A Fatal Lack Of Empathy

I bet you're surprised to see the E word in one of my post titles. I'm better known for smart assery and snark. I have never sung Kumbaya but I do believe in the power of empathy. A wise person, as well as a wise ass, is,uh, wise to try to walk a mile in the other guy's shoes to paraphrase the old hippie, dippy song. Many conflicts, large and small, can be avoided by understanding the other person's perspective and figuring out if can be accommodated. It's just good manners as well as common sense.

You're probably wondering where I'm going with this. The world is suffering from an empathy crisis, gap or whatever the hell you want to call it. We see it every day in what passes for political discourse in our country. That's usually a non-lethal form of the empathy gap but a more deadly example is the latest Gaza Strip conflict.

Both sides are badly led and fixated on upholding their "principles" at all costs. The Israelis have better and more lethal weapons but Hamas would do the same if things were equal. That's why I always call it a death dance between two unreasonable parties who seem incapable of understanding the other side's perspective. The ones who suffer are the ordinary people . They're the ones who die when their leaders stick to their guns no matter the consequences.

It's hard to see a permanent solution to the Hamas-Netanyahu government dispute. Both sides are dominated by religious zealots whose ideological rigiidity is only exceeded by their ineptitude and stubbornness. Hamas is quite willing to absorb thousands of casualties because they know that the Israelis will be blamed. The Netanyahu government is convinced of the righteousness of their cause and keeps making enormous strategic mistakes such as allying themselves with the Republican right. 

It's no secret that more *secular* leaders are the ones who have made progress in the past from Sadat to Dayan and Begin to Rabin and Peres to Arafat and Abbas. The religious revival in the Middle East has been bad for the peace business and has made empathy a depressingly scarce commodity.

I just needed to vent my frustrations this morning. It would help if they'd see each other as human beings instead of asTHE ENEMY, but the death dance is likely to continue.

9 thoughts on “A Fatal Lack Of Empathy

  1. idiosynchronic says:

    “Old men covered in blood. Never touched them but they’re drowning in it.”
    The older and more cynical I get, the more convinced I am it’s all about the power and holding onto it at all costs.

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  2. gratuitous says:

    Well, I don’t know if the Palestinians with the unlimited armory that Israel has would do the same. I think that if both sides were equally armed, both sides might have a little more motivation to seek a resolution. As it is, Israel is more than happy to blow the living bejesus out of Gaza as long as the folks there are securely bottled up.
    On my ride in this morning, I was cogitating on the conflict, and how a number of Israelis are doing everything they can to publicize the fact that they disagree with their government’s action. I wonder how things might change if 100 Israelis went into Gaza to stand with the Palestinians? Or a thousand, randomly distributed throughout the area? My sense is that a number of Israelis are disturbed by their government’s actions in Gaza, but as long as the victims are someone else’s families, they’re not inclined to pressure Netanyahu. But what if the potential victims under those Israeli bombs were Israelis? Would popular sentiment in Israel begin pushing for a cease fire?

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  3. adrastos says:

    @Gratuitous: Note that I said Hamas. They would love to kill as many Israelis as possible. Fatah, probably not.

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  4. joejoejoe says:

    I read something the other day that characterized Israel as the last colonial power. That was useful to me in understanding “occupied territory” in a way that all the Middle East history has not been. It’s the same as the British occupying India or the US occupying indigenous America or Europe’s slicing up the rhubarb pie that was the Ottoman empire. The most common results are annihilation, withdrawal, or division. Maybe an uneasy tolerance is possible but how do you get there? From what I understand life is OK in Quebec and Belgium but those peoples STILL can’t help but fight about being under one government. I’ve also heard of tensions between northern and southern states in the US ;). Nobody likes being drawn into somebody else’s map & the sting of it lasts a very long time.

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  5. Robert says:

    I’ve been sitting here wondering if I should bother commenting.
    Some things I’ve learned about the current Gaza situation will not be found even if you watched/read everything presented(with very few exception) by US MSM.
    This started with the deaths of three Israelis and used by Bi Bi and Israeli/media hawks to to stir up Israeli anger against Hamas.
    Two Israeli sources have confirmed that Hamas was NOT involved in their murder. MSNBCs Chris Hayes amazingly “went there” and reported this last night.
    If you truly want understand you MUST know the timeline.
    “The ITIC July 8, 2014, report, “News of Terrorism and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (July 2 – 8, 2014),” states: “For the first time since Operation Pillar of Defense [November 2012], Hamas participated in and claimed responsibility for rocket fire [on July 7, 2014].”
    Thus, Hamas rocket fire only restarted on July 7 after a 19-month cease-fire. As we will see, this was nearly a month after Israeli forces launched massive military operations in the West Bank and Gaza starting on June 12. But those Israeli military operations were not the only provocation. ” Truthout.
    I often comment on another news based site that has been over run with Hasbara trolls. When I post the above quote in reply, it’s like I have a can of Magic “Troll Begone”.
    I’ll shut up now and leave former Israeli military commander Eran Efrati for a last quote.
    http://www.addictinginfo.org/2014/07/29/israeli-soldier-admits-murdering-palestinian-civilians-was-a-pre-planned-act-of-revenge/
    Keep in mind that the waters off Gaza hold BILLIONS in gas/oil.

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  6. adrastos says:

    @Robert: Actually, your comment is what I’m talking about. I’m more of a pox on both their leaderships kind of guy. Not a fan of either Bibi or Hamas. There’s actually a middle ground between supporting one side or the other but few people are interested.

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  7. MichaelF says:

    Am a bit busy here, but to add my own .0000002 cents worth — I’d heard somewhere/sometime back that Israel helped “create” Hamas…checking the easiest source (take it for what it’s worth), Wikipedia, I see it wasn’t so much active assistance as it was a less hostile reaction to Palestinian organizations with a religious/Islamic basis while the IDF aggressively tried to stamp out the more secular PLO/Fatah. Well, regardless, if you are an Israeli hawk, Central Casting couldn’t give you a better “enemy.” Which for ordinary Palestinians in Gaza, really, really sucks — they get massacred by the Israeli Army…and it’s not like they can really do much to stop angry — and armed — lunatic martyr wannabees from shooting rockets across the border.
    Of course, in the US, the fact that armed lunatic martyr wannabees don’t constitute a majority of Gazans, or Palestinians generally, doesn’t get much emphasis. Which, to repeat myself, really, really sucks for ordinary Palestinians…and the Palestinian cause generally.

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  8. Lex says:

    What MichaelF said.
    Also: That “hippie dippie song” was written by Elvis Presley and also recorded by Joe South. Whatever else that is, it ain’t hippie-dippie.

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  9. adrastos says:

    Written by Joe South. Hippie dippy in spirit, Lex.

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