(Initial) Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali's blog has now moved to http://blog.mahabali.me

Does Ideology Prevent Empathy?

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This is my third post on the topic of empathy. WordPress recommended I look at some other blogs that discussed issues of empathy. I really liked this blog post and the way the author makes the connection between how ideology can stand in the way of allowing people to be empathic. Funny enough, it connects again with Hannah Arendt’s critique of ideology as not being open to learning from experience or reality.

This all made me realize that maybe this is what is wrong with some notions of citizenship. People tie themselves to a particular ideology, and therefore belong to certain groups and empathize with them (the Rifkin video I mentioned here), but the ideology makes this belonging exclusive, such that any reality outside their own becomes unimaginable, they are unable to learn from it, and therefore they are not empathetic to it. Ideology stands in their way. Do people truly subscribe to ideology so dogmatically, or is it just the hegemony of the political discourse? To what extent are we “agent” in the face of that?

Ideology is, in a sense, uncritical and it sort of demands compliance, doesn’t it? I’ll try to mull this over and think about it in a more practical, rather than merely abstract manner. Though I also need to dig a bit deeper into the theory as well.

[FYI, this is the third in a series of posts exploring the notion of empathy – the first post was here]

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Author: Maha Bali

Associate professor of practice, American University in Cairo

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