The irritation of the expectation of empathy

There are many things in life that irritate me – a list that is in no way shrinking as I get older. Fairly close to the top of that list is the expectation of empathy.

When did we stop being allowed to make our own mind up whether or not we cared about something, or if we do, by how much?

In a change that I presume has been brought about by social media, news organisations seem to spend far more time and energy these days telling us how we should feel about something than they do reporting actual news.

“Horrifying”, “tragic”, “terribly sad”, “national pride” and other emotional cue cards pepper the news output way more than any factual content these days. And there is no quality threshold either. The same lines get trotted out for refugee drownings, mass shootings in America or for the murder of an MP as some scripted event “suffered” by the Jendashians, those morons on that The Only Way Is Chelsea Shore programme, Big brother or anything with Simon Cowell in it.

Has the dumbing-down of the population reached its ultimate level now where we need to be told when and how to emote? Has the deliberate dilution of our education system finally reached peak moron, with the achievement of a completely pliable and compliant population of mindless drones?

When did it not only become rare, but almost forbidden to make your own mind up about things? When did independence of thought become an endangered attribute?

And when did minor achievement become a cause for celebration? A semi-professional performer wins a tv “talent” show, some Kardashian clone loses a few pounds, a British astronaut becomes the three hundred and seventy-somethingth visitor to an International Space Station that is positively worn out because so many people have visited, and we’re expected – demanded, even – to care about it. Why?

Someone dies. I didn’t know that person or anyone close to them and they made no impact on my life. I didn’t notice them while they were alive, why should I care when they die? No, that’s not allowed! We have to demonstrate that we are caring, worthy people by mourning this complete stranger. We are expected to praise their “bravery” as though drawing breath is a brave thing to do. Why?

Some narcissistic moron with a GoPro camera strapped to their nether regions and Red Bull logos all over their arse flies face first into a mountain at 150mph, or falls to their death because they were walking on the edge of a high building, or breaks their neck dicking around in waves on a plank and we’re supposed to praise their bravery and value their memory. Follow your first instinct to laugh and call them what they are – idiots – and you’re completely wrong and a bad person. Why?

When did we become so reliant upon group-think that it became the very measure of our self-worth? When did we only ever feel validated and valued when we followed the herd of unthinking drones?

Saying that this is a deliberate policy on the part of the media, corporate and political elite might (but only might) be a conspiracy stretch too far. But it is at the very least a serendipitous occurrence that they seem to be in no rush to fix.

It does, however, neatly explain the rise of UKIP and the other bottom-feeding traders in lowest common denominator thought processes.

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About Paul Harper
These posts represent the collected thought of Paul Harper. Usually rants, occasionally lucid, always easily ignored. Read, don't read, your call!

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