Friday, July 31, 2015

Compassion, Empathy, and the PC Poison Pill

This is a situation familiar to all of us and it's fairly simple.  You see a complete stranger grieving and you feel compassion.  You want to comfort them.  Sometimes there are chances when you can actually go ahead and comfort them and other times due to circumstance you cannot.

For me, one of those times came in May 2011.  It was in the last month of my university career and I was walking back from a late-night tour of our small campus and about to go to bed.  When I came to my dormitory, however, I saw a young black college girl sobbing on a bench.  I wanted to help and I had time to. She was crying about some affair that had to do with her boyfriend. I sat down with her and said it would be okay, everything would work out, and other things of that nature.  I didn't know what was going on.  I did not know her pain, but I felt her having it.  But I wanted to try to help.  I did not know how much impact my attempt to comfort had at the time.  However, I must have done something because about a week later she asked me to a movie.  For those interested, I declined because of a paper.

I did not see this as a unique thing.  Aye, I noticed her race, but that wasn't important to me.  What was important to me was that I saw a girl in tears.

Now, let's view this situation another way.  I was a man and she was a woman.  That is one barrier that was between us.  Secondly, I was a privileged white man and she was a unprivileged black girl. These two things make it more impossible for me to understand her grief alongside the usual reasons I cannot fully understand her grief--I didn't live it.  She could have seen me as a privileged white boy who could not comfort her because I was a privileged white boy, looked down on her consciously or unconsciously, and so my compassion and empathy was somewhat false.  I could have walked by because I figured there was nothing I could do because of her sex and the pigment of her skin.

Those two final sentences I just wrote is the PC poison pill.  It not only divides us as simple humans, but it divides us because it just sets more barriers between us.  It limits our ability to have empathy and compassion because if we accept PC it is essential to believe that another class, sex, race, or whatnot cannot fully feel empathy or compassion for you because its unconscious motives are vile and so you and another are forever separated by these unconscious motives.  You are limited in your ability to feel empathy and compassion for another person because the other person belongs in a whole different PC box.  Compassion and empathy are also limited in general because PC puts us in so many different categories and thus creates so many more walls between us.

Do you want to swallow the PC poison pill?  I don't.