Psychopaths don’t feel much emotion. That doesn’t mean they don’t understand it. When we talk about emotion understanding, we talk about both emotional and cognitive empathy. Emotional empathy is just what it sounds like – we empathize with emotion through our own emotional response. This is what happens when you watch a movie about a bad breakup that then triggers the memory of how Deborah broke up with you on the pier two years ago, Alex. (I really hope an Alex is reading this who went through that exact situation. Cry for me, Alex.). Cognitive empathy is different. It’s the logical process of understanding emotion through learning how it affects others. We can see the cause and effect of triggering Alex, and if we dig deeper we can see the processes in between.
"I bet if Jared Leto was playing a chimp in a movie, he’d study chimps as intensely as Jane Goodall does."
People with psychopathy don’t use emotional empathy because that would require feeling emotion in the past in order to try and empathize with it. Instead, we employ cognitive empathy to feel more like you fine folk. It’s like Jane Goodall watching chimps, except psychopaths are not watching the chimps, we’re watching Jane Goodall. Why does she get off spending most of her life watching chimps? Maybe if we watch Jane Goodall enough we can get in her mindset and become like her? But what if she’s just watching chimps to become like a chimp herself? Would we become chimp-like eventually? I bet if Jared Leto was playing a chimp in a movie, he’d study chimps as intensely as Jane Goodall does. Wait – maybe he’d be a bit more intense. He’s method. Would Jared Leto shit in his own hand and masturbate at the zoo? Probably. This isn’t about Jared Leto, this is about Jane Goodall – I mean, fuck. This is about people. The point is, we study people to become more like people. We learn to not empathize with people emotionally, but cognitively.
This cognitive understanding also aids something called, theory of mind. It’s kind of a philosophical point, but basically it means a person is another person and we understand that a person is another person. This other person has different ways of thinking than we do, because in their mind they exist within their own universe and are the central player in it. Now, psychopaths are pretty good at understanding theory of mind. This allows us to cognitively, not emotionally, put ourselves into the shoes of another person and predict how they may think or react to things that happen to them. It’s how a serial killer can catch you in a spider’s web of their own making, or how you take Deborah back even though she broke your heart, Alex, but she knows all the right things to say to make you forgive her… Alex…
So, now that we know these things, let’s explore the fucking shit show of an issue on America’s plate today – child prisoners. I’m not going to call them detainees, like the White House wants us to. They are prisoners. Of concentration camps. American concentration camps. These children come to America through unbelievable hardships in order to have a chance at living a life where they won’t be drafted into a gang just to survive or decapitated for having the audacity of going to college instead.
"We need to put ourselves in the shoes of an immigrant. And they’re probably wearing TOMS Shoes, so they should slip on pretty easily."
You see, us Americans… We aren’t thinking with our heads right now. We aren’t utilizing cognitive empathy to understand the situation of these immigrants. And I use “we” for the Left and the Right because there is far too much divide in our country. I won’t let this post be another brick in the wall separating us. We need to put ourselves in the shoes of an immigrant. And they’re probably wearing TOMS Shoes, so they should slip on pretty easily. It’s not hard to say, “fuck, the world outside of my own immediate bubble is fucked.” Well, what are we as a nation going to do to make it less fucked? Taking a kid away from their parents for simply wanting to live a better, safer life is morally abhorrent. Yet, our government locks them up like criminals. Like an inferior species to those of us born on a side of a fence where we can get In-N-Out burgers without worrying about being deported if we’re pulled over along the way. It’s fucked up to think that this is what a nation that was built and populated by immigrants has come to. But, to truly get on the path of understanding who we are and what we are willing to stand for, we have to go back to theory of mind to see if we're even capable.
A good test for theory of mind is to put an animal in front of a mirror. If the animal recognizes their own reflection as themselves, there is a good chance they are displaying theory of mind. If they think their reflection is another animal then they are not self aware and less able to display theory of mind, and thus, less able to empathize emotionally or cognitively with the situations of others. Chimpanzees aren’t known to have this kind of understanding. Put one in front of a mirror and it may see its reflection and may think it’s another chimp. The chimp might react with hostility toward itself, because it is less aware of the self. We can take this analogy and put it toward the American psyche. If we put ourselves in front of a mirror and see an immigrant staring back at us, do we see them as ourselves? As our equals? Or do we treat them as an other? A lesser? What we do now speaks to the true nature of not just our American, but rather our Human empathetic response. It doesn't matter if it's a cognitive or emotional response - If we can’t grasp the harsh realities that our brothers and sisters face then maybe we are just animals. And then… What’s the point of anything?
Look – I’m a psychopath. I don’t emotionally care about anything. You can die reading this, and I’ll be glad I at least got a hit on my blog. What I do cognitively believe to be right is that every human being on this planet is entitled to the same quality of life as everyone else. We need to stop locking kids in cages and start looking at ways we can solve global problems while treating our fellow humans like humans ought to be treated. We can start by standing up for what’s right, and appeal to our government. Call your representatives. Protest in the streets. Save our souls before hatred and fear and inaction destroys them.