Jan 30, 2013

another take on empathy

I love this animated lecture series, but some of the arguments by Roman Krznaric in this talk on empathy bug me.  Yes, I do think that some sort of 'feeling-with' plays an important role in building connections across distance and difference and motivating people to work for social change.  But I don't think the answer is to 'feel as', and much less to try to 'be the other'.   Pretending to be homeless seems disrespectful to me, and I am disturbed that here George Orwell is yet again simplistically held up for doing this.  There is certainly power in living with the poor, living simply, and in other ways 'being with' those who are different than you, in ways that help you understand their reality, feel-with, and motivate you to walk with and struggle with them.  But pretending to be someone you are not is not only disrespectful of those you would walk with, it diminishes the power of your solidarity. 

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