I keep seeing friends of mine post Kayla Chadwick’s article, I Don’t Know How To Explain To You That You Should Care About Other People, and I have to say, I think it really doesn’t matter in the scheme of things whether others care about other people. Progressive ideals are not just for compassionate people.
Progressive ideals don’t just benefit the poor, minorities, and others who are downtrodden and disadvantaged. If you are worried because people don’t really care, you really haven’t fully grasped the strength and value of progressive policies—for all people in society.
While I agree with Chadwick that, “Our disagreement is not merely political, but a fundamental divide on what it means to live in a society,” the idea that the only way to debate this issue is based on how much empathy or compassion a person has, or not, is a losing argument.
Developing empathy for others takes time, is unlikely to get any better in adulthood without further formal education, and is deeply rooted in human psychology with some people incapable of empathy, or almost entirely so.
According to John Malouff, Associate Professor, School of Behavioural, Cognitive and, Social Sciences, University of New England, “In its most complete form, empathy involves understanding the emotion of another person, feeling the emotion and responding appropriately to it.” He also tells us that, while there can be temporary changes observable from adult students and health care workers, “…we do not know for sure whether we can increase empathy in ordinary people through formal training. We also do not know whether it is possible to help anyone make a long-term gain in empathy.”
The likelihood that there is going to be a serious redistribution of empathy in this country within the next 2-4 years is obviously dismally low. If you want to argue the value of progressive policies based on whether or not someone has empathy, or even compassion, for others, you will always lose.
As progressives, if we want to win this ideological war, we obviously have to find better support for our arguments—and fast.
I do not, however, believe we should view our position as indefensible. The problem is not where we are coming from. The problem is not our ideals. I argue that the root of our problem lies in the very way we are communicating our ideas to those who might disagree, or, at best, are still trying to make up their minds, leading them to perceive our ideas as weak, or flawed. While people are weak or flawed, progressive ideas are not.
Our job, if what we really want to do is win, is to come from a position of strength. Why on earth are we not coming from a position of strength? We are arguing for a healthier, safer, more educated, more technologically advanced society with better infrastructure that supports the well-being of all its citizens, and ensures the future vitality of the world we are proud and happy to live in.
We are not arguing from weakness. The right most certainly is. So far, we’ve let them define the battleground and we’ve putted around while they engage us in skirmishes on all fronts. This last election woke the beast, but it’s not enough. Progressives, it’s time. If we care even the slightest bit, we need to actively drive home our agenda. If we care about the future of this country, we need to stand by our values and bring the war of ideas to them.