slacktivist: Empathy and epistemic closure
If you've ever wondered why the Tea Partiers are so stupid, why the Arizona government is so monstrously bigoted, well, Fred Clark has an answer for you.
Fred Clark is fairly devastating here. Please click through and read the whole thing.
The recent conservative opposition to empathy might seem like a symptom of this epistemic closure, but I think it's more than that. I think it's a cause -- maybe even the root cause.
Empathy, at its most basic level, is epistemic. It is sometimes discussed as though it is identical to love, respect or regard for others, but really it precedes that. It is what makes such love, respect or regard for others possible -- what informs it. Empathy is a way of seeing, and therefore a way of knowing. To avoid empathy is to limit one's own perspective to only one's own perspective -- to choose not to see and therefore to choose not to know. Worse than that -- it is to choose not to be able to know.
Empathy, in other words, makes you smarter and wiser. Rejecting empathy makes you dumber and more foolish. To choose not to see what empathy shows us is to choose stupidity.
Stupidity has become a major, if not wholly acknowledged, theme in recent American politics. From Arizona to Massachusetts, it is a glaringly obvious fact of our political discourse, but one that is rarely spoken of directly.
Let's set such timid delicacy aside and state the obvious: The tea partiers are stupid. Look at them, listen to them -- these are stupid people behaving stupidly. They are hideously ill-informed and monstrously unconcerned with the fact of their being so ill-informed. Their stupidity fuels their anger and their anger fuels their stupidity. Spend five minutes listening to them and the overwhelming impression of resentful stupidity will only be reinforced. Spend hours listening to the speakers receiving the cheers at their rallies and hours more listening to Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin or Rush Limbaugh or any of the other demagogic leaders of this mob of a movement and the conclusion becomes undeniably confirmed: Stupid, stupid, stupid.
. . .
The stupidity of the tea partiers has nothing to do with innate intelligence or with acquired intelligence. It has nothing to do with smartness or brainpower or where anyone falls on the bell curve of Stanford-Binet test scores. It is, rather, a moral stupidity, a moral imbecilism that produces simple imbecilism -- the inevitable intellectual consequence of a selfish refusal to listen to what empathy is shouting from all sides.