The Privileges of Art

Sam,empathy

There has been an increase incidents from ISIS in the past weeks, namely the attacks on Paris. However, like many of those who keep up with the news and internet trends, Parisians aren’t the only ones who are suffering. While the losses of the United States’ first ally were great, it is well known that we should acknowledge the daily casualties of those still in affected regions around the globe. Every innocent life perished in the cross-hairs of battle should be mourned, and we have no right to blame an entire culture of 1 million people for the actions of a radical minority. Those who do not wield reason and compassion as weapons must shout louder than those who do.

Normally I would have stayed out of the rumor mongering of the ignorant, but after reading this article, I have decided I must say something.

I’m not entirely sure of the article’s validity or its claims because it never quotes Mr. Trump saying his administration, if elected, would not eliminate the option of required identification for resident Muslims. It merely mentions his intentions in the introduction. I say this not to defend Mr. Trump (far from it) but to make it known this is not an attack on him because I do not have proof those are his words. With that said, the mere thought of U.S. leaders forcing its citizens to forgo their right to privacy flirts with treason, breaking fundamental Constitutional reality. Defenders of this action might say, “if you have nothing to hide, why refuse?” This logic is a failure of people to empathize with others. I don’t mean to jump to conclusions but having Muslim I.D.s (because they have “nothing to hide”) would be the start. It would be all the easier for officials to abuse the compliance of citizens and begin to ostracize all those who do not abide by the rules because they have “nothing to hide.” This paranoia and rigidity places everyone at under its eye. No one would be safe from a system attempting to create perfection for imperfect beings.

images (2)Diversity and the ability to co-exist with others not like our own makes us unique as a species. Indeed, this inclusion is a trait for the minority of lifeforms on our planet and, therefore, should be championed. It encourages compassion and the policy that all life is worthy of being treated with equal respect. Such knowledge of what it is like to sympathize with others originates from the subject of this post. Artists of all disciplines already have a disposition for imagining ourselves into other situations, other places, other people’s heads purely because it is our nature to if we are to create compelling works. More of my words could not give this fact any greater weight than from the words of our Queen herself: Jo Rowling and her 2008 Commencement Address at Harvard,

“Unlike any other creature on this planet, human beings can learn and understand without having experienced. They can think themselves into other people’s places. Of course this is a power, like my brand of fictional magic, that is morally neutral. One might use such an ability to manipulate or control just as much to understand or sympathize. And many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. They can refuse to hear screams or peer inside cages. They can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally. They can refuse to know. . . . I think the willfully unimaginative see more monsters. They are often more afraid. What is more, those who choose not to empathize enable real monsters for without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we collude with it through our own apathy.”

In the efforts of refugees from Syria and other conflicted nations to find asylum, now is the time to recruit the empathy found from imagination. I know over half the states from the U.S. have already denied any possible acceptance of refugees. They fear terrorists hide among them. Really, they mean among the afflicted Muslims, not Christians. It does not matter if you worship the Flying Spaghetti Monster. If you want to evacuate an area where you might be killed if you do not comply with the aggressors, I’d be more willing to accept you. Now should there be a certain screening process and some kind of proof of intention once one enters the host nation? Of course. I understand those representatives’ concerns. But to accuse an entire culture because of whom they worship is utterly infuriating and a failure of the ability to hone one’s imagination to think “what would I want to hear if I were in their position?”

Understanding the privileges of art and what we can learn from offering aid to others will not only teach us how to trust and make new allies in a time when the enemy is all around us but also will bring us closer together and neutralize the fears those who would do us harm will try to instill.

Cheers.

One Comment Add yours

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