Sympathy for the Devil

By Alisdare Hickson from Canterbury, United Kingdom (Peter Tatchell at London's anti-Trump rally.) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Alisdare Hickson from Canterbury, United Kingdom (Peter Tatchell at London’s anti-Trump rally.) [CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I was in my mid-twenties, when I had a genius flash of insight about people:

Most people are not reasonable.

This insight explained a lot about my own sense of frustration and anger when dealing with anyone, whether at school, work, or at home. Appeals to logic and rationality, I realized, are largely fruitless, because this is not what people respond to. My modern-day corollary is:

People voted for Trump based on emotions, not facts or ideals.

Angry people voted for the angry man. It’s as simple as that.

I forgot my own insight at times over the years, hoping that, with the perfect set of words, I could sway uncompassionate or delusional people into being compassionate. And it just doesn’t work that way, sadly.

I tend to see people as falling into three primary “groups,” in terms of how they react to the world. There is the expansive group, which I fall into. This group is able to empathize with others, or at least make the attempt, and views resources as essentially unlimited, meaning that just because one person or group gets a benefit, that doesn’t mean it detracts personally from my benefits.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the limited group, which sees a finite pot of goodies, and any outsider who dips into that pot is perforce taking away from their own pile of goodies. This group is seldom empathetic, and can only identify with their own problems and needs, or at least, their immediate clan’s problems and needs.

Most of the population falls in the middle, being expansive sometimes and limited in others, depending on the circumstances and their own prejudices. I’ll call them centrists.

In an enlightened world, I believe everyone would be expansive, understanding that abundance is unlimited, although Miami beaches are (not everyone can live on one). But our world is not enlightened, so the centrists have good reason, at times, to be cautious.

As for the election, it appears that everyone on the limited spectrum voted for Trump:  “This should all belong to me and mine, and I don’t want to share it with you people who are different from me.” Here you will find your alt-right, white nationalists, KKK, what-have-you, and any person who claims they are not racist, but who would still prefer not to give any government aid to black or brown people. But a lot of centrists also voted for Trump. Some of them were convinced that the limited crowd had a point: I’m suffering, and maybe it really IS the fault of those immigrants, etc. Some of them were convinced because of their own misogynistic prejudices (“He’s not Hillary.”) Some of them were not convinced at all, but were largely ignorant of the policies and issues and naively considered that maybe Trump would “shake things up” enough that they would benefit. “He’s on our side,” they said to themselves, and believed it.

After the election, Hillary supporters say, well, we need to reach out to these hurting people. And we do, up to a point. Many of those centrists, while not reasonable per se, can be reached with an emotional connection. In other words, “I hear you, and I see your pain.” The entire middle and lower classes are suffering in the U.S., regardless of their color. The question is, can the white centrists work in their own best interests even if those interests align with the interests of minorities? I don’t know the answer to that, but I haven’t seen it yet.

As for the limited group, I think they are a lost cause in terms of dialogue. This group tends to go for simplistic, black-and-white (literally, in many cases) thinking. This group thinks, “If I’m okay, then I don’t care.” People could be dying all around them, and as long as their clan was doing well, they wouldn’t be too upset. The cognitive dissonance and abundant excuses kick in:  it’s because those other people fucked up, they deserve it, etc. But the moment their own interests are threatened (“Keep the government’s hands off my Medicare!”), they rise up in anger.

The limited group, and many centrists, has indeed risen up in anger. The 1% crashed the system, and while corporations and bankers recovered, they did not. Their anger was ripe for the shaping. In this, Trump was not stupid. He played them perfectly, and it will be awhile before they realize (if they do) that they’ve been had. But by then, what tragedy?

Can one have sympathy for a white nationalist? For Hitler? For anyone with such a narcissistic, me-first mindset? Of course. Compassion, like forgiveness, is not about erasing sins. It is about serving and nurturing your own soul, and preserving your own ongoing enlightenment. But compassion does not mean that you have to invite them to dinner or allow them to hurt others, either personally or on a national scale, which we are watching unfold.

Steve Bannon thinks our struggle is one of West vs East, Christianity vs Islam. He is wrong. All struggle occurs within the individual human heart. It is one of Love versus Fear. The limited group responds to and frequently lives in fear. Be sorry for them, because this is a great suffering. But do not succumb to it or put up with it, either. Love will win, because it is always does; nothing else exists, in reality. Yes, you can have sympathy for the Devil while you chase him out the door and say, “No more!”

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