Saturday, January 13, 2007

The missing Conservative empathy gene.

Digby has a very interesting post on Conservative's lack of empathy.
This is a big problem with Republicans. They reflexively object to any government program until they are confronted personally with a situation that requires such intervention. They have no empathy for people in the abstract, always assuming that whomever is saying they are in need is a whining malcontent who could be just as healthy and self-sufficient as they are if they truly tried.

Until something happens to them or someone they love, that is, at which point they are converted.

Burton isn't the only one. There are always a smattering of Republicans who don't follow the party line on a particular issue like stem cell research or mental health coverage. When you look beneath the surface it's always because they personally know someone, usually a family member, who would benefit from the program. (You can often see this in national emergencies where they suddenly clamor for federal help after disdaining the same requests by people in other parts of the country and constantly voting against such measures on a programmatic level.)

I think this is one of the defining aspects of conservatism. They have a stunted sense of empathy and an undeveloped ability to understand abstract concepts. It makes them unable to fashion any solutions to common problems, which they blame on "poor character" because they cannot visualize themselves ever being in a vulnerable or unlucky position through no fault of their own. Until it happens to them or someone they know, in which case they never question their philosophy as a whole but merely apply a special exemption to whichever particular problem or risk to which they have personally been exposed.
Digby then closes with this observation:
I'm not drawing any conclusions from this, but it's interesting. It seems that when they test psychopaths, they find that they can't understand abstract concepts. I'm just saying.

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