I’ve spoken about empathy – or lack thereof – in this space more than a few times before, and I probably will again.
It’s something I can’t get a handle on, despite it seemingly becoming more and more prevalent every day, as people seem to become more and more disconnected from each other.
Maybe someone can help me out by explaining why these are things that happened recently:
I watched people cheer for a dead baby this past weekend.
When various media organizations reported on the case study published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine of a transgender man being misdiagnosed at an emergency room after complaining of severe abdominal pain, then going on to deliver a stillborn child, there were people actually celebrating on the Facebook pages where the story was being shared.
There weren’t many people outright cheering – although a few were – but even amongst the rest of the comments, the large majority were full of blame toward the man and his actions for causing the situation. Some instead cast their blame towards the nurses and doctors of the ER.
Maybe one in 20 comments I saw expressed anything close to sympathy for any of the people involved, who had just gone through the death of a baby.
I also watched people cheer for dead drug users again this past weekend.
Health officials in B.C. launched another effort in their attempt to curb the ongoing overdose crisis this past weekend, when they announced a partnership with the BC Centre for Disease Control that includes take-home kits for drug users so they can test their drugs before taking them.
This way, the health authorities say, users can avoid taking drugs that have substances like fentanyl in them.
But overall, the response to the initiative was not, “Good idea!” or “About time!”
It was, in some cases explicitly and in others merely implied by the tone of the comment, “Why are we helping these people stay alive?”
It’s only the most recent example of this attitude. Every time there’s a report released about overdose numbers or any initiative is taken to study drug use, there are a whole lot of people who clearly express that they think people who use drugs should just go ahead and die already so we can stop spending money on them, or paying attention to them, or whatever it is that they want to have happen.
“They brought it on themselves,” cheer the haters, when another drug user turns up dead.
But they wouldn’t say that about the people who chose to get on an airplane – despite knowing that airplanes crash all the time – if that airplane crashed.
Now, I’m sure there are people reading this column right now calling me things like “snowflake” or “bleeding heart liberal.”
Well, if not wanting people to suffer with pain and/or needlessly die makes me these things, I’ll take it.
If having empathy for those who are suffering makes me a terrible person in your eyes, then you’re exactly the type of person I’m talking about in this column.
And to you I say this: I don’t want you to die needlessly, either. And I don’t want you to suffer just because you see the world differently than I do.
I want you to have a rich and fulfilled life full of joy, surrounded by people who love you.
I do, however, wish that you also wanted that for others, instead of delighting in casting blame when something goes wrong or outright wishing that some people just didn’t exist.