6.15.2012

the limits of empathy: eyes wide open, but not all the time

In light of the horror show taking place in Ottawa, this would be the perfect time to post notes from "Can We Stop the Harper Agenda," the big panel discussion at Marxism 2012. However, I'm waiting to get an audio file of the talk, which will greatly improve the post.

While I wait for that, I'll try my hand at two other pieces I've been thinking about for a long time.

* * * *

I recently wrote about two books - What Is the What and A Long Way Gone - that I recommended with warnings. Both are excellent and well worth reading, and both deal with highly disturbing subjects, including graphic depictions of atrocities and other violence. This led me to think about the choice to read or watch that kind of disturbing, difficult material - and the choice not to.

In the past, I've had no patience for people who refuse to deal with anything that might be upsetting or disturbing, people who seem to live in ignorance and denial, who steadfastly avoid anything that might pierce their bubble. I've been very critical and unsympathetic to this mindset. I realize this is not very generous or understanding of me, but my own empathy doesn't seem to extend that far.

Here are two stories that may help explain further.

My friend Randy, and 9/11

In the late 1990s, a friend of mine was dying of AIDS. We had lost touch over the years, but when we reconnected, I learned he was HIV-positive. Soon after that, his status became full-blown AIDS. We stayed in close touch, often writing letters, even though we were in the same city, and I visited him when I could.

I volunteered to be one of his "care partners" for chemo treatments, so often our visits were tied to his health needs. Eventually Randy had to make some terrible decisions about how far to go with treatment - weighing some horrific side effects against small extensions of his time on earth.

At the end, I continued to visit him, each time knowing it could be the last time I saw him. If you've ever known anyone at the end-stage of a fatal disease, you know it's not an easy thing to witness. But it seemed pretty clear to me that Randy needed company. I figured if he could suffer through all that, the least I could do was sit at his bedside.

Randy and I had a mutual friend named J. J and Randy were very close. Towards the end of Randy's life, J stopped visiting Randy because, he said, it was "too horrible". J would shudder and say, "I can't take it. It's just so disgusting."

In the last week of Randy's life, J told Randy he was out of town and couldn't visit. They spoke on the phone a few times. Everyone knew J was not out of town, and I'm sure Randy knew, too.

I lost a lot of respect for him during those weeks. His choice disgusted me. And when J spoke so eloquently at Randy's memorial service, I silently deplored him.

I was angry, and I shared that with another friend. She said, "Everyone is different, has different capabilities, different strengths. J simply wasn't able to be there."

It was difficult - no, it was impossible - for me to see J's choice through such a generous lens. Wasn't able to? I thought. Why? What did he think would happen to him? He would feel upset, and he'd get over it. Randy didn't have that option.

I had a similar reaction, although less intense, in New York City after September 11, 2001, when many people I knew refused to visit the site of the attacks. I couldn't understand how you could be so physically close to the event, how you could know so many people who were directly impacted, how you could know that workers were still toiling in the rubble, and not go pay your respects in person. They said, "It would upset me too much".

I've been told this is harshly judgmental of me, and part of me agrees. But the rest of me continues that ungenerous view.

"It would upset me" meets my own limitations

I've heard very uninformed and ignorant people say they never read newspapers or watch TV news because "it's so depressing". And I'm sure we've all known people who will not read a book or see a movie that deals with any disturbing or upsetting subject matter. As I've said, I don't look on this very kindly.

At the same time, I have limits. I absolutely do seek out books and movies that help me learn about the world, help me face the human condition with wide-open eyes, help me learn about experiences that I will never have. But... I've also come up against my own limits.

I've learned that I have extremely low tolerance to stories involving cruelty to animals. A segment of a Cormac McCarthy novel that I read more than 10 years ago still haunts me. All these years later, it hurts to think about it. I once saw a puppy get run over by a car - the speeding driver never even slowed down. The puppy didn't die immediately, and I swear to you I can hear still hear its high-pitched screams, can still see its agony in my mind's eye as if it were yesterday.

And so, I avoid books and movies that will trigger this reaction. There's a famous documentary called "Earthlings" about how animals are used by humans. It's supposed to be great, but I've refused to see it, and probably never will.

Similarly, I've been hearing about a movie called "The Invisible War," about rape and sexual assault within the U.S. military. It's supposed to be an excellent film, and grueling. I already know I won't see it. Being a rape survivor myself, I fear it will be seriously triggering for me.

In both instances, I truly feel like "I can't". So is that any different than when J said he "couldn't" visit Randy?

If I've recognized this reaction in myself and imposed certain limits, why can't I feel more generous towards other people's self-imposed limitations?

Is it, perhaps, a matter of degree? Is there a difference between people who understand and engage in the world as it is, but also choose to protect themselves from certain stressors, and people who routinely hide from reality?

Or is that just my own rationalization?

36 comments:

Dharma Seeker said...

I think it's something that can be rationalized, but I also think the only reason to rationalize is to make oneself more comfortable with his/her own decision (if it is in fact a decision, I agree with your friend that it's usually a limitation, a boundary that the mind/heart simply can't cross).

I wish everyone I know would read The Lost Dogs, for example. For me, the first step to ending an atrocity is knowing everything I can about the suffering it causes. It actually goes even further than that. I think surely if people know what really happened or is happening they will be as moved as I am and will fight tooth and nail against those causing the suffering. That's what I always found maddening. I thought the solution was making people aware, only to find out that many people don't WANT to be aware.

I'd be interested in a follow up piece to this post some time down the road. For me I accept people's unwillingness to know as a limitation and don't just them for it. But I still believe the solution to much of the suffering in the world is to make people aware of it. Once you process the horror you can start to work through solutions. In some ways I'm waiting for a collective awakening that might never happen.

Good for you for realizing you also do some of the things you judge other people harshly for. We all do it, but it takes a very self aware person to realize it.

Dharma Seeker said...

Seane Corn is a prolific yoga teacher and has done quite a bit of speaking about how people react to the horrible and the grotesque. You can probably find some of her interviews online and on youtube (also online, I know). I think you'd enjoy her.

laura k said...

Thanks, Dharma Seeker.

I don't know if I'm doing the same things that I judge others harshly for. I might be, but I'm not convinced.

I'm not trying to rationalize my own boundaries. My question about rationalizing is about my judgement of others. Is there a difference between not wanting to read a particular book or see a particular movie and J not visiting Randy? There might be. Randy needed us, and J turned away from him. I'm not sure that's analagous to not reading a book.

The things I don't want to expose myself to are things I am already knowledgeable about. To use your example, I know quite a bit about what happened to the Vick Dogs and about pit bulls and dog fighting and pit bull adoption, even though I haven't read that particular book. If I did read the book, it wouldn't cause me to act any differently than I do now - but it would be very difficult for me. I'd undergo a lot of stress and sleeplessness from it. And for what? Who would that help?

Just a rhetorical question, in terms of what I say to myself.

laura k said...

I do know how you feel about wanting everyone to read a book, though. I am like that about Josh Key's book "The Deserter's Tale," and several other books. I do feel, as you said, "If only everyone would read this... they would understand."

Dharma Seeker said...

Yes, I can see where it would appear to be an apples and oranges comparison.

I was lucky enough to have two grandmothers live well in to my adulthood. On each side of the family, one of my male cousins refused to visit our grandmother when she was dying. With my "Grandma" dying I was angry at my cousin, wondering how he could abandon her when (I thought) she needed her family most, after everything she'd done for him.

Fast forward twelve years or so and my "Nana" is dying, and I have two cousins (they are brother and sister) who didn't see her. The brother "just couldn't handle it" and the sister didn't want to call off a road trip she'd be taking in a couple of weeks. I believe the brother just couldn't handle it. Whatever his reasons might be are his own. I've never asked why. If I had a strong need to know why I'd question where that need came from.
There was a twinge of the same old "how could they abandon her" feeling, but also the realization that *if* they did abandon her it was *their* abandonment and they have to live with it. I could be angry about it, or resent their choices and/or weakness and/or limitations, but I feel that would result in the same thing that would come of you reading The Lost Dogs. A lot of turmoil, sadness, anger.. and for what? Who would benefit? Nobody. So I put a lot of effort in to not letting the why/coulda/shoulda/woulda take up space in my head. A LOT of effort.

Whether it's refusing to read a book, watch graphic video of a dog fight, or the inability to deal with death and dying head on when it's someone we care about, I honestly don't see much of a difference. The mind is such a complex thing. A limitation is a limitation, regardless of what triggers it. That's what I think anyway, so I try to be understanding. At the end of the day spending energy being angry or resentful or hurt by someone because he/she isn't as strong as you want them to be isn't energy well spent.

Sorry for the long comments. This is something I've been thinking a lot about over the last year or so, the last couple of months in particular.

Dharma Seeker said...

The Deserters Tale! Yes!! I am thrilled to tell you that is one book I've been able to pass on, I loaned it to an aunt she was very moved by it. She's told other people about it too.

laura k said...

Thanks for your thoughts, DS, and never any need to apologize, long comments are fine. :)

I don't know if I agree or not but you've given me a good piece to think about. Thanks.

laura k said...

There was a twinge of the same old "how could they abandon her" feeling, but also the realization that *if* they did abandon her it was *their* abandonment and they have to live with it. I could be angry about it, or resent their choices and/or weakness and/or limitations, but I feel that would result in the same thing that would come of you reading The Lost Dogs. A lot of turmoil, sadness, anger.. and for what? Who would benefit? Nobody.

It was absolutely their choice and they had to live with it, and your letting go of your anger is a positive thing - absolutely.

But when you say "for what", isn't the answer, for your grandmother? Would she not have benefitted? Randy surely would have benefitted from J's visit. He wanted to see J, he knew J was avoiding him and he knew why.

Whereas my reading a book is not going to change a single thing in the world, and no one is hurt by my not reading it. That's why it seems like an odd comparison to me. Your cousins and J actually did abandon another person in a time of need, whether you choose to be angry about it or not.

impudent strumpet said...

The things I don't want to expose myself to are things I am already knowledgeable about.

This is what I was thinking as I read this post. Would watching the things you don't want to watch tell you anything you don't know already? Also, is it of any use to have that further level of information? We know that rape happens in the military, we have some idea of how and why and how often. In our capacity as uninfluential civilians, would having the gory details change anything?

Also, the reason why people who don't pay attention to the news are problematic is (at least with the people I know) their ignorance tends to lead them to do harmful things, like voting stupidly (i.e. in a way that doesn't reflect their own values or intentions) because they're misled by soundbites or sensationalist headlines. So the question to ask is when sticking our head in the sand is are we harming anyone? (Or anyone other than ourselves?) I guess the other question is would we be able to tell?

Also, there's the fact that it is not humanly possible to watch and read everything. I watch very few dramas or documentaries, just because I tend to be indifferent to those genres, and there are already more than enough other things that I have some actual enthusiasm about watching. Feeling guilty about not having gotten around to watching something yet because there are other things you're more enthusiastic about watching is just silly.

Also, working within the established given of watching documentaries as having a moral duty component rather than being pure entertainment, since you already know something of the subject matter, is your time better used watching some completely different documentary about something you don't know anything about?

laura k said...

Thank you, Imp Strump. Excellent thoughts.

I do think more information helps us make better choices, helps us be more compassionate - and gives us more ammunition to try to persuade others, if that's a priority. And being ignorant can be dangerous, as you note.

But I agree there is a limit to what good our knowledge can do.

Also, I thoroughly agree that with very limited free time, we all make choices, and we shouldn't feel guilty about those choices. I don't feel guilty (eg) about not seeing Earthlings. I know how it would affect me and I choose not to put myself in that place. To me, that's self-awareness - a good thing, not something to feel guilty about.

laura k said...

On the head-in-the-sand people, I believe the more people in our society who are like that, the easier it is for powerful forces to shape our world without our consent - that an ignorant society is a compliant one.

Imagine if an enormous percentage of Canadian society understood what happened at the G20 - what the G20 summit was up to in the first place, why people were protesting, and the real meaning of the police/govt response. If enough Canadians understood that, it might not have happened!

But if enough people think "news" is a sensationalist murder trial or the a royal wedding, we're easy pickings.

I feel that it's important to create opportunities to break the dominant narrative, and if not create them, then share opportunities that others have created.

laura k said...

I often see documentaries or read books about the same subjects, because I'm I'm trying to know as much as possible about that subject.

Take war resistance, eg. It's not something I can experience myself, and I want to understand it as deeply as I can given that lack of first-hand experience, so I see and read whatever I can about it.

Dharma Seeker said...

Would watching the things you don't want to watch tell you anything you don't know already? Also, is it of any use to have that further level of information? We know that rape happens in the military, we have some idea of how and why and how often. In our capacity as uninfluential civilians, would having the gory details change anything?

That's a straw man's argument, unless you know everything there is to know about a subject.

Would watching or reading something tell you something you didn't already know? Probably, yes. But you won't know unless you read/watch it. Laura's example of The Deserter's Tale is a good one. "The gory details" are part of the reason some people desert.

In the case of The Lost Dogs there are details that were not previously made public, and I'm not referring to gore. I'm referring to what finally brought Vick down.

Some of it is forensic, which was ground breaking. That's science, not gratuitous gore, thought it does paint a heart breaking picture for one particular dog. Some of it was the almost insurmountable task law enforcement and prosecutors were given, and how they eventually, cooperatively, got it done. Having that information available to other law enforcement and prosecutors and behaviourists rescuers? Priceless. I guess my question for you Imp Strump is how can you discount the significance of something you refuse to see/read? How do you know it of value? This is all based on the assumption that one has taken the time to immerse oneself in some of the details so it must be of some importance or significance to him/her. I don't know any person who pursues information about subjects he/she doesn't care about, unless it's for work or academics.

laura k said...

I'm sure there are details in The Lost Dogs I don't know. But I don't feel I need to know every detail. I can easily weigh what that knowledge would give me against how reading that book would make me feel, and skip it.

We can't all know every detail of everything. If I don't read The Lost Dogs, I won't know certain things, but Dharma Seeker, you won't read other books I read and may not know various other things.

I won't say it has no value, but it would be of little value to me, considering the emotional cost.

I feel this way more about reading than movies - (a) it's a bigger time commitment, and my reading time is so limited, and (b) the images stay with me longer and more deeply.

impudent strumpet said...

What I was trying to say is there's a threshold beyond which learning more isn't likely to have much impact on your actions or opinions, so there isn't much gained by distressing yourself.

For example, I did read Deserter's Tale a while back, and I did learn new things from it (although more about why people would join the military in the first place, since why they would desert was already obvious to me.) However, nothing I learned changed any opinions I might have about the political issues or any actions I may choose to take or not take.

So if the book had had content that would have caused me to wake up screaming in the middle of the night, or have to stop what I'm working on and stim in the middle of the office, or burst into tears in the middle of sex, or start hyperventilating when I see people in camo on the subway, it wouldn't have been worth fucking up my precious remaining mental stability like that for something that would have made no difference ein external outcomes.

laura k said...

^^ Perfect, I will be stealing from that!

impudent strumpet said...

I feel this way more about reading than movies - (a) it's a bigger time commitment, and my reading time is so limited, and (b) the images stay with me longer and more deeply.

That's funny, because for me it's the other way around. With reading I can skim ("Okay, yucky things are going to happen, I'll skip a few paragraphs until it's over") and I don't necessarily visualize everything. With movies/TV, I have no control over the pace or intensity.

This might be because a lot of my reading time is on the subway or in the food court, where there's a whole lot of reality around to pull me out of the book. Most of my TV time, I'm alone and it's dark out.

impudent strumpet said...

I also forgot to add (sorry, Friday-brain diluted with wine) that I'm not discounting learning about something in obsessive details if you enjoy or are interested in doing so. You're talking to someone who can spot inaccuracies in media coverage of Eddie Izzard without even having to google up conformation. What I'm saying is that when further information isn't going to change external outcomes, there's no point in the external distress.

Dharma Seeker said...

We can't all know every detail of everything. If I don't read The Lost Dogs, I won't know certain things, but Dharma Seeker, you won't read other books I read and may not know various other things.

I think this is where you and Imp Strump lost me. I'm not suggesting everyone should know everything about a topic, or needs to. I am saying a) there is almost always more that can be learned b) that extra knowledge can be useful and c) sometimes people don't want to know, because it's more than they are equipped to process in a way that isn't destructive.

But when you say "for what", isn't the answer, for your grandmother? Would she not have benefitted? Randy surely would have benefitted from J's visit. He wanted to see J, he knew J was avoiding him and he knew why.

Knowing that I didn't have enough influence over my cousins to change their behaviour or decisions, no, there would have been no benefit to holding resentment towards them. If anything it might've tarnished what precious little time I did have with her. It might have caused my mind to wander instead of staying fully in the moment. There'd have been no benefit to either of us. Death brings out a crazy side of so many people, myself included. The grieving process has been written about more eloquently by people far more knowledgeable about psychology than I. I think part of the reason I had to fight so hard to keep resentful feelings in check is because I was grieving. I just know that no amount of me being angry with my cousins would have changed a single thing they did, so it would have been for nothing. It's like that expression: holding a grudge is letting someone live in your head rent free. For me getting mired down in disappointment and such would've been the same thing.

Dharma Seeker said...

What I'm saying is that when further information isn't going to change external outcomes, there's no point in the external distress

Very well put!

laura k said...

Knowing that I didn't have enough influence over my cousins to change their behaviour or decisions, no, there would have been no benefit to holding resentment towards them.

You're answering a different question, I must not have been clear.

I'm not talking about your response to your cousins' behaviour. I'm not suggesting you should resent them or hold a grudge or anything like that. That doesn't enter to this equation at all.

When I said "For what?" I was referring to your cousins' discomfort at visiting your grandmother. Why should they have put themselves through that discomfort, why should J put himself through visiting Randy? For what? For your grandmother's sake, for Randy's sake.

That's where the external outcome, as Imp Strump puts it, is different.

If I read a book or see a movie that upsets me, it makes no difference in anyone else's life. If I visit a dying friend, it can potentially make a huge difference in that friend's life.

That's why I don't think there is an equivalent between what J did and my not seeing a movie. We both would say "I'm not doing X because it would upset me," but in one case X changes nothing, and in another case X means a great deal to someone who really needs it.

laura k said...

By the way, Dharma Seeker, I agree with everything you've said about resentment and anger. That isn't what this post was about, but I do agree with you.

johngoldfine said...

Is there a difference between people who understand and engage in the world as it is, but also choose to protect themselves from certain stressors, and people who routinely hide from reality?

Or is that just my own rationalization?


Laura, as far as I know you from your posts and emails, you are a person willing to look at all the bad things and then you do not whine, do not rationalize, do not retreat, do not do nothing. Having understood, you then stand up, engage, fight, and give it your very best.

So, you are wimping out by not reading every last horrifying and disgusting detail. One can never know everything; there is always one more awful thing to discover--but adding to your knowledge after a certain point is meaningless. You know what you need to know to do and act for or against the issue at hand. You are not acting in ignorance. You are not rationalizing.

johngoldfine said...

This may be a bit OT or maybe not. I got an unsolicited mailer from AIPAC today. I didn't read it, but I did note that its hook was a photo from one of the Nazi concentration camps.

Why use that? Who on their mailing list is unaware of the camps' existence and living in ignorance and denial?

I like looking at historical photographs, but today I took a pass on AIPAC's gratuitous reminder that the world is full of ugly shit. I don't think that makes me a less responsible world citizen.

impudent strumpet said...

Ugh, I meant to say if it isn't going to change external outcomes, there's no point in internal distress. I hate it when I typo my way to an antonym!

deang said...

I like to keep my eyes open, but I have limits, too.

As you know, Laura, I have put myself through grueling emotional pain learning from publications like the Argentine Commission on the Disappeared what is meant by terms like torture and human rights violation. I forced myself to read about those things even though I had no strong interest in them as subjects, but I felt a responsibility to know about them so I would know what sorts of things my government and others were really doing throughout the world. This was in the Reagan era when there were numerous reports that Reaganites were implementing torture in several regions. So I am a person who deliberately pursued a subject that literally made me ill so that I would know more about it, not for school and not for a job.

Now, I no longer have quasi-PTSD symptoms from reading about torture and I can absorb information about it with equanimity. I can explain core issues about it to people who are confused about it because of US government misinformation. And I do think it's important to include a few of the vomitously gory details to impart the seriousness of it to those potentially swayed by right-wing propaganda about it. I can do that.

I cannot, however, watch dramatized depictions or archival footage of it on film, and I don't force myself to. I fast forward through it with my eyes turned away.

And it greatly disturbs and angers me that many people can watch gruesome film and TV violence as "entertainment," which really does inure them to it, yet they refuse to make any effort at all to learn about the real thing. They'd rather remain "apolitical." Their passive acceptance of sadistic entertainment violence but deliberate ignorance about real-world violence has a real and deleterious effect in the world.

laura k said...

I hate it when I typo my way to an antonym!

But you verbed typo, which is great!

(Plus it was obvious you meant that.)

laura k said...

Thank you, John. I would agree about anyone else, so I guess I will agree for myself, too.

What about J not visiting Randy, or any similar situation? Are you scornful of that, as I am, or do you take a more understanding view?

laura k said...

I had to look up AIPAC. They don't do themselves any favours leading with concentration camp pics, IMO!

johngoldfine said...

Uh, btw, this sentence was meant to have a 'not' cleverly placed within. Somehow it got misplaced....

So, you are wimping out by not reading every last horrifying and disgusting detail.

J and Randy: if J thought he was going to lose it, he did right by staying away, as an emotional meltdown would have put Randy in the unhappy position of having to reassure J. Possible partial exculpation?

When my cousin was dying of cancer (I was 18, he was 22), I visited him twice, once at home, once in the hospital. In the hospital, he threw a pillow at me and told me in a joking way (I knew from knowing him all my life was dead serious) to get the fuck out of the hospital and stop bothering him.

I never went back and I was immensely relieved--one more and one last kindness from my cousin of a thousand he had done for me.

Some dynamic like that between J and Randy you were unaware of?

J would shudder and say, "I can't take it. It's just so disgusting."

It's hard to argue against disgust, hard to overcome one's fears of pollution, one's gut revulsions. Sometimes there's no way to talk yourself out of a gag or a retch. J might have been doing a kindness if he thought he was going to have that sort of reaction.

johngoldfine said...

I assume my last name was enough to put me on AIPAC's mailing list. Wasted postage....

laura k said...

Dean, thanks for your thoughtful comments. I actually thought of you and your exploration of torture when I wrote this.

Depictions of torture in film is also a place I don't go. As Allan can confirm, even the suggestion of torture in a movie makes me uncomfortable, but if anything is depicted, I have to leave the room. It isn't that I don't think about it. It's that I think about it too much. I can't seem to get a mental defense against it.

laura k said...

Uh, btw, this sentence was meant to have a 'not' cleverly placed within. Somehow it got misplaced....

Ha ha, yes, I thought it might be missing something. :)

That's a very interesting take on J's reaction, one I hadn't thought of at all, and I appreciate it a lot.

I didn't like when thaa friend said "Not everyone is as strong as you," as if I had done something heroic by visiting Randy. I certainly didn't feel strong! When I left the hospital, I walked about 30 blocks before I stopped crying.

But it never occured to me that maybe J would have reacted in a way that Randy didn't need to deal with, that maybe it was actually better that he stayed away.

I wish I could ask him. J himself died of a heart attack at age 56. I never told him I was angry at him for his not visiting Randy, and I'm glad for that.

Dharma Seeker said...

What fantastic discourse. Dean I really enjoyed reading your thoughts.

I agree with John that there is a difference between making an informed, intellectual decision not to put yourself and a certain position and the visceral reaction people have to certain situations that basically forces them to avoid them. It's debilitating.

With respect to TLD I just want to make it perffectly clear that my references to the book were not directed at you Laura in any way. I know where your heart is on the subject and you've gone above and beyond raising awareness and funds for Bad Rap. And of course your experience with your precious Buster, actually having a survivor as a family member - I do not think for a moment that you and A are anything less than painfully aware of the pit bull's plight.

My wish for people to read The Lost Dogs is rooted in my desire for people to know the truth about the breeds. It isn't about preaching to the choir (you and A), it's about changing the perception of the breed as a menace when in fact it's probably the most abused breed in the world, certainly in North America.

I use this book as an example in a conversation about limits because it thoroughly tested mine. I can steel myself against a great many things if I put a wall up and my pragmatic hat on, but there's something about the written word that doesn't allow for that kind of detachment. I found I was living it with the dogs, more so than watching dog fight footage.

Anyway sorry for not making this clearer sooner. I should have anticipated you'd think I was suggesting you personally ought to read it. It was just meant as an example, the only one I have handy.

laura k said...

Thanks, Dharma Seeker. I did think you meant that I should read it, based on my saying I can't read about animal cruelty. Thank you for clarifying. :)

Snip from a note about The Invisible War from NCF:

And no, you should NOT see this movie. I deliberately seek out such films, for my teaching, research and activist interests, and so have seen lots of disturbing docs - but this one was one of THE most emotionally devastating films I've ever seen. Sit this one out!

Dharma Seeker said...

Not at all. I always try to be mindful of a persons's expressed sensitivities. Like when I told you about Hachi and recommended you pass. My Mum didn't want to see the Hunger Games because she found the idea of one sister sacrificing herself for another too upsetting. My Dad suggested The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo for a movie night and I knew my Mum would find one scene in particular too upsetting, so I suggested they nix it. I never try to push anyone to do something they don't want to do.

The Lost Dogs was just my own example, as I said. And I still hope everyone who can read it will consider it, but I don't put you in the category at all. There's so much to the story that doesn't involve what happened to the dogs Bad Newz. Awesome recovery stories, the success of the people involved to prosecute the case. Lots of good, heart warming things, but there are also eye witness accounts that are incredibly painful to read. It is not for everyone.I do think it could have a wider audience and that would be beneficial in so many ways, but it needs to be a willing audience, people who can process what they read without being destroyed by it.

I talked to a friend about India last night. She said she didn't want to go because she couldn't bear to see the suffering. A number of people in my group were quite overwhelmed. My friend said well surely you were still bothered by it, even though you couldn't fix it. And that's the strange thing, it bothers me in many ways, but it doesn't hurt me, mentally or emotionally.

I realized a long time ago that as soon as you start feeling pity for something or someone you are not much use to them. Maybe this is OT but it kind of ties in. So I am rarely overcome by cruelty. And I'm starting to wonder if something's wrong with me to be honest, when I see people look to me expecting me to be crying or whatever and I'm just not. I think I need to ruminate on this some more.