responding to riots

I was in France during the week of rioting – “Londres – feu et sang” was the newspaper headline (fire and blood). Now some thoughts from the perspective of empathy seem called for.

Empathy was blocked – by adrenalin, by being part of a group, in some cases by hatred. The suffering Other disappeared from mental sight.

In the looting – the corporate Other displaced the individual human Other.

Empathy reappeared once the streets were safe.

Understanding the Other requires a maturity of understanding of the Self.  Tariq Jehan embodied that maturity, causing us to pause and admire:

Blacks, Asians, whites – we all live in the same community. Why do we have to kill each other? I lost my son. Step forward if you want to lose your sons. Otherwise, calm down and go home.

His words reminded people of what they share – a place, family – in contrast to the looting and destruction that was about one person taking from another.

Empathy is neutral; the moral dimension is added by us – I heard many people saying, “It was wrong”.




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