Noun, the ability to identify with or understand another’s situation or feelings: synonym: pity (American Heritage Dictionary)

I posted earlier about how most conflicts have two elements. The ability to understand the other side’s elements is a function of empathy. To see what the other side is going for in and of themselves, not existing solely as a force in opposition to you, requires empathy.

Johnathon Bernstein just gave a masterclass on what a lack of empathy looks like.

If one goes down a bit, one sees the situation of his preferred side:

“1. Biden and pretty much every congressional Democrat want a very large infrastructure package, which would include funding for a sprawling hodgepodge of both traditional and less traditional stuff.”

This bullet lays out the situation, the objectives and stuff the Democrats want.

He addresses the people-side of things of his preferred side:

“2. A handful of Democrats, including Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, care deeply about burnishing their reputations for bipartisanship.”

Continuing, Bernstein addresses the people side of the Republicans:

“3. Quite a few Republicans would like at least some of this spending to pass, including several who also want to prove their bipartisanship.

4. Most Republicans, whether they want infrastructure spending or not, have exactly the opposite goal. They very much do not want to be seen doing anything that looks even remotely bipartisan. If Biden is for it, they want to be against it.”

There is no indication of the Republican situation, the stuff the Republicans want, and the people-side of the Republican position is laid out mostly in antagonism, more specifically, it’s in terms of Democrats. The Republican position is addressed as a reflection of the Democratic position. The Republicans aren’t presented as having an internal existence, merely being a force of antagonism.

This is pretty typical of the emotional coldness of the political commentariat, and I want to connect it to writing.

The Bechdel Test, one of the most useful and applicable tests of whether or not a party has independence, says basically that that party should have stuff going on other than in reference to another party. So applied to female characters, those characters should have some measure of existence outside of male characters. This is what the conversation test measures, and it does a fantastic job of it.

The Republicans in Bernstein’s article, and virtually all editorials on Bloomberg, wouldn’t pass the Bechdel test. They don’t exist outside of influencing Democrats. There is nothing in Bernstein’s writing that addresses what Republicans would talk about with mentioning Democrats.

I see this an awful lot in the writing of bad-guys, antagonists, and people who do things the author doesn’t like.

This was why I disliked The Way of Kings so much. The people don’t exist. In the Way of Kings, the military types never talk about the war on the plateaus as a thing. There is no discussion of the situation outside of reflecting ‘is war good or bad?’ The people exist as reflections of that, and they could disclose their entire existences in nine paragraphs of author-speak. ‘War is bad but profitable.’

Brian Sanderson has obviously little to no experience with war, warfighters, or the situations.

But people who write romances do the same when characters don’t have day jobs, they just exist as sex-objects for the romantic lead.

Bloomberg editorial writers do the same when they write about other people.

There’s no understanding, no immersion, no empathy.

Now this is a little understandable in terms of fiction because the people aren’t real. Warlord-whoever and Sexy-Mc-Studdly aren’t people. They don’t have jobs, personalities, or desires. If the author doesn’t give them depth, they don’t have it.

But in the real world, real people are people even if the writer doesn’t like them. And that’s the problem with these bizarre articles. Because the writer and readers will never understand why other people do things if they don’t try to understand. Instead, when the other people do things, people will ascribe forces of antagonism to them, resulting in the assumption that everyone who disagrees is evil, wrong, or stupid, and thus, failure ensues.

Because the people side of the term does exist, and it is real. It is ‘true’ but incomplete. Yet if one denies the rest of the person or character, and yet the character or person remains in opposition, man’s search for meaning will force one to overweight their antagonism for lack of anything else.

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