© Copyright 2019. UnderstandingXYZ.com,  All rights reserved.
Old Anima
Existing Between Squashed and Built-Up Optimism: How Long will the Current Empathy Deficit Go On? For me – and I stress the singular “me” throughout this essay - wisdom in old age brings with it a disconcerting feeling that much about humankind is crazy and foolish, lacking in meaning and downright absurd. Perhaps I feel this way because I just spent hours upon hours trying to figure out my 2018 taxes.  But really, old age has brought a pessimism about the future that is extremely disheartening. Sometimes I think such pessimistic feelings, or what can perhaps also be defined as squashed optimism, are the result of what’s emanating from our current politicians that I’ve been following closely (too closely) since 2016, especially at the top and on both sides of the aisle, where blatant, infantile, misinformed and hypocritical behavior coming out of pseudo grownups has become commonplace. I’m flabbergasted by it all. Aren’t our elected officials supposed to represent our best interests and not divide us further, especially the guy at the top? I can’t help feeling that if a kinder administration -regardless of party affiliation- inhabited the White House right now that perhaps I would not be feeling so down about what the near future seems to herald. But it’s much more than politics.  What Old Age Should Do for You I see increased levels of pessimism in what looks like a dramatic jump in peoples’ overt selfishness and lack of understanding concerning the trials and tribulations fellow humans experience through no fault of their own. I know this because I too was selfish and lacked understanding as a younger man. Old age changes all that, if you pay attention and seek out wisdom. Your awareness and empathy levels increase, I believe, primarily because you have more time to pay attention to what’s really going on in the world outside of yourself, instead of being single-mindedly focused on your personal goals and the support you have always struggled to provide to your significant others when you were younger. You’ve reached a plateau on the mountain where everything below has taught you how to climb to higher levels of knowing and human decency. According to Psychology Today, “empathy is the experience of understanding another person's thoughts, feelings, and condition from his or her point of view, rather than from one's own. Empathy facilitates prosocial or helping behaviors that come from within, rather than being forced, so that people behave in a more compassionate manner. . .” Empathy, in general, is a thought-provoking topic. In the recently published “The Empathy Effect: Seven Neuroscience-Based Keys for Transforming the Way We Live, Love, Work, and Connect Across Differences,” by Helen Reiss, MD, readers are given an expansive view of how more empathy creates a much better world. Reiss’s research took off when she started teaching overly busy doctors how to be more empathetic with their patients, resulting in more positive interactions in healthcare. From that work, requests for empathy training started to reach her desk from other businesses, and she came to the realization that the empathy training methods she developed for doctors “can be applied to everyone, no matter who they are, what they do, or where they come from.” She added that her book was written “to demonstrate how showing greater empathy toward your fellow human beings can enhance your own life and society as a whole.” She wrote, “through empathy, parents see their children for who they are and help them realize their potential. Teachers connect with students in ways that help learners discover and expand their talents. Businesses are more likely to thrive because they invest in the people working for them. Politicians start to represent the needs of all of their constituencies.” If only Reiss could offer her course to all of U.S. Congress, with a difficult-to-achieve pass/fail grade. Make it mandatory every election cycle as part of one’s induction into serving the American people. Why a Good Number of Older Adults are F’ing Everything Up  It’s unfortunate, however, that many folks have lost their capacity for empathy, or perhaps they never had empathy in the first place. You can see this in the folks who actually support separating families in the name of immigration reform, or when you hear a world leader say “there were good people on both sides” in reference to people carrying torches chanting “Jews will not replace us,” or when a talented NFL football player gets blackballed for being empathetic about the issue of unjust police brutality. I won’t bore you with more examples of empathy deficits, except to say they are numerous and more frequent these days. A large percentage of older folks seem to fill this unfortunate empathy deficit space more than others - not exclusively, of course, because there are plenty of young people who lack empathy as well (consider the crowd of torch bearers in Charlottesville were mostly young adults). But many older adults have become stuck in long-standing beliefs that are not consistent with the issues and challenges we face today as an extraordinarily diverse global society. Instead of embracing a beautiful world overflowing with diversity, such people become fearful and intolerant of non-violent others who are not culturally similar, do not look like them, or do not follow the same religious dogmas. This is depressing, considering that older adults are supposed to be wiser. I should add here - no surprise - that I have reached the conclusion that supporters of this current White House administration have a severe lack of human empathy, and the majority of these folks are older adults. The evidence of an empathy deficit in older adults can be seen in a variety of trends and statistics identifying where the generations stand on a wide variety of issues. For example, according to PEW Research, Millennials (age 23 to 38) and Gen Xers (age 39-54) stand apart from the two older cohorts, Baby Boomers (age 55 to 73) and Silents (age 74 to 91), on immigration, race, foreign policy and scope of government. “And on many issues, Millennials continue to have a distinct – and increasingly liberal – outlook.” Pew further breaks down the many differences between the four aforementioned generations as follows (not a complete list): 27% of Millennials approve of 45’s job performance, while 36% of Gen Xers approve, 44% of Boomers approve, and 46% of Silents approve. While it is good to see that overall most people disapprove of 45, this trend also reveals a disturbing lack of critical thinking, happening mostly among older adults. “Millennials are more than 40% nonwhite, the highest share of any adult generation; by contrast, Silents (and older adults) are 79% white.” What does that tell you? I think it points to an increase in diversity tolerance and less racism into the future. “Millennials (79%), Gen Xers (66%) and Boomers (56%) say immigrants do more to strengthen than burden the country, only about half of Silents (47%) say this.” Another example driving tolerance vs. intolerance of immigrants as related to age. 77% of Millennials believe that good diplomacy is the best way to ensure peace, while only 43% of Silents feel the same, and 52% of Boomers (52%) say “peace is best ensured by good diplomacy rather than military strength.” This is extremely disturbing. It relates strongly to dangerous nuclear proliferation on a global scale. “62% of Silents say good morals depend on one’s belief in God, while only 29% of Millennials feel the same. What does this say about generational differences? I think it means simply thtat more tolerance for different beliefs are not so evident with older folks as they are with younger folks. In another Pew Research paper, Generation Zers (age 14 to 22) are profiled from a social and political trends point of view. Gen Zers are very similar to Millennials, with 30% of Zers approving of 45’s job performance. In addition: Zers “are much more likely than their elders to approve of NFL players kneeling during the national anthem as a sign of protest.” “Majorities among Gen Z and the Millennial generation say increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the U.S. is a good thing for society, while older generations are less convinced of this. And they’re more likely to have a positive view of interracial and same- sex marriage than their older counterparts.” “Gen Zers’ views about climate change are virtually identical to those of Millennials and not markedly different from Gen Xers. About half in all three generations say the earth is getting warmer due to human activity. Boomers are somewhat more skeptical of this than Gen Zers or Millennials. Members of the Silent Generation are least likely to say this (38%) and are more likely to say the earth is warming mainly due to natural patterns (28%) than are Gen Zers, Millennials and Gen Xers.” There are many more examples in both Pew papers showing generational differences that lead one to conclude that older adults contribute much more to a disturbing empathy deficit that is driven mostly by a penchant toward narrow-mindedness on numerous fronts. Optimism On the Horizon As all of this happens before our eyes, I do take some solace in an optimistic feeling that younger folks will ultimately bring about a kinder, more empathetic world. Now let’s hope that they get out to vote in record numbers come November 2020. It’s unfortunate that we have to wait until then to get a reprieve from all the empathy-deficit insanity so prevalent right now. And, of course, things could actually get worse if Americans take a another turn toward another incomprehensible voting disaster.  Thanks for stopping by, George
“As human beings, what makes us able to empathize with people is a connection that is not necessarily understood mentally.”   - Lupita Nyong'o
Old Anima
© Copyright 2019. UnderstandingXYZ.com. All rights reserved.
Existing Between Squashed and Built-Up Optimism: How Long will the Current Empathy Deficit Go On? For me – and I stress the singular “me” throughout this essay - wisdom in old age brings with it a disconcerting feeling that much about humankind is crazy and foolish, lacking in meaning and downright absurd. Perhaps I feel this way because I just spent hours upon hours trying to figure out my 2018 taxes.  But really, old age has brought a pessimism about the future that is extremely disheartening. Sometimes I think such pessimistic feelings, or what can perhaps also be defined as squashed optimism, are the result of what’s emanating from our current politicians that I’ve been following closely (too closely) since 2016, especially at the top and on both sides of the aisle, where blatant, infantile, misinformed and hypocritical behavior coming out of pseudo grownups has become commonplace. I’m flabbergasted by it all. Aren’t our elected officials supposed to represent our best interests and not divide us further, especially the guy at the top? I can’t help feeling that if a kinder administration - regardless of party affiliation- inhabited the White House right now that perhaps I would not be feeling so down about what the near future seems to herald. But it’s much more than politics.  What Old Age Should Do for You I see increased levels of pessimism in what looks like a dramatic jump in peoples’ overt selfishness and lack of understanding concerning the trials and tribulations fellow humans experience through no fault of their own. I know this because I too was selfish and lacked understanding as a younger man. Old age changes all that, if you pay attention and seek out wisdom. Your awareness and empathy levels increase, I believe, primarily because you have more time to pay attention to what’s really going on in the world outside of yourself, instead of being single-mindedly focused on your personal goals and the support you have always struggled to provide to your significant others when you were younger. You’ve reached a plateau on the mountain where everything below has taught you how to climb to higher levels of knowing and human decency. According to Psychology Today, “empathy is the experience of understanding another person's thoughts, feelings, and condition from his or her point of view, rather than from one's own. Empathy facilitates prosocial or helping behaviors that come from within, rather than being forced, so that people behave in a more compassionate manner. . .” Empathy, in general, is a thought-provoking topic. In the recently published “The Empathy Effect: Seven Neuroscience-Based Keys for Transforming the Way We Live, Love, Work, and Connect Across Differences,” by Helen Reiss, MD, readers are given an expansive view of how more empathy creates a much better world. Reiss’s research took off when she started teaching overly busy doctors how to be more empathetic with their patients, resulting in more positive interactions in healthcare. From that work, requests for empathy training started to reach her desk from other businesses, and she came to the realization that the empathy training methods she developed for doctors “can be applied to everyone, no matter who they are, what they do, or where they come from.” She added that her book was written “to demonstrate how showing greater empathy toward your fellow human beings can enhance your own life and society as a whole.” She wrote, “through empathy, parents see their children for who they are and help them realize their potential. Teachers connect with students in ways that help learners discover and expand their talents. Businesses are more likely to thrive because they invest in the people working for them. Politicians start to represent the needs of all of their constituencies.” If only Reiss could offer her course to all of U.S. Congress, with a difficult-to-achieve pass/fail grade. Make it mandatory every election cycle as part of one’s induction into serving the American people. Why a Good Number of Older Adults are F’ing Everything Up  It’s unfortunate, however, that many folks have lost their capacity for empathy, or perhaps they never had empathy in the first place. You can see this in the folks who actually support separating families in the name of immigration reform, or when you hear a world leader say “there were good people on both sides” in reference to people carrying torches chanting “Jews will not replace us,” or when a talented NFL football player gets blackballed for being empathetic about the issue of unjust police brutality. I won’t bore you with more examples of empathy deficits, except to say they are numerous and more frequent these days. A large percentage of older folks seem to fill this unfortunate empathy deficit space more than others - not exclusively, of course, because there are plenty of young people who lack empathy as well (consider the crowd of torch bearers in Charlottesville were mostly young adults). But many older adults have become stuck in long-standing beliefs that are not consistent with the issues and challenges we face today as an extraordinarily diverse global society. Instead of embracing a beautiful world overflowing with diversity, such people become fearful and intolerant of non-violent others who are not culturally similar, do not look like them, or do not follow the same religious dogmas. This is depressing, considering that older adults are supposed to be wiser. I should add here - no surprise - that I have reached the conclusion that supporters of this current White House administration have a severe lack of human empathy, and the majority of these folks are older adults. The evidence of an empathy deficit in older adults can be seen in a variety of trends and statistics identifying where the generations stand on a wide variety of issues. For example, according to PEW Research, Millennials (age 23 to 38) and Gen Xers (age 39-54) stand apart from the two older cohorts, Baby Boomers (age 55 to 73) and Silents (age 74 to 91), on immigration, race, foreign policy and scope of government. “And on many issues, Millennials continue to have a distinct – and increasingly liberal – outlook.” Pew further breaks down the many differences between the four aforementioned generations as follows (not a complete list): 27% of Millennials approve of 45’s job performance, while 36% of Gen Xers approve, 44% of Boomers approve, and 46% of Silents approve. While it is good to see that overall most people disapprove of 45, this trend also reveals a disturbing lack of critical thinking, happening mostly among older adults. “Millennials are more than 40% nonwhite, the highest share of any adult generation; by contrast, Silents (and older adults) are 79% white.” What does that tell you? I think it points to an increase in diversity tolerance and less racism well into the future.  “Millennials (79%), Gen Xers (66%) and Boomers (56%) say immigrants do more to strengthen than burden the country, only about half of Silents (47%) say this.” Another example driving tolerance vs. intolerance of immigrants as related to age. 77% of Millennials believe that good diplomacy is the best way to ensure peace, while only 43% of Silents feel the same, and 52% of Boomers (52%) say “peace is best ensured by good diplomacy rather than military strength.” This is extremely disturbing. It relates strongly to dangerous nuclear proliferation on a global scale. “62% of Silents say good morals depend on one’s belief in God, while only 29% of Millennials feel the same. What does this say about generational differences? I think it means simply thtat more tolerance for different beliefs are not so evident with older folks as they are with younger folks. In another Pew Research paper, Generation Zers (age 14 to 22) are profiled from a social and political trends point of view. Gen Zers are very similar to Millennials, with 30% of Zers approving of 45’s job performance. In addition: Zers “are much more likely than their elders to approve of NFL players kneeling during the national anthem as a sign of protest.” “Majorities among Gen Z and the Millennial generation say increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the U.S. is a good thing for society, while older generations are less convinced of this. And they’re more likely to have a positive view of interracial and same-sex marriage than their older counterparts.” “Gen Zers’ views about climate change are virtually identical to those of Millennials and not markedly different from Gen Xers. About half in all three generations say the earth is getting warmer due to human activity. Boomers are somewhat more skeptical of this than Gen Zers or Millennials. Members of the Silent Generation are least likely to say this (38%) and are more likely to say the earth is warming mainly due to natural patterns (28%) than are Gen Zers, Millennials and Gen Xers.” There are many more examples in both Pew papers showing generational differences that lead one to conclude that older adults contribute much more to a disturbing empathy deficit that is driven mostly by a penchant toward narrow-mindedness on numerous fronts. Optimism On the Horizon As all of this happens before our eyes, I do take some solace in an optimistic feeling that younger folks will ultimately bring about a kinder, more empathetic world. Now let’s hope that they get out to vote in record numbers come November 2020. It’s unfortunate that we have to wait until then to get a reprieve from all the empathy-deficit insanity so prevalent right now. And, of course, things could actually get worse if Americans take a another turn toward another incomprehensible voting disaster. Thanks for stopping by, George
“As human beings, what makes us able to empathize with people is a connection that is not necessarily understood mentally.”   - Lupita Nyong'o