It often is impossible to understand why another person believes the way they do. Sometimes it is impossible to understand a person’s motivation to act as they do. Empathy can stretch only so far before it evaporates, leaving a total blank as far as understanding a person’s ethical judgment. Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes is much more difficult than one may think. From different perspectives, one religious and one physiological, the mariner touched on this difficulty in past posts:
On the moral conflict between Christianity and capitalism, he wrote –
(Is Christianity Still Christianity? May 22, 2013)
Paul Tillich, a popular theologian in the 1960’s, said that Christianity is vulnerable to being subsumed by other forms of religion, very much as a chameleon changes its color to match its background. The other forms of religion, which Tillich defined as “quasi” religions, are capitalism, socialism, fascism, and authoritarianism. In the United States, the competing quasi-religion is capitalism. To be a Christian in a capitalistic society means that it is likely that a “Christian” is a Christian only to the extent that capitalism is not inconvenienced.
On the fact that republicans and democrats use different parts of the brain to make decisions about risk, he wrote –
(Red Brain, Blue Brain June 19, 2015)
Republicans orient attention to external cues. What this means is Republicans find it less important to understand how they feel inside; more important is their control of potential risk outside.
On the other hand, Democrats orient attention to perceptions of internal feelings – how they feel about the external cues. This orientation also borders the temporal-parietal junction, and may reflect perceptions of internal feeling and motivation in others as well.
- A genuine capitalist cannot understand why a person would give up financial security or relinquish authority to follow Christian principles that, to the capitalist, leave one defenseless against the world.
- A genuinely compassionate person cannot understand why a capitalist can ignore people who are starving and homeless.
- A genuine socialist cannot understand why a wealthy person objects to a one or two percent hike in taxes when it is an amount that will not alter lifestyle in any way and never be spent in the wealthy person’s lifetime.
- A wealthy person cannot understand why a socialist doesn’t respect wealth as a societal right.
- A genuine naturalist cannot understand why developers want to destroy sensitive habitat to build houses when there is plenty of reusable property elsewhere.
An oil entrepreneur cannot understand why people want to stand in the way of progress.
- A genuine populist cannot understand why banks intentionally gouge their customers.
- A banker cannot understand why a populist wants to constrain opportunity with regulations.
We could go on….
The mariner has maintained throughout his life that comic strips and single-pane cartoons are the most important section of the newspaper. The comics have a sly way of slipping through one’s prejudice, ignorance, and lack of emotional maturity to plant the seed of a new insight. Consider the following Dilbert strip:
Were the strip in real life, we would not laugh so easily. The strip shows how every one of us is vulnerable to redefining reality to fit our personal preferences. It is easy to overlook how our decisions affect others, even abuse or kill them. It is easy to avoid acts of sharing or choose not to act in behalf of someone or something because it is simply inconvenient or uncomfortable.
Sometimes, in our hearts, we don’t really want to walk in the other person’s shoes.