I have been described as lacking empathy. This isn’t a recollection of something said to me in an argument many moons ago, this is something that is said of me on a regular basis, and I suppose the fact that I couldn’t give a fuck only adds fuel to the fire. You see, having given it some serious thought, I have come to the conclusion that I really don’t care about much. What’s more, if you are an intelligent, thinking person, I’m willing to bet that you don’t really care about much either. I’m happy to believe that you claim to care about magnitudinally more than I do, but I would bet my bottom dollar that deep down, you really don’t give a fuck either.
Actually, I do care. I care about a handful of things. I care about my wife and daughter. I care about my ability to provide for them. I care about a small number of close friends, and I care that they are aware of the fact. Other than that, I refuse to waste whatever it is that keeps my heart pumping on anyone or anything.
I understand that this could easily be misinterpreted, and that it could easily make me look like a villain, but a) that is truly not the case, and b) I don’t care. The fact is that the world would be a much better place if people could find it within themselves to admit that they are essentially callous, selfish bastards.
Example. There are children starving to death all over the planet. Worldwide, 795 million people are undernourished, and they are just the ones that show up on the statistics. That’s a huge number of people, and a vast amount of suffering. It’s a terrible thing, and it would be an equally terrible thing for a well nourished person to state that they didn’t care, right?
Looking at more statistics, the chances are that you are one of the people who claims to care. You might even be outraged. At a push, you could be beside yourself with anger at the injustice of it all. To talk to you, anyone would think that you were Jesus. But in reality, what do you do about it?
You probably do more than me, in all fairness. You might watch the news or give a certain amount of money each month to a charity. You might even shed a tear when you see the distended bellies of famine ravaged children on the television, but in reality, what do you actually do? In fact, what CAN you do other than ‘care’?
Your care, you see, makes absolutely no difference. Do you think for a moment that the stomachs of staring children are bloated with care? Do you suspect for a second that they would burst if you cared more? Do you think that little Ashanti goes to bed at night thinking that even though he doesn’t expect to make it to the end of the week, it’s good to know that some privileged git on the other side of the planet cares? Of course not. Turn up to the box that Ashanti sleeps in with a few hundred dollars or even a sandwich, and the young lad would be delighted, but by ‘caring’ or making him the poster boy of misfortune, you do nothing. Why? Because in your heart of hearts, you care more about what type of sausages you are going
to buy this week.
I’m not having a go, and if you are offended you are free to stop reading at any time. The fact is though, that you are probably going to read this through to the end for the same reason that you pretend to care. You will read through to the end in the hope of finding a hole in the argument that allows you to justify your position. In reality though, you need to do neither, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
We are conditioned to show empathy. Back in the day, it was something that we needed to survive. To a degree, it still is. The difficulty is that in this world of readily available information, we are exposed to more misfortune than we can usefully care about or affect. Those of you who are old enough to remember Live Aid (the real one, not the Jive Bunny versions that followed) will recall the horror of what we were shown. Most of us were fortunate enough to have been largely unaware of the horrors that much of the world faced on a daily basis. We saw, we cared, we gave, and hopefully, we made a difference. It was fortunate of course, that this was the only crisis happening in the world at the time, and there weren’t millions of other people starving to death that we were unaware of. Thank goodness that we could lend a hand to the only people on the planet that needed it. Thank goodness that we weren’t just giving ourselves a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. Thank goodness that we genuinely gave a fuck.
Now that we have a little Live Aid around every corner, it’s good to know that we can we can make much more noise and much less difference.
For every child who doesn’t get a Pot Noodle, a unicorn dies.
There are a great many things that we could care about, but there are only a handful that we change. And that’s fine. If we all concern ourselves with the things that we can affect, then we, and the people that we love will be OK. Beyond that, there isn’t much that most of us can do in the wider scheme of things. There will still be wars, famines, droughts, earthquakes, hurricanes, disease, murder, genocide, suicide, tidal waves, and accidents. They are, and always will be out of your control. They are part of the stuff that we don’t much like.
So, give a few coins to a homeless guy. If you can afford it, buy him a house. Adopt an orphan. Pay for the medical care of a sick immigrant. Resuscitate an accident victim. Drive safely. Stick your finger up a puppy’s arse if it makes you happy. Make yourself feel better. Justify your sorry existence. But for the love of God, stop telling me how much you care.
Minister of Stuff.