Wednesday, June 24, 2020

But What About

I’ve not talked to a single officer who supported what happened in Minneapolis, yet every one of us is being painted with that broad brush. Everyone’s screaming about racism and racial inequality—but is that not what everybody is doing to law enforcement? With racism, people get in power and use that power against another ethnicity. Now, [activists] have a voice because of what happened to Floyd, but they’re using that power against another group. That group happens to be law enforcement.

We understand it’s not all of you, but you wanna sit there—I’m sure you’ve seen memes that people have sent around about 1,000 good cops, but if you have 10 bad cops, you have 1,100[sic] bad cops because we’re not holding one another accountable. The same could be flipped, with 1,000 protesters and 10 agitators.
In One Day, We Became the Worst Things in the Country” Slate Magazine
The quotes above illustrate for me the idea that suffering does not create empathy for others who suffer. If we take the officers at face value, they clearly feel that the people who protest them, who they feel have been the targets prejudice and the whims of people in power, are more than happy to turn the tables when given the chance. And they are, to some degree, likely correct in that assessment. Yet it's also clear that they're just as willing to paint with broad brushes themselves. Doing unto others as has been done unto them becomes the watchword.

When people suffer, many of them see only their own suffering, and the keen feeling that it is undeserved. And this is often felt more strongly than any identification with others who suffer, even when the sufferers know who those people are, and can name their suffering.

And so the cycle of inflicting pain continues. Philospher Thomas Nagel once noted that people feel that their own pains are morally important, to the point that other people should care about them. Those who claimed otherwise, Professor Nagel claimed, were either dishonest or mentally ill. While I personally feel that he is incorrect in such a blanket assessment, it's understandable how he came to such a conclusion. But perhaps more importantly, for people who do feel that what happens to them is of universal moral significance, it often appears that they see it as the primary thing that others should be concerned with, and when they see others as being dissimilar to themselves, they don't see their pains as being of equal moral weight. And inflicting more pain on them doesn't change that.

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