President Obama calls Americans to order (back in 2011) for a more empathetic society. In reference to the Arizona shootings, the President made a heartfelt speech addressing the nation on building empathy. Various articles and experts, much like Obama, agree that humans need to focus on a global empathy. But is this realistic?
First, let me explain that empathy is a GOOD thing and it is very necessary in our society. Do we as humans suffer a lacking of it in our present society? Absolutely. Can we improve our empathy as a society? ...I don't know... Now, empathy is something within all of us that is controlled by all of us as individuals. One can not simply pull the empathy out of someone. That person needs to be ready to share and let their empathy prosper. Usually, it takes a struggle or some amount of pain to build empathy. After all, empathy connects us as humans through our shared suffering. Being so, Obama used the pain of the shooting to bring out the empathy. A valiant and good-hearted effort, but I don't think it affects enough people personally. Also, it takes more than the eloquence of a speaker to invoke empathy. The human mind processes thoughts on an incredibly higher level than speech can provide. The pain must take place on a personal level, and the human needs to process the situation to build empathy, not misplaced hate and anger. Being that said, that's how empathy can be built. However, that needs to happen to EVERY person in America (at least) to build a better society.
Obama is not by any means wasting his time in addressing the nation as such, but he can better apply himself in more effective action for gun control and mental health as opposed to giving a speech that will hopefully cause all Americans to become good citizens.
In my own personal experiences, I have come to realize that not all people are capable of empathy. Various students I know have no consideration what-so-ever for anyone else's feelings. Bullying is a true issue, and most often it is behind people's backs. In my experiences, the only form of bullying that people are up front about are homophobic comments and racism. When I say racism, it happens on all aspects. White people are discriminated against just as much as any other minority group. If you have an ethnicity, you are now considered the scum of the Earth by a different ethnic group in my school.
According to research, Frontiers in September 24, 2013, the defining psychological characteristic of psychopath is a severe lack of empathy. In a test group, people with a very severe form of psychopathy were tested for empathy. When imagining pain for themselves, they reacted in a normal neurological response, they didn't like it. However, when they reacted to the thought of other people getting hurt, they reacted with pleasure. Lower level psychopaths typically feel nothing; thus, there being a lack of empathy. But there does exist people that have an "anti-empathy", reacting in opposite of the expected empathetic reaction.
Can we build empathy in everyone? Day by day, exposed to the cruelties of humanity, exposed to the bleak consciences of high school students, I lose hope that an empathetic global community can exist. At least I think of it as; if I don't care, who will? Now, I close with what I fear is true.
"Some men, just want to watch the world burn." -Alfred Pennyworth, The Dark Knight