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Letter: The US has ignored ‘education of the emotions’

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My heart goes out to William Liakos (Guest Essay, “An ounce of empathy and compassion for others,” May 5), who recently lost his grandfather to COVID-19. Mr. Liakos attributes our unpreparedness for the pandemic to a lack of empathy, and in this he is, I think, heartbreakingly right. If far too many kids are growing up emotionally illiterate and incapable of empathy, it’s because far too many policy makers, particularly those on the right, scoff at the idea of education of the emotions as touchy-feely nonsense. As the recent demonstrations in Michigan graphically illustrated (some demonstrators armed with assault rifles, some carrying swastikas …), education of the emotions is no longer a luxury. We have ignored it at our peril, to a degree where human cruelty and lack of empathy now pose an existential threat to the future of the planet.

As the 16th Century French philosopher Michel de Montaigne famously noted, “Cowardice is the mother of cruelty.” It is, in my view, precisely this pandemic of cruelty — and its progenitor, cowardice — that has led to the climate change crisis, which crisis has massive epidemiological implications, many related to the willful destruction of natural habitats and ecosystems. Until we start paying serious attention to education of the emotions and to humanity’s collective flight from feeling, things are only going to get much, much worse.

Henry Dickson

Roswell

 

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