brown’s “The Gentle Tamers: Women of the Old WIld West”, because I had skipped around and read some of the later chapters and, while I found the content somewhat patronizing, it wasn’t until I went back and read the book from the beginning that I realized I cannot recommend it.

Yes, the book was written in 1958.  Yes, it relies heavily on the ‘biographies’ of the (mostly eastern U.S. and wealthy) white women who wrote somewhat sensationalist serialized books for profit.

But I expected more from Dee Brown.

The book relies heavily on stereotypes and horror stories about tribal men kidnapping pioneer women whose only ‘crime’, it would seem, was their traipsing across tribal lands.

But, in fact, many of these women were missionaries (out to ‘civilize’ native people by opening up schools on native land and re-naming native children – and adults – with English names); wives of military men who established forts on native lands and then proceeded to kill the natives with guns and diseases; and wealthy women traveling with their husbands to seek their fortunes in California during the gold rush.

In other words, they tried to destroy the indigenous people using disease, cultural obliteration, and just flat-out murdering them.

All of them believers in “manifest destiny”.

All of them convinced that native men were ignorant, ‘uncivilized’, sneaky, bloodthirsty rapists – and their accounts reflected that.

Honestly, I couldn’t get through most of it without being angry.

I don’t know what Dee Brown’s story was, in between this book and “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”.  He must have had an epiphany of sorts.

There is no context for the “Taming” book, and there needed to be.  So I cannot recommend it.

For weird news….this falls under the “what a weird thing to think” category:

At the February meeting of the U.N. Disarmament Conference in Geneva, a representative from Belarus made this comment about the debate regarding whether or not the meeting should be public…

“What if there were topless ladies screaming from the public gallery, throwing bottles of mayonnaise?” (“Belarus Diplomat Worries Topless, Mayo-Throwing Women Could Disrupt U.N.”, Reuters website, 2/11/15)

And the response is weird, too…the president of the conference replied that “members of the public were already entitled to attend plenary meetings of the conference and sit in the public gallery, and so in theory could already drop mayonnaise onto delegates.” (Ibid)

Then there is…Shane “But I Was Hungry” Lindsey was arrested in New Kensington, PA, when he stopped for some chicken and biscuits right after robbing a bank down the street.  Well, though, in his defense, you really can’t get a decent chicken and biscuit meal anywhere up north here, so when you find one, it’s just too irresistable. (“Police: Suspect Stopped for Chicken-and-Biscuits After New Kensington Bank Robbery”, CBS Pittsburgh website, 1/15/15)

Dammit, now I’m hungry.  Gotta go make biscuits.

Be good.  Be kind.  Eat biscuits, southern-style.

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