Empathy

This suggests that there’s something about the experience of high status that hurts our ability to connect with others emotionally. Other studies have suggested that high status makes people less compassionate, less generous and less interested in connecting with others in general.

How inequality hurts Romney’s happiness
By Jason Marsh, Special to CNN

I read the above opinion editorial this morning and realized that I have been conducting a similar, albeit low level survey of my own. I have fallen into the habit of asking people if they would extend credit or help someone who needed groceries. I didn’t ask for money or groceries for myself, I just wanted to know if they would step up to the plate to help another fellow human being in need.

I suppose the local establishments figure I’m actually as loony as it has been reported to them so they responded without an after thought. I had thought we were over the ‘me’ generation; however, it is apparently not true. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised at the responses that I received. After all everyone is out to gather as many shells and stones as possible before they drop dead. I’m not sure what their intention is once they have accumulated so many of the prizes, but I guess it makes them feel better as they have attained a higher status. Or at least these people who are collecting think that they have attained a higher status which may be the case.

Here’s the results of my low level questioning. Out of several grocery/convenience stores not one of the owners would extend either credit or help to someone who asked for it. Now these are local establishments that certainly make a profit otherwise they wouldn’t be in business. In addition, I fully understand that if they started to extend credit to one person then they would establish a precedent and other people would follow. There wouldn’t be any end to the number of people that the store would be supplying and then without capital to purchase products the store would have to close. Moreover, not one of the owners would entertain a person working for them in order to either pay for the goods or barter/trade.

Furthermore, none of the owners were interested in purchasing or trading any produce/product for theirs. Since this is a rural area and there are many farmers who produce goods: eggs, meat, grains and even transportation/trucking services it wouldn’t be too far out of one’s imagination to be able to trade or barter. However, the farmer’s products are not good enough to be taken in trade. The local establishments would rather have eggs, meats, etc. trucked in, put on the shelf and have the population pay more for a possibly inferior product. One farmer commented to me that he has better vegetables than the ones in the stores and indeed he does. Not only are the farmer’s vegetables fresher because they haven’t been sitting in a warehouse or endured shipping, but in many cases they are pesticide free.

Certainly the owners of these small establishments are not of the same ilk as Romney or others who have enough money to live on for not only their lifetimes but their children’s children’s children. And they are local so that they see and know the people of the area. They are not as removed as a CEO of a major company such as Wal-Mart, Target, Home Depot, etc. So what makes them unable or incapable of being more empathetic to the plight of their neighbors?

When questioned further about what a person might do in such a condition where they needed groceries most responded with the same retort. Women according to the owners should immediately either go on welfare or find a ‘guy’. If it was a family that included a man then he needed to get off drugs and stop drinking. Then he had better find a job to provide for his family. But if these solutions weren’t sufficient then there were always the food banks. In addition, they could make an application for help from their local towns. On the other hand, none of the local establishments donate to any of the social agencies that they mentioned. However, they did note that they all pay exorbitant taxes which pay for ‘those people’.

Is the answer to the coldness of the people who have ‘made it’ versus those that are struggling the same as corporate heads? Is it that even in a small pond the big fish want to devour the small ones? What eliminates their ability to be humane? In conclusion, does having all of the shells and stones make them happy by virtue of having risen above others?

And so it goes…

Copyright © 2011

 

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