Of emphaty…

28.11.2005Osebno

You are unable of the slightest sense of emphaty!” was the stick o`words that slapped me across the face today. We were sitting in the class, discussing the phenomenon of soap operas. The statement was that for certain people, soap operas are the only form of entertainment and relaxation. I counter-stated that claim with a question, asking if people are so poor that they are unable to a) take a walk b) check into a library and rent a book or c) too poor to owe more than one TV channel. And they slapped me.

Again, I am facing a group of people that is trying to be rebellious. That is trying to save the world in one stroke. And on the other hand they are ignoring the basic facts, the simplest details that change everything. Statements a) People are poor and b) Because of being poor they are left with nothing else but TV do not bode well. Seriously. In my head that paints a photo of a woman who is sitting in a cold living room with nothing else but the TV blaring the choruses of Esmeralda. Is this a scene for a Monty Phyton˙s sketch or what?

Further more, they claimed that people are so stigmatized that they cannot go out and participate in a FREE FOR ALL activity. Be it a lecture, a show, a performance, there is hundred of things going out outside that are not going to cost you an arm and a leg AND are still BETTER than that fucking trash-TV. But no, because they are so poor that they reek of it, they cannot do it, because everybody will know and feel their poorness.

My sets of reasons why do people watch these shows: out of boredom, out of stupidity and out of laziness. And that is it. The economical status of the viewers does not even come into the account.

Now prove me wrong.

 

5 komentarjev na “Of emphaty…

  1. ill-advised

    I think economical status certainly does have a large effect, although probably not as the only reason, but in combination with others. You would certainly not find the rich people watching soap operas to the same extent that poor people do. Why not? Because, being wealthy, (1) they were more likely to be able to afford a good education (not just education in a formal sense but in the sense of having the background necessary to appreciate the less trashy forms of entertainment) and consequently may prefer to read books, go to the theatre, or watch something better on the TV; (2) of the alternatives that don’t cost an arm and a leg, most are terribly boring (e.g. taking a walk — surely nobody could claim that this is as interesting as following the intrigues of a soap opera plot) or unpleasant and inconvenient, so being poor does limit one’s choice considerably. Looking for free events is surely inconvenient — how do you find them, anyway? I guess you would need to scan the announcements in newspapers and the like, which sounds like dull and not particularly appealing work to me. On the other hand, the TV set is always just there, all you need to to is turn it on. You may call this laziness, but the laziness factor wouldn’t be so influential if it wasn’t for the inconvenience of the alternatives, and the alternatives wouldn’t be so inconvenient if the person in question were wealthier. Besides, I doubt that free events are really quite so free; likely enough, they aren’t taking place close to where one lives anyway, and if you factor in the costs of transportation (bus fares, car fuel, parking, etc.), the free event is suddenly no longer quite so affordable. And there’s the additional problem that that the whole thing likely consumes much more of your time than a simple soap opera (where each episode probably lasts between 30 minutes and an hour, all in the comfort of your own home, while going to some event outside your home will likely take two or three hours of your time at least and effectively consumes your entire evening.

    Borrowing books from the library? Sure, it’s free, but what sort of books would these people borrow? Surely not Kant and Hegel. They would read trashy pulp fiction and romance novels, and I sure as hell don’t see why that would be any better than watching soap operas. Likely enough, if they ever went to the library in the first place, they would just start borrowing DVDs of their favourite TV series anyway 🙂 At least as long as they watch soap operas, there is something they can discuss with their friends over coffee; they couldn’t discuss books they’ve read because they wouldn’t have all read the same book (whereas they probably do all watch largely the same set of soap operas).

    In summary, I think you do lack empathy. I think it’s part of human nature to do the things they find enjoyable. The simple fact of the matter is that for the vast majority of people, watching a TV series is vastly more enjoyable from most of the alternatives you’ve mentioned — reading books, listening to lectures, or taking a walk. Rather than lambast them for their stupidity and laziness, what would be more welcome would be if you were able to give any sort of advice on how to start enjoying these other things better than watching soap operas. I for one avoid most forms of trashy entertainment (and especially soap operas) as a matter of principle, not because I wouldn’t enjoy them; on the contrary, I know for a fact that I would enjoy them like a pig in the mud, whereas reading books (my main hobby) is often more boring than not. I am willing to endure this boredom out of a sense of principle and a misguided kind of snobbery, but most people are (thankfully) not so crazy and prefer to opt for the thing that gives them more pleasure, i.e. soap operas and the like.

     
  2. Baya

    Oh, I’m quite disappointed by your comment ill-advised. But in a way, at least you’re honest with yourself and that’s alway a big plus.

    I personally, love going for a walk. And I do it often. Now, it depends where I’m going, so sometimes I observe the nature, sometimes the people, sometimes I just love the peace and nobody around. You have no idea- or maybe you do- how good it is to be on your own where you have nothing to distract you and you are alone with yourself and you can process certain things that are on your mind. I also love to go for a walk with interesting people. Like Domen, or my sister or friends. I rather talk with them while walking, than sitting in some bar.

    I love to read books as well. I really enjoy them. I read different books, I don’t only focus on one style. Il-advised, you said reading trashy books is the same as watching soap-operas. I don’t agree, at all. It is a big difference. When you read, you picture the story and the characters in your head. Your imagination gets going and in a way, your brain works. Whereas in soap operas- or in tv/movies altogether, you are being served with images, and, only if the movie is mind demanding, you get served with everything already. You just sit back and watch. Not many things on tv give you things to process about. Sometimes that’s good, I like watching movies and tv sometimes as well. But books are always better than tv/movies. Even if trashy books, as you called them.
    And you said reading a book is boring for you?! Well, stop torturing yourself then! Do things that make you happy. Pretending to be something you’re not will not bring you happiness. Unless you’re a masochist, then go right ahead.
    ou also spoke of poor people having no choice. There’s always a choice. Every city, even some vilagges, have a library. Libraries have newspapers as well. In Ljubljana, you have it hung on the wall for everybody to read. Libraries also offer leaflets with informations of different things to go to. You have street fairs going on as well, and etc. I will never understand people who say there’s no choice, poor are bound to only watch tv. If nothing else, tvslo has many documentaries on in the afternoons as well. And if you have poptv, then you surely have tvslo as well.

    I find if funny how you say, or people at uni, that Domen lacks of empathy. You’re talking about a guy who stopped watching the news on tv, because the images of the kids from wars, hurt him. And he now only reads the news online. There’s not many kinder people around in this world. But yes, he does believe in options. And always there are at least two.

    Another last thing. I agree with you that people are different and find different things interesting. I think that’s good. I don’t agree with some people’s choices, but it’s theirs and I respect them. I just don’t like it when people hide behind their economical status and look for excuses just to make themselves look good. That is wrong.

     
  3. ill-advised

    [I’m having problems posting this comment: “Fatal error: Call to undefined function: wp_notify_moderator() in /home/savicd/public_html/wp/wp-includes/functions-post.php on line 512”. Maybe it’s too long. I’ll try to split it into two or more parts.]

    I love to read books as well. I really enjoy them. I read different books, I don’t only focus on one style. Il-advised, you said reading trashy books is the same as watching soap-operas. I don’t agree, at all. It is a big difference. When you read, you picture the story and the characters in your head. Your imagination gets going and in a way, your brain works. Whereas in soap operas- or in tv/movies altogether, you are being served with images, and, only if the movie is mind demanding, you get served with everything already. You just sit back and watch. Not many things on tv give you things to process about. Sometimes that’s good, I like watching movies and tv sometimes as well. But books are always better than tv/movies. Even if trashy books, as you called them.

    Regarding trashy books, my experience has been that when I read some really unputdownable piece of pulp fiction, my mind is for all practical purposes transported into the environment where the story of the book is taking place, and the events, the actions performed by the characters, the words spoken by them, all feel as if they were really occurring around me. The book grabs me into it, metaphorically speaking. But this feeling is not really any different from the one I have when watching a movie that really grabbed my attention. (I suppose that a soap opera might feel similarly, though I can’t say for sure as I don’t watch them.) Thus I don’t see why, merely because my mind had to process words rather than images, reading the trashy book is somehow a better thing to do than watching a blockbuster movie (or a soap opera, for that matter). Is it only because one particular area of my brain was occupied in one case but not in the other? Would knitting while watching a soap opera also be better than watching the soap opera by itself? I am not under the impression that my level of mental activity while reading pulp fiction is significantly higher than when watching a movie. A movie, even a relatively undemanding one, still offers many opportunities to interact, in your own mind, with the characters and the story. To say that reading even the trashiest book is somehow intrinsically better than watching most movies seems to me a prejudice, a regrettable kind of cultural elitism.

    And you said reading a book is boring for you?! Well, stop torturing yourself then! Do things that make you happy. Pretending to be something you’re not will not bring you happiness. Unless you’re a masochist, then go right ahead.

    I guess I didn’t express myself well. There are books I enjoy more, and books I enjoy less. There are (1) books that I pick up and have a difficulty putting them down except when the most elementary of biological needs intervene; and then there are (2) books from which I read a few dozen pages a day and finish them in a week or two with a vaguely pleasant sense of having accomplished something. The problem is, those from group 1 are all pulp fiction. I am sure that, from the point of view of mental development, they are utterly worthless. People who read them are universally despised, and though I don’t despise them myself, I am unwilling to join their ranks. (When has anybody said a good word about those who read pulp fiction, or those who munch on popcorn while watching the latest blockbuster, or for those who watch soap operas? They are universally regarded as inferior and are the subject of contempt. I don’t want to become one of them, although deep inside I’m all too clearly aware that that’s precisely where I belong.) Thus, it is books from group 2 that I actually read. They are pleasant enough, by and large, but the pleasure they give is a sedate one that could not for a moment be compared with the feeling I get when reading some stunning piece of pulp fiction that leaves me turning each page with twitching fingers, unable to contain my excitement and unbearably curious about what the next page will bring.

    I read books from group 2 rather than those from group 1, not from a sense of masochism but from an earnest belief that they are, in some fundamental sense, better than those from group 1; that reading those from group 1 would essentially lead to mental stagnation, while those from group 2 offer at least the possibility of experiencing something new, perhaps of broadening my horizons, perhaps even (although I have almost entirely given up all hope in this direction) of eventually being able to feel why some books are works of art that remain the subjects of fascination and admiration for decades, perhaps for centuries, while others (perhaps no different from the former in my eyes) are held to be unworthy, disposable, and are soon forgotten. I wish I understood good books; I wish I saw why some are deep while others are shallow, why some are authentic while others are fake, why some are works of art while others are merely works of craftsmanship; I wish I was able to appreciate a book’s artistic quality, to sense the author’s talent and ability, all of which would perhaps eventually lead me to a deeper and more genuine form of reading pleasure. But over and over again do I knock my head against the walls of my shallowness, of my inability to understand, to notice the things that matter. I have not yet given up hope completely; that’s why I keep reading books from group 2; but at the same time, I have no illusions that I wouldn’t be happier reading those from group 1 instead.

     
  4. ill-advised

    You also spoke of poor people having no choice. There’s always a choice.

    I personally am convinced that a significant majority of people are, by their nature (and without any particular correlation with their economic status), inclined to prefer trashy things (pulp fiction, Hollywood blockbusters, soap operas, fast food) to quality ones (belles lettres, artistic films, intellectual pursuits, etc.). I myself certainly belong to that majority; you and Cookie are probably among the fortunate few who don’t. I don’t think this is really a matter of choice; I never specifically chose to prefer trash to quality entertainment (heck, if I could choose, I would very much prefer to enjoy the good stuff rather than the trash). It just happens to turn out that way. I can try reading a book from group 1, and a book from group 2, and the difference in the experience is palpable, and there is no doubt which way my natural preference lies.

    Now what people *do* have a choice about — and this is where economic factors come into play — is whether they will act on their impulses and spend their life watching soap operas, or whether they will opt for the masochistic route and try experiencing the quality things even though they find these things less enjoyable than the trash. The influence of economic factors here is that they can change what would otherwise be a matter of purely masochistic asceticism into a bearable or even moderately enjoyable experience. Consider the contrast between (a) the well-off woman in her black evening gown and pearl necklace listening to a classical concert from the front row of the big music hall (preferably before/after a good dinner at some reasonably fancy restaurant) and (b) her dirt-poor counterpart sitting in her bleak apartment listening to a broadcast of the same concert on her dinky squeaky old radio set. It is entirely possible that Mrs Black Evening Gown is not really enjoying the music per se any better than Mrs Dinky Radio Set is, but there is no doubt that (unless Mrs Dinky Radio Set happens to be a bona fide lover of classical music, which, as I mentioned in the previous paragraph, most people just plainly and simply aren’t) she is enjoying the whole experience vastly more than Mrs Dinky Radio Set is enjoying hers. And *this* is where the economic factors have an effect. Mrs Dinky Radio Set simply cannot afford this sort of experience, while Mrs Black Evening Gown quite possibly doesn’t mind doing it on a monthly or even a weekly basis. And thus, it’s hardly surprising that Mrs Dinky Radio Set decides to chuck the concert and opt for the soap opera on her dinky TV set instead. You can fault her as much as you wish for having chosen the soap opera, but you cannot pretend that the alternatives to this choice were not vastly different for her than for her wealthier counterpart.

    I find if funny how you say, or people at uni, that Domen lacks of empathy.

    I don’t mean to imply that he lacks empathy in a general way, or that he is not a kind person [his many rants on this blog notwithstanding :)]. But I do think that he lacks empathy in this particular issue; but then many people do; they fail to appreciate that what looks like free choice on the surface of things (and a choice informed by laziness and stupidity to boot) often turns out to be much less free and much less of a choice than the first look may have indicated.

    But yes, he does believe in options. And always there are at least two.

    Yes, but the sets of options that different people have at their disposal can be vastly different.

    I just don’t like it when people hide behind their economical status and look for excuses just to make themselves look good. That is wrong.

    Well, what I personally like even less is just the other way around, when people pretend that the problems poor people have stem not from their poverty but from their personal choices (and consequently their personal deficiencies). But I realize that few people nowadays share my opinion on this.

     
  5. Baya

    Lemme explain myself here a bit.

    I like Mc’Donalds from time to time. I liked watching Dawson’s Creek. When I was a teenager I read Danielle Steel’s books! I read about Katie&Tom online. I don’t like ballet.I’ve never been to the opera. I like Gusti’s music…

    I never claimed to be some artsie intellectual who doesn’t, by default, like anything that has to do with popular culture.

    But I, on the other hand, don’t like soap operas, I don’t watch Tuesday movies on POP tv, I don’t read Lady/Eva… magazines, I don’t watch Bar. How do I know I don’t like it? Because I tried it all. And didn’t like it. I found/find it boring, repetative, stupid.

    BUT.

    Some do like that. Like I said before, different people- different tastes. I never said that people who read Lady or enjoy some soap opera thingy are less than I am. I never said their choice is bad.

    BUT!

    Don’t tell me that poor people have NO choice. Of course they have less options than rich, that is true.
    I consider myself closer to poor than rich. And I get by. For years I only rented book out of a library. And because I don’t have the money to buy a car, I walk a lot. I even got to like it because I was forced to walk.

    Now a few coments to your words:

    cultural elitism
    Hm? Let me give you an example and I hope you’ll see what I meant by all that. I have seen a lot of movies made by books. Sometimes I’ve read the book first and then seen the movie, sometimes I’ve seen the movie first and read the book later. I must say that I’m always amazed how I love the book more. Not just because the movie can’t have every little detail in it from the book. There are also characters, and environments. I pictured the whole book, almost every time, totally different from the movie. Now, if that does not show how our mind works, then I don’t know…

    I have this feeling that you think pulp fiction books are any less for me than, I don’t know, Proust or Cankar. Not at all! Books are books. They are these little wonders and if you let yourself in, you can have oh so many wonderful journeys. It takes you places you in your real life might never go to. Now, some people feel good when they read Danielle Steel, some when Stephen King, some read Marx, some Hegel. Whatever rocks your boat!

    In my opinion, it is good enough if one reads books at all!
    So, less watching tv, more reading books! Less spent energy, smaller energy bills as well! 😉

     

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