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Apathy Or “Joyous”? – A Thought Over The Darkness of Human Nature

Posted on: October 23, 2013

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 refer 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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