May 11th, 2021
Is empathy an accurate tool towards understanding?
That’s not a rhetorical question. I’m actually asking.
Because I’m having trouble trying to reconcile two different points of view from a singular source.
Let’s pick a job. I’m not going to make this easy because that’s not what I do, so let’s say the job is “police officer.”
If you go anywhere on the internet where there is a mention of a police officer, you will see these sentiments in the comments:
“You don’t know what it’s like to be a police officer.”
“My brother is a police officer and you don’t understand what it’s like for them and their families.”
“Until you’ve actually worn the badge and have been out there doing that job, shut your mouth about stuff you don’t know.”
(I cleaned these up significantly for this post.)
Now, what I gather from these comments is that empathy is not enough. I cannot use my previous experiences, or any of my own thoughts and feelings to imagine what it would be like to be a police officer. The only way to know what a police officer knows is to be a police officer.
I see these same people completely refute what a majority of doctors and scientists say about our health and the state of our planet.
Many of these doctors and scientists have been in these professions and studied in their fields longer than a lot of us have even been alive.
So, by that same logic: if someone who is not a police officer cannot understand police officer things, wouldn’t that mean that people who are not doctors and scientists cannot understand medical and scientific things?
Or is it possible that human empathy and reason allows us a bridge of understanding, with respect to who a person is and what their expertise and knowledge has to offer?
My last fiction book was about talking animals. I have never been a dog, ferret, cat or snake, but I wrote characters who are. I’m not sure how I accurate I was. But there was nothing about trying to think and feel like I was someone else that felt wrong.
Sometimes I imagine what it’s like to be you. I hope you don’t ever imagine what it’s like to be me (it’s dark and overrated), but if you did, it’d be a sign that you’re not a narcissistic sociopath and I think that’s pretty neat.
So I think I answered my own question. Thank you for your understanding.