Why do we express more interest in Global warming than sin?
This piece does not mention Global warming, but it does mention sin.
Scrolling Instagram yesterday I saw that a beautiful church had been turned into a Tesco’s express -Not even a real Tesco’s for Christs sake. There’s a line for you. The hold of a church over its society is like the bloom of a grape; once gone, it is gone for good. However, despite the UKs appearance of religious indifference it does have an unexpectantly intense religious life. In an age of relativism, people seek certainty; when violence strikes at random, they seek transcendent meaning, when crime goes unpunished, by the secular power, they seek refuge in divine law; when indifference to other reigns, they seek community.
Empathetic inference has its roots in our evolutionary past. As our brains developed and grew more sophisticated, we shaped and honed neural networks to help us rapidly evaluate the motivation of others, work together to gather, and hunt for food, detect the presence of predators, and ensure successful reproduction through courtship and social intelligence. While various kinds of empathy may be seen in other animals, only in humans is empathy a complex form of psychological inference that involves multiple mental processes: feeling what another person is feeling, knowing what another person is feeling, and wanting to respond compassionately to another person’s distress.
Theory of mind or cognitive empathy is rare these days. It is being able to empathise with someone who holds a different point of view as you. It is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes or, more precisely, in someone else’s brain. It’s amazing and challenging at the same time. Unfortunately, in our polarized, feverishly partisan world, examples of cognitive empathy are increasingly hard to find. But this type of empathy can be cultivated and advanced
Narcissism is a deficit of empathy. It involves a sense of entitlement and a hyper focus on oneself. This is not hard to see. Its everywhere. Narcissism although potentially gainful in the short term is not a good long-term strategy. It is related to domestic violence, sexual coercion, aggression, and offensive behaviour directed towards others. Empathy on the other hand benefit us in a multitude of ways. It heightens our feelings of trust, creativity, and compassion. It lowers our stress levels and in turn our inflammation. It helps us connect and bond with other people. We are a social species. This is vital. It helps us regulate our emotions and gives us added capacity to combat life’s struggles and frustration
Empathy and narcissism are complex qualities and have been linked to multiple areas of the brain, including the prefrontal cortex, the amygdala, and others. In a 2018 study at the University of Nebraska, people with known damage to their prefrontal cortices were placed in conditions that tested their empathy. The study found that they were less likely than those without such damage to give money to those who are suffering. Get this, it also turns out that that the stress response system of narcissists may be exceptionally sensitive to negative emotions. One study found that people high on the narcissism scale had significantly higher levels of cortisol in response to negative emotions than those with low levels of narcissism. So, in the case of narcissism, the amygdala plays a vital role.
What does this teach us? Cruel narcissists who don’t care for other’s emotional states need as much empathy as people with learning disabilities, victims of trauma and victims of racism. Or do they?
This is pretty scary when you think about it.
Where do we draw the line with compassion and empathy? If everything that someone does that is morally wrong is a result of a damaged brain through nature, nurture or both then does this suggest that judging them is also wrong.
I don’t think so.
I have been grappling with two concepts over the past year. They are as follows.
1) We should be more compassionate.
2) We are way too compassionate.
Everyone makes judgements. To say you are not very judgemental is as stupid a thing as a person can say. You are effectively patting yourself on the back for something that is impossible. It is like saying I’m not very hungry. Ok so you might not be hungry now, but maybe in two weeks of no food you could call yourself hungry.... maybe?? It is just that by the way. Every decision we make is a judgement. You need to judge to live. Someone who isn’t very judgemental would walk in front of a bus and die. But of course, they don’t mean that. they mean.
‘You do you. I'll do me. I don’t care. Live and let live.’
But of-course if someone burns their house down or something worse......they will judge.
Theodore Darymple wrote in 1997 that
'nonjudgementalism has become so universally accepted as the highest, indeed the only, virtue.'
He describes a man who had been cheated and conned out of all his possessions and left with vast amounts of debt. This man proudly says he does not judge these men as if he were such a saint that judging them was immoral and the way he said this was like 'as if pinning a medal for exceptional merit on his own chest.'
Times have changed since Darymple wrote this. But the psychological deceit and wilful blindness is still very much amongst us. Social Media highlights man’s ignorance of his own psyche in such mass and clarity that all you need to do is look at the comments on a popular Instagram channel and you will see it thousands of times a day.
For example, I was browsing a channel called The Archbishop of Banterbury yesterday. A lads banter page for those lucky enough to be unaware of the page.
There was a picture of a man with his shirt off at an English football game. The Euros are currently on and England were playing Croatia. It was a big game. The man had a Tattoo of Winston Churchill on his side. Remember this is a British Instagram channel that centres around British 'lad banter' and football is a big part of the channel. The post was titled ‘Welcome to England’ with three laughing faces. A man was cheering on his country with a tattoo of a man who defeated the Nazis on his hip. The post was mocking him. I was curious, so I delved deeper. It had 139,802 likes and 1478 comments. Most of the comments were deriding the man. He was called Hitler, a fat bastard, ugly, racist and a Nazi. The irony.
What to make of this? I understand that Churchill was not perfect, but I was shocked by the cruelty of the comments and the sheer number of them. I won’t get into Churchill here except to say that in my opinion he is the greatest British person to have ever lived except perhaps Shakespeare. We wish that those who have contributed most to our artistic heritage, our increased knowledge, our political and social arrangements, where those can be prized, had been ‘better’ men than their biographies, more often than not, show them to have been. The thought that if a great man had been different from what he was, he wouldn’t have done what he did is rapidly dismissed as special pleading. It is the part of our fear and anxiety in the face of greatness; one might say we take revenge on the greatness of men’s works by studying their lives, prying into them with an intensity of scrutiny from which no one would emerge unscathed.
These people who laughed at this man on Instagram clearly believe themselves to not only be more intelligent than him, morally superior to him and creepiest of all.....less judgemental. I would guess and I would be right that if you asked these people if they were judgemental, they would say ‘not at all!!’
The sheer number of likes and support of this particular post is a dark and shameful instance of British society today. Theodore Darymple noticed it 24 years ago. Have the Brits always been like this or has it got worse? It’s tough to say.
'Apologists for nonjudgementalism point above all, to its supposed quality of compassion. A man who judges others will sometimes condemn them and therefore deny them aid and assistance, whereas the man who refuses to judge excludes no one from his all-embracing compassion'
Like all complex problems there are a thousand shades of grey. You could judge each individual on the situation. However, this is very difficult due to the millions of confounding factors and where can we draw the line?
Daniel Amen MD in his book healing ADD tells the story of a young 6-year-old boy (his nephew) who had started punching girls for no reason. He drew pictures of himself shooting up his school mates and hanging himself. He had loving parents. Dr Amen is a psychiatrist who specialises in SPECT brain scans. After a frantic call from the boy’s mother, he immediately performed a scan on his nephew. His front parietal lobe was not activating. It turned out that he had a cyst growing just inside his skull next to his ear. Eventually after incomprehensible refusal by many surgeons to remove the cyst, they found someone to do the job. The surgeon said that if the boy had so much as a basketball thrown at his head, he would be dead. When the boy woke from the operation he smiled at his mother. His mother told Dr Amen it was the first time he had smiled at her in over a year. This is heart wrenching. How many children and adults are behaving in ways that are frowned upon merely because they have an unhealthy brain by no fault of their own.
But then you ask the question can anybody have an unhealthy brain through fault of their own. Yes! of course.... they could be using drugs or eating too much sugar or not exercising enough. But then you have to ask the question why .... drugs.... why sugar...why idleness? Like Lois CK’s joke about kids asking Why. When you ask Why enough you don’t know. No one does. So, this leads us to determinism vs free will. The age-old question.
For the sake of humanity, it is best to think you have free will. Even if you don’t. As Nietzsche said in ‘Beyond Good and Evil’
‘The zeal and subtlety, I might even say slyness with which the problem ‘of the real and apparent world’ is set upon all over Europe today makes one think hard and prick up one’s ears; and anyone who hears in the background only a ‘will to truth’ and nothing more, certainly does not enjoy the best of hearing. In rare and isolated cases such a will to truth, some extravagant and adventurous courage, a metaphysician’s ambition to maintain a forlorn position, may actually play a part and finally prefer ‘certainty’ to a whole cartful of beautiful possibilities; there may even exist puritanical fanatics of conscience who would rather lie down and die on a sure nothing than an uncertain something. But this is nihilism and the sign of a despairing, mortally weary soul, however brave the bearing of such a virtue may appear.’
The virtue signalling, political correctness, wokeism that has infiltrated our culture has been around for decades. Longer than you might think. It is not a new phenomenon; however, the advent of social media certainly makes it feel that its more intense than ever.
It has come from the intellectuals or the intelligencia. Intellectuals, in the restricted sense which largely conforms to general usage, are ultimately unaccountable to the external world. The prevalence and presumed desirability of this are confirmed by such things as academic tenure and expansive concepts of ‘academic freedom’ and academic ‘self-governance’. In the media, expansive notions of freedom of speech and of press play similar roles. Politics is downstream from Culture. Culture is downstream from Universities. In short, unaccountability to the external world is not simply happenstance but a principle. John Stuart Mill argued that intellectuals should be free from even from social standards – while setting social standards for others. Not only have intellectuals been insulated from material consequences, but they have also often enjoyed immunity from even a loss of reputation after having been demonstrably wrong.
Look at the BLM movement in the media. Black people in America are now so scared that the police will kill them when they get pulled over, they struggle, resist arrest and inevitably get shot. The media aka the intelligencia, because journalists these days are just academics from top universities indoctrinated by woke ideologies, truly believe they are better than the rest of us, because they achieved top marks in exams and therefore got top jobs in ideological news outlets. Most truly believe that everyone is racist apart from them. Jonathan Heidt calls them the exam passing class. They are doing more damage to minorities, who they are claiming to protect, by reporting lies, misinformation in order for people to click on their articles. The media on the most part is propaganda especially CNN, the Guardian, and The New York times. How much blood is on their hands?
But we go back to empathy. Can we blame them? This is their doctrine- A teacher is not enlightening the young, he is instilling prejudices. A surgeon is not saving a life he is making a living. A policeman is not protecting the public he is corruptly enforcing sectional interest
Journalists, politicians, big pharma, social media executives and academics have been brain washed and are brain washing. It’s all one big mess. Is someone pulling the strings. Maybe? I don’t know. Its more likely human nature, greed, arrogance, and cognitive dissonance taken to an extreme.
Can we be empathetic and compassionate to everyone!! Yes and No! But we need to wake up. We need to teach children to think critically. We need to educate children about the greatest minds of the last 3000 years. Many of whom were white. Is this racist? No. Most were white, but also part of the aristocracy. Most white people lived unimaginably horrific, poverty-stricken lives only 70 years ago. For 100s of years the Irish were completely demolished in every way possible by a small section of English aristocrats. In fact, it was like that everywhere in Europe. It was circumstance.
If culture had been different and Europeans had not been the dominant force in literature, politics, culture, and art over the past 3000 years I still stand by my point. There will have been great minds with great ideas of different races. But that did not happen. Let’s not rewrite history in the name of compassion. Let’s learn from the best we have and move forward. Racism will always exist. So, will people who fuck sheep. Can we stop with the bullshit and start coming together? If MLK could see us now. Let people be. Don’t brainwash black children that they are victims. It is racist and cruel. Don’t brainwash white children that they should hate themselves. That is racist and cruel.
When it comes to crime, I believe some people need the carrot and some people need the stick. Crucially it is figuring out who needs what and why. The crime committed is often a good place to start. However, I still believe that it is maybe the greatest philosophical, political, societal question you can ask.
Speaking personally, I needed the carrot. Isn’t that convenient!!? Well no. I was treated with the stick for many years until my ADHD diagnosis and the depression made it so damn obvious that harsh punishment did not work on me.
I needed the compassion. Without compassion from my parents. I would be dead. But I can't speak for everyone. There is something empowering in knowing that you got yourself into this mess and you can get out of it through hard work and self-improvement. But that mindset isn't everyone's mindset. It was only after the compassion; my ADHD diagnosis and vast amounts of luck was I strong enough to make right decisions more than not (I hope). Psychology is at its infancy. The great trial scene of Dimitri Karamazov at the end of Dostoevsky’s 'The Brothers Karamazov’ is one of the most beautiful piece of literature regarding this conundrum and I would advise everyone to read that book.
Be wary of fake compassion and empathy. But always know that empathy and compassion should be your first port of call. We need Police. We need punishment for immorality. But we also need to understand that many of these people are brain damaged like me. They need compassion and empathy, so that when they leave jail, prison, or rehab they are better people, not worse.
No age is golden for those that live in it and it is not often that men are more grateful for past progress than worried by current imperfections. Even so our current age seems exceptional in the peculiarity of its unease. Never in human history have we lived such long and pain free lives. Never have so many people and so high a proportion of people had so much freedom to choose how to live, what goals to pursue and how to divert themselves on the other hand never have so many people felt anxious and depressed and resorted to pills and booze to ease their distress.
It is more blessed to struggle than to win because the results are of less import than the struggle. And the reason is that so long as one is struggling deeper questions of meaning and purpose are kept at bay. It’s no longer a struggle to survive. People can’t be proud that they are alive because it’s relatively easy to stay alive these days. So, what can we be proud of? Maybe raising kids or not being brainwashed.
When people are at war there is so much more meaning in people’s minds. When we are a peace there is so much more war in people’s minds.
I am not purporting war. I am purporting struggle. And the best struggle is struggle on your own terms. Intentional struggle. Climb that mountain, run that marathon, write that book. DON’T COMPLAIN.
I will leave you with this
This extract from Dostoyevsky in ‘The Brothers Karamasov’ takes place after a small boy dies and the youngest Karamazov brother Alouisha (aged 20) talks to the friends of the dead boy Alusha.
‘They all stood still by the big stone. Alouisha looked and the whole picture of what Snegiryov had described to him that day, Alusha, weeping and hugging his father, had cried, "Father, father, how he insulted you," rose at once before his imagination. A sudden impulse seemed to come into his soul. With a serious and earnest expression, he looked from one to another of the bright, pleasant faces of Alusha's schoolfellows, and suddenly said to them: "Boys, I should like to say one word to you, here at this place. "The boys stood round him and at once bent attentive and expectant eyes upon him. "Boys, we shall soon part. I shall be for some time with my two brothers, of whom one is going to Siberia and the other is lying at death's door. But soon I shall leave this town, perhaps for a long time, so we shall part. Let us make a compact here, at Ilusha's stone, that we will never forget Alusha and one another. And whatever happens to us later in life, if we don't meet for twenty years afterwards, let us always remember how we buried the poor boy at whom we once threw stones, do you remember, by the bridge, and afterwards we all grew so fond of him. He was a fine boy, a kind-hearted, brave boy, he felt for his father's honour and resented the cruel insult to him and stood up for him. And so, in the first place, we will remember him, boys, all our lives. And even if we are occupied with most important things, if we attain to honour or fall into great misfortune- still let us remember how good it was once here, when we were all together, united by a good and kind feeling which made us, for the time we were loving that poor boy, better perhaps than we are. My little doves let me call you so, for you are very like them, those pretty blue birds, at this minute as I look at your good dear faces. My dear children, perhaps you won't understand what I am saying to you, because I often speak very unintelligibly, but you'll remember all the same and will agree with my words some time. You must know that there is nothing higher and stronger and more wholesome and good for life in the future than some good memory, especially a memory of childhood, of home. People talk to you a great deal about your education, but some good, sacred memory, preserved from childhood, is perhaps the best education. If a man carries many such memories with him into life, he is safe to the end of his days, and if one has only one good memory left in one's heart, even that may sometime be the means of saving us. Perhaps we may even grow wicked later on, may be unable to refrain from a bad action, may laugh at men's tears and at those people who say as Kolya did just now, 'I want to suffer for all men,' and may even jeer spitefully at such people. But however bad we may become- which God forbid- yet, when we recall how we buried Alusha, how we loved him in his last days, and how we have been talking like friends altogether, at this stone, the cruellest and most mocking of us- if we do become so will not dare to laugh inwardly at having been kind and good at this moment! What's more, perhaps, that one memory may keep him from great evil, and he will reflect and say, 'Yes, I was good and brave and honest then!' Let him laugh to himself, that's no matter, a man often laughs at what's good and kind. That's only from thoughtlessness. But I assure you, boys, that as he laughs, he will say at once in his heart, 'No, I do wrong to laugh, for that's not a thing to laugh at.' That will be so, I understand you, Karamazov!" cried Kolya, with flashing eyes. The boys were excited and they, too, wanted to say something, but they restrained themselves, looking with intentness and emotion at the speaker. "I say this in case we become bad," Alyosha went on, "but there's no reason why we should become bad, is there, boys? Let us be, first and above all, kind, then honest and then let us never forget each other! I say that again. I give you my word for my part that I'll never forget one of you. Every face looking at me now. I shall remember even for thirty years, kind, dear little eyes. Boys, my dear boys, let us all be generous and brave like Alusha, clever, brave, and generous like Kolya (though he will be ever so much cleverer when he is grown up), and let us all be as modest, as clever, and sweet as Kartashov. But why am I talking about those two? You are all dear to me, boys; from this day forth, I have a place in my heart for you all, and I beg you to keep a place in your hearts for me! Well, and who has united us in this kind, good feeling which we shall remember and intend to remember all our lives? Who, if not Alusha, the good boy, the dear boy, precious to us for ever! Let us never forget him. May his memory live for ever in our hearts from this time forth! “Yes, yes, for ever, for ever!" the boys cried in their ringing voices, with softened faces. "Let us remember his face and his clothes and his poor little boots, his coffin and his unhappy, sinful father, and how boldly he stood up for him alone against the whole school." "We will remember, we will remember," cried the boys. "He was brave, he was good!" "Ah, how I loved him!" exclaimed Kolya, children, ah, dear friends, don't be afraid of life! How good life is when one does something good and just! “Yes, yes," the boys repeated enthusiastically. “Karamazov, we love you!" a voice, probably Kartashov's, cried impulsively. “We love you; we love you!" they all caught it up. There were tears in the eyes of many of them. “Hurrah for Karamazov!" Kolya shouted ecstatically. “And may the dead boy's memory live for ever!" Alyosha added again with feeling. “For ever!" the boys chimed in again. "Karamazov," cried Kolya, "can it be true what's taught us in religion, that we shall all rise again from the dead and shall live and see each other again, all, Alusha too? “Certainly, we shall all rise again, certainly we shall see each other and shall tell each other with joy and gladness all that has happened!" Alyosha answered, half laughing, half enthusiastic, how splendid it will be!"
Remember this was after a funeral of a peasant boy in 19th century Russia. Are you telling me that we have evolved since then? Of course, Dostoyevsky was a genius. But he was created by his culture. I don’t think anyone alive today could write such a beautiful passage. I also believe that when one of your loved ones dies it would be a wonderful way to commemorate them by taking on Alouisha’s perspective here. It is positive, magical, and full of hope. The poor peasant boy’s death was not in vain.
Real empathy is best. No empathy is second. Fake empathy and virtue signalling is last.