Empathy and connection
Empathy - the power to connect with others, to understand what they are going through.
I've been thinking about it a lot these last few weeks as I see the reaction to the take over of Afghanistan by the Taliban.
As a white western woman living in my cosy house in the United Kingdom it can be hard to relate and put myself in their shoes, to understand what they are going through. And the worlds media has made those of us in the West numb to images of war zones, starving children, destitute refugees that's its become like a film that we can watch and walk away from.
Think of your favourite TV programs and films the ones you watch over and over again, they are the ones where you have a connection to a character (s) and empathy for what they are going through even in a fantasy or science fiction world. We get to know traits about them that makes us connect, the books they read, the jokes they tell, their love of animals etc. We do the same in real life. I am a scientist, a writer, a coach and a witch. Today myself and an engineer made a connection on zoom because I have a vintage microscope on the shelf behind me. It broke down barrier, he told me of his love of collecting aeronautical books and instruments. Not something I am interested in, but I collect and I have a science interest, so we connected. Our conversation flowed and he has offered ways to help me on my project. We connected and we have empathy for each others similar working situations.
So now lets go back to the refugees we see on the news. The media and our governments never interview these people on the ground. They show them as "different" as "other". They wear different clothes, speak a different language, have different colour skin, different beliefs, and from that we make assumptions. The media like to show us only pictures of men, not of families. So we make more assumptions. We assume that as we see pictures of people in dirt and dust trying to escape persecution that they are dirty, they are unkempt. (we would be too if we were escaping). We assume they are not standing up for their own country. (they are but the media aren't telling us this, but how far would you go to risk your family ? ) We assume they are not deserving because our media and governments have marked them as "other". And that is what they want. "Other" - as humans we are scared of "other", and as I see some of the callous comments on social media from people sat in their cosy homes with no fear of someone coming and knocking on their door to kill, rape or maim them, saying "no to other", "other is bad". But sometimes someone will show us that other has something in common with us and then we relate.
I've seen this happen about animals, two animal rescue centres in Kabul have been posting on social media. One led by a British ex marine Pen Farthing the charity NOWZAD and one led by an American woman Charlotte the not for profit Kabul Small Animal Rescue. Would we have listened if Afghans were posting, I doubt it. Because we had already removed one barrier of "other" because they look and sound like us, so we listened. Then we saw pictures and images of dogs and cats being rescued from the streets, but also pets left behind by Americans and British, and others who are leaving. These were people of Afghanistan, "others" doing what many of us, who are animal lovers would do. They were rescuing animals. We saw images of these rescues of puppies and kittens, of cats and dogs, we saw them feeding them, playing with them and protecting them. And with it those people in Afghanistan stopped being other. We can relate to them and now we want to hear the stories of young men and women training to be vets and veterinary nurses, we want to learn about their families and how they will try everything they can to save these animals. We have empathy, we can relate. They are no longer other, because we can see how they have similar value and beliefs systems to us and now we want to help them because of it.
But the response of some, including some in power is to try and stop us in the West helping the "others" in Afghanistan. Ego's and politics trying to distract us from the true issues. The media and these politicians, from all sides, (I'll call them ego's going forward) focusing on a couple of privately funded flights to safety, because they have animals on board , so these "ego's" can focus on this as a diversion, to say. "Look we care for these people and are putting people before animals" Basically saying "look at me, look at my ego, look I am better than you, look at humans not animals, but most of all keep looking at these human beings as "other" " because what they fear most is we have empathy for these people. These people with names. And when people have empathy for others they have power. They have power to make change and they have the power to make a difference. And once we accept one "other" we will accept "other others too". We can't have that. Because once we stop seeming them as "other" and start caring we start asking questions. We ask the questions about "why were flights stopped?" "why did we withdrawal without giving support" we start to look for facts, we ask "why are flights leaving which are empty, but you are denying extra flights to leave with extra people?" we ask "why can privately funded flights get people out but government funded ones are leaving half empty or rescuing cars". And then we start questioning other things they are doing? And they don't want that.
So next time you find yourself looking at something as "other" - stop and consider who is giving you that message and is it truly yours. Talk to someone or find out about the real people, the real stories behind the news.
Stop fuelling "other". We've all done it. I have done it and I know I'll have to stop myself forming the "other" vision in the future. But we need to be aware, we need to make the first steps and we need to ensure we are working to our own values and beliefs, not the ones that the outside world can make us think we should believe.
So be kind. You won't always have empathy with "other". Some "other" will go against your core values and beliefs and if that's so, do you need that "other" in your life. Don't try and change them, change yourself, but most of all don't hate them. We can all live in a world with different opinions and different values and beliefs. We can have ideas and ideals that are completely different. But it doesn't mean we have to hate those people. Just take time to understand "other" and learn to live with "other" if they are not someone you can empathise with. If their "other" doesn't impact you and your sphere of influence then, why waste your energy. Focus on you. Let them be them. But don't let it fuel hate, but where you can relate to other who you can help, help them, because one day you may be grateful that "other" helped you.
Sending love to all those who are suffering across the world - you may be "other" but we can hear, we can listen and we can try to empathise. And where we can't we will be kind.
The Magical Mojo Coach
Inspiring women to live a life of magic and wonder to follow their dreams.
Founder of the Magical Mojo Academy - Life Coaching with a hint of witchery.
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