My wife and I were watching a movie in which apes had become fully sentient, and could communicate with one another much like humans. The creatures were repeatedly tortured and murdered in the film. I grew increasingly uncomfortable watching it, wondering if I was supposed to feel extreme pity and guilt throughout, or to write the apes off as not being worth my feelings.
It’s a problem I have more and more. I walk into a room– a movie or show is on the screen. I see something profoundly disturbing. I have a hard time figuring out how to react. If I laugh off sexual or violent imagery as being part of life, and not to be taken seriously, then I fail to empathize. Inappropriate reactions are, incidentally, a symptom of schizophrenia.
If I take what I see too seriously, I literally torture myself. And no one seems to be doing that.
A friend pointed out that he had a profound reaction to watching a video where a person really and actually shot and killed another. This is something new to the world– with social media and cellphones, many of us have watched people killed (much as, for example, people in the military or on the police force have).
I suspect a lot of things. One of my suspicions has been that we as a society are being trained to separate what we see from what we feel. We are slowly being taught not to empathize with others when they suffer.
I can’t imagine why this would be, unless it is a tool to help us to cope with living in a first world country, with all of the Empire, military action and other such activities that go on.
A profound and universal pity would cause us to feel continuously, deeply guilty, We would be rendered ineffective– unable to cope with day to day reality.