Monday, January 09, 2012

Fear Vs Compassion?

My friend Mudball posted at Wholly Hodgepodge:
A new study finds that today’s college students are not as empathetic as college students of the 1980s and ’90s.
University of Michigan researchers analyzed data on empathy collected from almost 14,000 college students over the last 30 years.
“College kids today are about 40 percent lower in empathy than their counterparts of 20 or 30 years ago, as measured by standard tests of this personality trait.”
My reaction:
The article doesn't consider one simple fact: this generation has been raised in a climate of total, immediate fear.
When I was a kid, we had a generalized fear of the Russians but were confident of victory and didn't take our shoes off to get onto airplanes.
In contrast, today's kids are surrounded by endless depictions of dark-skinned, hairy men who will bomb their precious bodily fluids, and CANNOT BE STOPPED.
This has an impact on young people; constant fearfulness may reduce the capacity to reflexively consider the impact of our actions on others. This reminds me of a scene in "Persopolis" where the author (a woman grown up in modern clerical-fascist Iran) explains Iranians are constantly in fear of being beaten by the religious police, or worse ... and that this fear keeps them so busy worrying about whether their veil is too short or their hair too visible that they don't have time to think about public affairs. When a little too much lipstick puts her in danger of arrest, she unhesitatingly accuses an innocent man of swearing at her, resulting in his arrest and likely beating; the shocking thing is that she goes home and tells what happened and laughs like it was a joke ... she was so desensitized by the fear.

I wonder if this phenomenon is what the study is revealing.