Empathy Remains Scarce

Interesting comment in this post by Cat Valente over at antipope.org:

On top of that, it’s damnably hard to fashion a sympathetic protagonist out of someone who has never struggled in the way we struggle in our own lives, to present someone who does not come off as a monster of privilege. My hat is off to those who can manage it, to me it seems a miraculous mid-air twist without a net.

Well, in my universe, at least, the answer is simple – they’re not all that sympathetic.  The modal Imperial citizen-shareholder has never experienced any significant amount of war, crime, disease, death, pain, poverty, suffering, injustice, fear, loss, callousness or even inconvenience.  The same is true to a lesser extent – the Empire being the most flagrantly proto-post-scarcity of the set – of citizens of most of the advanced societies of the Associated Worlds.

Their capacity for empathy with those still afflicted with such things, therefore, is highly circumscribed by a lack of imagination, or at the very least a lack of any particular desire to imagine.  That, and that the solutions are always perfectly clear in hindsight, and it does not take much to translate that lack of imagination as to how unclear they may have been in foresight into a stammered “All you of Earth are idiots!”  (There are people who endeavor to point this out to the people who want to make the world better, but it’s not easy.)

So, yes, by and large the average citizen of the advanced future is an accidental total dick when interacting with more trouble-beset folks, even if they are right about How You’re Doing It Wrong.  That’s just sophont nature.

Which is why I’m keeping away from writing this sort of situation.

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