On Abstraction & Real Empathy

Leftists are different in many ways — some are more extroverted, some are more introverted, some are more interpersonally contrarian, some are better mediators. But something that almost all Leftist share — in their non-stop sharing of Jacobin-like articles, endless discussions with one another, etc. — is their ability to take information and then use that information to “abstract out” deeper meaning.

That may seem like a “like, duh” observation, but I think the ability and capacity of abstraction is something Leftists take for granted. As in, not everyone can abstract deeper meaning from information. And the inability to abstract deeper meaning from information is much more common than we often consciously realize, leading to asinine bullsh*t “conversations,” if we can even call them that. You see these bullsh*t conversations a lot here on Facebook — some random person will post a somewhat racist or sexist or homophobic whatever, and then some Leftist will start going at that person with a bunch of abstract theory, neither person is truly understanding the other person, and then both people leave the “conversation” frustrated with nothing changed.

You also see the Leftist lack of empathy for the inability to abstract information when you see Leftists complaining, “Why don’t people just RISE UP? Things are so bad! I can’t believe there aren’t more people in the streets.”

But I think a better question should be: why SHOULD people rise up? It takes many levels of abstraction to take political action: 1. my life’s experience is connected with oppression, 2. that oppression is connected to large societal structures, 3. the way societal structures change is if thousands of people come together in an organization and take action, and 4. as an individual of many collectives I should take action and talk with other individuals to form larger collectives to challenge those structures.

Like, what I am trying to convey is that Leftists are very weird personality-wise. We are *so* weird. That we go through those levels of abstraction to take action is a highly intuitive exercise that is not obvious — and the fact that many, many people don’t have a highly, highly intuitive personality in tune with societal structures is not the fault of people, per se, but is at least in part the outcome of that people fall on a large spectrum of personality types. Yes, education and material structures help influence people’s personalities, but even in a perfect utopia, you’d have some people who have personalities that are much, much more intuitive and in tune with large societal structures than others. And Leftists, in trying to change the world, have to contend with the question of how to communicate with a wide variety of personality-types — again, if Leftists are *truly* trying to change the world.

I think Unions are a good strategic structure to contend with the fact that people come with all sorts of varying abstract abilities per their varying personalities. People have to come to work every day and spend most of their lives around their coworkers. The ability of workers to have long-form conversations and build authentic relationships with their coworkers over many, many years in shared experience, due to social pressure but also authentic relationship building over time, allows for those who might not naturally “personality-temperament-wise” be inclined to abstract out their workplace experiences with large societal structures to truly engage, despite their personality temperament.

I’ll add one more point why Leftists should have empathy for those whose personalities might not naturally be inclined to abstract out “societal structural conclusions” from their experiences.

If you believe that we should change the structure of the world, you have to have this empathy.

What is belief? To truly believe something is to fully integrate an abstraction from your experiences into your very being, which should then — as part of your being — necessarily translate to action. Right?

So, if you’re not having empathy for those whose personalities might not naturally be inclined towards abstraction, you’re not really believing in changing societal structures — you are *THINKING* you believe something.

The difference between believing something and thinking you believe something is wide and crucial.

Beyond a surface level, I don’t care what people think they believe — I care what people actually believe. And so I’d add that beyond the benefit of being a fully integrated person for yourself, having empathy for the people you are talking with creates space for them to not only superficially agree with you on a surface level (“of course racism is bad!”) but to genuinely engage with you in a true dialogue, in an authentic relationship, and in the slow but steady creation of a more just world.

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