Digby's Hullabaloo
2801 Ocean Park Blvd.
Box 157
Santa Monica, Ca 90405

Facebook: Digby Parton

@BloggersRUs (Tom Sullivan)

thedigbyblog at gmail
satniteflix at gmail
publius.gaius at gmail
tpostsully at gmail
Spockosbrain at gmail
Richardein at me.com


Mother Jones
Raw Story
Huffington Post
Crooks and Liars
American Prospect
New Republic

Denofcinema.com: Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 February 2010 March 2010 April 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 March 2011 April 2011 May 2011 June 2011 July 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 November 2011 December 2011 January 2012 February 2012 March 2012 April 2012 May 2012 June 2012 July 2012 August 2012 September 2012 October 2012 November 2012 December 2012 January 2013 February 2013 March 2013 April 2013 May 2013 June 2013 July 2013 August 2013 September 2013 October 2013 November 2013 December 2013 January 2014 February 2014 March 2014 April 2014 May 2014 June 2014 July 2014 August 2014 September 2014 October 2014 November 2014 December 2014 January 2015 February 2015 March 2015 April 2015 May 2015 June 2015 July 2015 August 2015 September 2015 October 2015 November 2015 December 2015 January 2016 February 2016 March 2016 April 2016 May 2016 June 2016 July 2016 August 2016 September 2016 October 2016 November 2016 December 2016 January 2017 February 2017 March 2017 April 2017 May 2017 June 2017 July 2017 August 2017 September 2017 October 2017 November 2017 December 2017 January 2018 February 2018 March 2018 April 2018 May 2018 June 2018 July 2018 August 2018 September 2018 October 2018 November 2018 December 2018 January 2019 February 2019 March 2019 April 2019


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?


Friday, October 14, 2011

No empathy for lack of empathy
by David Atkins ("thereisnospoon")

Bob Somerby at the Daily Howler has been a sometime critic of mine since I started writing here. The general thrust of his critiques has been that my rhetoric is too forceful, and that I lack an adequate respect for the feelings of my fellow Americans in the Republican Party and the Tea Party. His latest lengthy post is best distilled here:

We thought that made good sense, although we’d advise this fiery young man to clean up his fiery language! But just like that, Atkins began to savage a very bad person—someone who almost surely hails from the 99 percent! Unfortunately, this person also comes from the other political tribe; rather plainly, she tends to vote Republican. In a post devoted to empathy, note the way Atkins started his discussion of this beast:

ATKINS (continuing directly): I can't even imagine what it must be like to live in the moral vacuum inhabited by people like this…

You’ll have to admit that’s a little bit funny. His headline announced the need for empathy. But halfway through the post, Atkins announced that he “can’t even imagine what it must be like” to see the world in a way which differs from his point of view!

With all due respect, the assertion that those with empathy must be able to empathize with those who lack empathy lest they be considered hypocrites is a ludicrous one. It's in the same line of "reasoning" that allows homophobes to declare that gays and lesbians who ask for marriage equality are bigots against their free exercise of religion. It's the same line of fallacious argument that leads conservatives to claim that failure to teach bogus creation "science" is proof of liberal hypocrisy out of failure to respect academic freedom.

Bill Maher may have said it best when he quipped that one should never become so tolerant as to tolerate intolerance. Similarly, I should hope that decent human beings never aspire to such a pinnacle of moral relativism that they can empathize with those who turn a blind eye to mass human suffering, even as the villains who directly caused that suffering walk away laughing with all the loot.

Future generations will look back on this era one day with the same moral revulsion that we have today for Dickensian England, for the Confederacy during the time of slavery, and for Salem during the witch trials. The culture that has produced the renaissance of Ayn Rand and the celebration of human misery that cheers on executions and the death of the uninsured will one day be viewed with no more fair regard than the Gilded Age culture of the late 19th century that produced J.P. Morgan and the Massacre at Wounded Knee. Equanimity in the face of such an abdication of basic human compassion and moral anomie is not a sign of emotional maturity, but rather a retreat into the safe, sanctimonious sepulchers of the church of the savvy.

Somerby has more than once compared me with Diomedes of Homeric fame, the warrior who became so enraged in battle that he fought mortal and immortal alike indiscriminately. As a student of the Classics who has read much of the Iliad in the original Greek, I find the comparison most amusing. First, the aristeia of Diomedes in fighting even the Gods if necessary helped save the Greek ships from the Trojan flame. But more importantly, the appeal to Homeric archetypes is itself deeply flawed. In modern times Greeks and Trojans no longer square off against one another, needing the counsel of wise advisers like Nestor to calm fervid warrior spirits. In modern times, the elite rulers Agamemnon and Priam have joined forces to steal all the wealth of the Greeks and Trojans together, then sail away to offshore havens in contempt of divine or terrestrial justice. And they have raised a deluded army of soldiers who have swapped out their boar's tusk helmets for tri-cornered hats, willing to wish them Zeus-speed so long as they can remain, in their squalor, superior to their helot slaves. In this situation, it is well past time to reclaim from our modern-day Agamemnons what is not rightfully theirs, without much regard for the minority who stand in the way.

Or perhaps, to use another Homeric analogy, the better metaphor for what Wall Street is doing to America lies not in Iliad at all, but in the Odyssey, in which hordes of wealthy suitors eat Odysseus' family and the people of Ithaca out of house, home and land. Homer understood exactly what sort of justice awaited such men.

Fortunately, as a liberal I don't believe in that vision of retributive justice. But I might be able to empathize with those who do.