Empathy means the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It’s the capacity to go inside the head of another being – be it human or animal – and experience what that other being experiences. If you lack this ability, it would be difficult for you to be compassionate to others. For example, if you see a person slaughtered like an animal in the streets and your first thought is, “Pusher kasi e” (even if you literally know nothing about that person) and feel something like unholy glee bubbling up your stomach, then you feel a sort of pride that you made the right choice in the last election, meanwhile not feeling anything about the person whose blood is staining the ground, and the sound of that person’s parents’/loved ones’ heartbreaking cries makes you think, “Kung walang kasalanan yan di yan papatayin!” (If he’s innocent he wouldn’t have been killed!) And an image of your idol’s smug, smirking, and gloating face flash before your eyes and you feel a sort of thrill that is almost sexual - well then. You might have a problem.
And, if you’re an adult that has gone through life not fully understanding (and doesn’t particularly care to know) the meaning of such nebulous concepts as “due process,” or “innocent until proven guilty,” or you think that “human rights” are for sissies who are “out of touch with reality,” then there is no hope for you.
One would just hope that you do not breed.
It’s one thing if you’re just an uneducated smegma, but it’s another thing if you are an idiot by choice, and is not even aware that your stupidity is so ingrained the gods themselves despair.
But perhaps the rest of us can still do something for the children. Maybe there is still hope that the next Filipino generation might not be a generation of psychopaths. Worth a shot, right?
So how could one develop empathy and compassion? Encouraging them to read is one way.
That’s why I encourage kids to read literature and explore the world. It’s a small step. But it’s a step in the right direction.
For example, it is extremely difficult to not feel empathy after you have read “The Little Prince,” or “The Old Man and the Sea,” or “Flowers for Algernon.” And “To Kill a Mockingbird”! Let’s not forget Atticus and his kids Scout and Jem.
And so we come to my point: literature should be taught at all levels. Because literature is not only about language.
It’s about life.