Sympathy for Empathy

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been taking a broad perspective at life. Its richness, variety and diversity of the human experience, and all the things that it envelops. Perhaps the reason that propelled me to undertake this would be my short voyage to the United Kingdom and back. One of the most startling observations I made is the difference between several people in the society that stems primarily from circumstances beyond their control. Indeed while there is a remarkable difference between where I’ve spent most of my life (Nigeria) and the UK, it was pretty clear to me that the same stratification and social echelons that I had witnessed in Nigeria exist in the First world. There is no doubt that we live in a world that emphasizes the fact that our destiny lies in our hands, and while I would love to believe in this and take a stand with it to a considerable measure, I inevitably disagree with it on certain occasions which, to me appear to be universal and ubiquitous if I must be candid. What I intend to discuss is how this stratification affects a state.
Let me start by asking one question in order to put you in my perspective:
Why are some people born into responsible homes and eventually turn out to be useful members of the society while others are left at the mercy of what the street offers them as a way of life?
While I’m sure that similar questions must have been asked before either out of curiosity or frustration, I deem it an important piece to ponder upon. All my life, I’ve been made to believe that God is fair and although I cannot understand why life itself seems to be otherwise, I would consign myself to voluntary stupidity rather than try to dissect the paradox. But then, curiosity seems to get the better part of me and so it just bothers me a lot that life seems to place every one at different echelons and expects us all to strive to be the best we can.
While it may be true that from a rather parsimonious and hapless mode of living, one can strive his way to comfort and independence, and many examples exist to affirm and establish this position, for the most part, many people born with a “wooden” spoon in their mouth remain poor till they part with  life. If you have read any of these motivational or self help books, you probably would have come across things like “Success is in your hands”, “you can become anything you want to”, “you can shape your destiny”, “anyone can succeed”. Well, I don’t intend to be sarcastic and pessimistic but do you really think the above clichés apply to a Somalian child who has little or no access to food and water? Seriously? So this is exactly my point: for one thing, there are a couple of things we can’t control and some are:
1. Where you are born
2. To whom you are born
3. When you are born
4. Financial status of your parents
5. Aspirations of your parents
6. Plans you parents have for their children (you and your siblings)
7. How responsible your parents are.
8. How close to God your parents are
While these may seem trivial, the answers to the above questions and lots more determine, at least how the first 20 years of your life would play out. So if by means of some fortunate combination of probability and sequence of events, we find ourselves comfortable, just how do we view others who are pitiable and unfortunate enough to live like peasants. If you can afford certain resources, amenities and infrastructure to a considerable level whereas someone somewhere can’t afford potable water, how then should you exactly view them? In contempt? With scorn? In pity? or with the intention of lending a helping hand?
With this in mind, I intend to redirect this discoure to how the difference in social levels affect the way we treat one another especially in a country like Nigeria. It is by no means false that empathy is gradually eroding from the fabric of our society these days. While we may and should applaud the advent of e-communication and the prestigious advancement in telecommunication that have characterized the 21st century, the continual lack of eye contact and the trifling ease with which we obtain whatever we can just by the click of a button deprives us of the ability to share gruelling emotions with people that are underprivileged enough to go through certain insurmountable contingencies, trauma and general hardship at large.
On the streets of Lagos for example, I see children under the age of ten hawking products under the scorching sun and with a tiring sigh, I ask myself: “Why?…God why?” and the most horrifying part of it is unveiled when I think about the possibility of me being that person. Upon several moments of arduous pondering on issues that concern our nation, I suspect that the reason of our nation being a failed state is the lack of empathy. Of course, you would agree with me that it would take more than the restoration of mutual feelings to work things through but then If only a few good men stood up to make a difference, if only a few more people decided to lend a helping hand, only if a few more men decided to take God away from the “unreachable” and be “God” to someone, only if we decided that we as humans can become miracles in the lives of the underprivileged. Only  if we took some time to stop thinking about ourselves for one moment and look outwards. In the  part of the world where I come from: “Lagos” our neighbourhoods are replete with churches, one  would think they are signposts or more plausibly, a way of measuring your walking speed. You could  even ask someone “Hey! How many churches can you walk past in 20 minutes?” But despite the  unmistakable presence of the church, what I see is still the same measure of depravity and poverty  in the society whereas in the 18th century UK, the church was largely responsible for building  hospitals, orphanages, schools and performing other social development functions.
In conclusion, I seem to believe that we as a nation here have very little empathy for one another, we feel, if any, only slightly implored to attend to someone else’s needs. We are in a vicious cycle and trap where we are both the captor and the captive. We constantly think of ways to make our lives better, new gadgets to purchase, and how next to push further into a life of saccharine comfort and bliss. And while this is not an advocacy to completely forget about your personal needs in lieu of satisfying the needs of others, it is pertinent to try and make a difference in some one else’s life while being wary of those who intend to take advantage of your generosity. Life can be (a little) fair if we make it to be. I suppose this should probably mean something to someone. I sincerely hope it does. Peace.
Editors Notes:
This was written by my friend and previous collaborator @_samsn. Edited by myself.
There are many charitable causes that need help and seeing as how its the season to be Jolly, lets all help make it that way for someone.
My friend @FreshPrinzVick  and a small group (Each one touch one) are going to help at the Motherless Babies Home Lekki, this Sunday December 18. They need donations of food items, baby care items or even cash. You can join them or you can write a check patable to ‘Motherless babies home, Lekki or drop off your gift items at ‘ The Incubator, city of David Rd ( just down the road from four points hotel)’. Contact him or leave a comment for more info. 
Even if you cannot do something by yourself, you can do your bit even if its as little as trying to convince your church to stop focusing on frivolous spending and focus on helping the poor via an open letter to the pastor. Advocate for others wherever you can. Do the little you can. Have a little sympathy for empathy for it, just like chivalry is nearly dead.

11 thoughts on “Sympathy for Empathy

  1. Brilliant!
    I just want to say that you should bear this post in mind while criticizing or making fun of people on social networks with poor grammar construction or even Vic O. They could have done better if they were well equipped as you were privileged to have a good education. One of the strange beauty of these fast growing social networks (Facebook and Twitter particularly) is that it attempts to bring together these stratified personalities in one circle.

    Having said that how do I join in the visit if i want to?

  2. Heart-tugging…reinforces something I heard recently about going beyond giving to the poor but also ‘associating’ with them, which would better position one to identify & meet their needs…

    Might be a good idea to include bank details to enable money transfer?

  3. For those that cannot make it on Sunday or write a cheque, please pay your donation for the motherless babies home to the following account

    Account name: Motherless babies home. Lekki
    Account Number: 2001598490
    Bank: First Bank

    Thank you.

  4. I’m proud to say I’ve shaken Samson’s hand in real life. Now I know I’ll be seeing you again. I’m thinking a collaborative effort of like minds and I can say the number on my list has almost reached critical mass. Thank you Wole for making this practical by putting the bank account details here.

  5. Wow i totally feel the energy from this one Mr. Samson. Even though certain factors contribute to the status quo of our society today perhaps the radical shift of human thinking from the essence of a collective or communual sense of living towards individualism actually plays key role. “The unexamined life is not worth living” Great job Banky!

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