snakes and empathy

“The world’s snake population and the empathy of college students were found to have dropped precipitously in the past decade.”

This from Harper’s “Findings” September 2010 issue, and this frightens me rather a lot. I don’t mind snakes, as long as they mind their own business and stay out of mine. But I also assume they really don’t want me up in their business either.* So let’s not let the snake population drop, despite our mutual animosity. Lord knows they eat something we don’t want around here; and we do the same for them.

But then there’s this other issue: empathy and college students. College students, for the love of god. That’s when your empathy should be at its most heightened state, blazing fucking empathy! Because you’re filled with passion, but lacking the knowledge that comes from experience, and so know mostly feelings, and your feelings better damn well be working toward the positive, caring, empathetic. People cared for you, young one, or you’d be dead. Now care for them, and feel their suffering.

Be filled with the love of the world, because if it’s dead in you now, barring some revelatory experience, which could be beautiful, but also often just plain creepy; it could be dead in you forever.

I’m thinking we need a new leading economic indicator: The Empathy Index – tracks how much society (or someone) cares about others in relation to how angry they are about their tax burden.

* Imagine being a snake and some San Diego zoologist is displaying you up there under the bright lights of Johnny Carson’s television stage (date: luke/old). Brutal, that, and not at all snake-like.

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