Empathy Craze


On our way to Tahoe, we took a little detour to pick up some friends from San Francisco. We were pretty delayed already and a really bad traffic jam made things worse for us. The reason for traffic was the 2011 San Francisco Walk to End Alzheimer’s that was going on at Embarcadero.


I understand and believe in charity and donations, but I don’t understand the purpose or rather the objective of these walks. When I blurted out my ignorance, I was told that these walks create awareness about the cause. The media captures these events and then people donate. Ok I will buy the part about causing awareness – but there are other ways of doing it, social media being one of them. Moreover, a peace walk that results traffic jams does not sound like a peace walk to me. I’m not sure what purpose is solved by walking a few miles wearing banners and t-shirts advertising the cause.  I can see that there is intent, but to organize events that are not action oriented is channeling the intent in the wrong direction. It is like taking a short cut.

To add to the fire, David Brooks in his weekly article wrote about “Empathy Craze”. And I was sitting here nodding and affirming every line he wrote. Don’t get me wrong, I am not against charity. I am against hollow demonstrations. I am a proud daughter of a man who gave blood umpteen times in his life. He organized more health camps for the needy than I will even hear of in my life time. He cared for the cause and he supported it with action. And that’s what I was raised to believe in.

You want to support Alzheimer’s. Bravo!! Reach out to the families of the patients and tell them, that you will take care of the patient once a week, or twice a month, while they can go have a life. Now that’s action. Raise this awareness in the medical community so that someone decides to invest in research for a cure for this disease. Walking on a street in San Francisco, on a glorious day with banners and slogans, while the traffic stops to watch you and media gives you all their attention – that’s not action. All you did was GET UP that morning.  And may be for this generation that is enough, in which case I am a part of this generation and I am ashamed.

I am complaining not because they caused that traffic jam. I am complaining because they were  all talk and no action. I cannot describe it as well as David does – These days empathy has become a shortcut. It has become a way to experience delicious moral emotions without confronting the weaknesses in our nature that prevent us from actually acting upon them”.

…..About this month — it used to be my favorite. Not anymore. It doesn’t matter that all the festivals I care about happen to fall in this month. It doesn’t matter that my niece and my Mom have their birthdays lined up this month. It also doesn’t matter that I got married (for the second time) this month. This month is when I lost my father. For me he was with us just yesterday, and today he is no more. So whoever said time is the greatest healer, you were wrong — because this wound is as raw as it was a year ago.

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