October 23, 2013

Apathy Or "Joyousness"? - A Thought Over The Darkness of Human Nature

Empathy (Photo credit: TonZ)
In recently days I had some emotional disturbance over a small casual "social" encounter. This small social event again, demonstrated some dark image of human nature to me, that is the lack of empathy. Actually "lack of empathy" is an underestimation. What I really saw is a kind of mental state which I would name it as "an unconcealable joy upon others' suffering".

Yes, lack of empathy is far from the worst. I just finished reading a mystery novel "A Judgement In Stone", written by Ruth Rendell, in which she brilliantly demonstrates what is "lack of empathy" (This book is a real classic!). Lack of empathy is just apathy, which would not motivate people to do harm to others, unless their lives are threatened. No, what I refered here is much worse. it is a kind of "joyousness" brought by others' suffering. Yes, this kind of feeling does exist in plenty of people's minds, and when facing others misery, they feel so "happy" that they could hardly disguise their emotion as anything else.

Sadly, I witness this fact through my ordinary daily life, now and then, more or less. Am I too sensitive? Or am I exaggerating facts?

It is one thing to kill for survive, another to kill for pleasure. I always wonder why during those historical disasters so many people were capable of committing stunning atrocities, wonder why those serial killers, torture or death executioners could go through all those gruesome "procedures". The answer is "pleasure". They "enjoyed" what they did.

I am not saying those people I interacted with are exactly this kind of "evils", but they do remind me this mindset. I believe this mindset truly is the "champion" of the darkness of human nature, and it is responsible for many unnecessary man-made miseries, and it exists widely, more or less, consciously or unconsciously, in many people's minds. And when time is "right", it will do great damage, just as we witnessed before in the course of human history, again and again. Like Hu Ping (a contemporary Chinese philosopher) said: "People always put the word "kind" to all the weak individuals, but what they do not know is, the reason some of these individuals appear to be "kind" is only because they do not have chance to be evil."

It will be a much more serious topic to think of why people act like this. By studying history I have some clues, but it would be too immature for me to explain in this short post. All I must point out here is, that the people who possess this "evil" mindset are not "evils" by nature, they are normal people, even "kind" or "nice" people in many people's eyes. Truly, if we look at human society from evolutionary perspective, there is really no "good" and "evil" exist, only "mechanism". That is, what drive people to "good" or "bad" sides are not "God" or "Satan", but natural elements, include the genes, natural or social environments, experience, etc. So by this view, we would understand better why people act like this way. (Really, if you read "A Judgement of Stone", you may really understand why Eunice Parchman kills Coverdale family with cold blood.)

However, isn't this view harder for our human to swallow than the religious view, which we could put responsibility to "God" and "Satan" for all our “deeds”? Do we not to feel more lost, more helpless if we know that all these tragedies were driven by natural causes? My answer is "yes". But to know is better than not to know, because only if we understand darkness better, could we do better to avoid it happens.
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  1. So many people are fearful, angry, frustrated, and just looking for an excuse to vent on someone else. There's a limit to how much damage one person can do; but when that anger becomes institutionalized, organized, ideologized, there's no end to the cruelty and inhumanity that can result.

  2. Although religion certainly wasn't invented to justify cruelty, the self-righteousness it engenders often excuses it in the name of God. I agree with you about the good/evil thing, that everyone has the potential for either, and that ultimately, people are responsible for their actions.

  3. It is most definitely not you being too sentitive. At times I fel as if I could run through the streets screaming for humanity to stop hurt each other. This world we are experiencing (the darker side) is not what I thought would be my future. I am sadly, no ... I am profoundly saddened by these mean spirited people who laugh and scorn others and love it whenever someone is failing, falling down or a host of other things. I always imagined a bright world with peace and love and people dancing together over-brimming with happiness and joy. What happened!?!

  4. I've always felt there were two types of people who enjoy others' misery. One type is downright certifiable -- they just enjoy watching or inflicting pain on others. The other type is one who thinks there is a certain amount of pain that must be inflicted on the world, in general. When someone else is the target, that means they've escaped and are therefore, thankful. Both types weird me out.

  5. Realx, Yun. Man is only an animal. Now, what were you expecting?

    PS- Never mind the good spirits. May be they are just what Hu Ping says. Or else they are aberrant mutants doomed to fail.

  6. I think we all have the ability to laugh and enjoy any calamity or worse that is happening to another person but we choose not to. I don't know at what point in life and exactly how, people such as serial killers or those that inflict great harm get to that stage or maybe it's a long process or perhaps they are born like that. Who knows?

    Sometimes people themselves are having such a bad time in life that when they see someone else get into a bad situation they enjoy it. It's a kind of way to say, everyone was against me and my woes, now your in my boat. Hope I explained this ok.

    I know a person who spends the majority of her time smiling whenever things go wrong in the family. She spews out curses whenever she can get them in, and everything she does is negative. When she is positive, it's because she's looking for a negative downfall. I expect nothing less from her and I stay well clear of people like that. Some people are just dark with no light, so to speak.

    Your post opens up so many questions I don't know where to start. Very thought provoking.