Some observations about Empathy

So then it happened. I guess it was inevitable, and a question of time.

A truck plowed into pedestrians in the center of Barcelona, the city of freedom and expression and love and peace and many other things. PUFF.

I was at a train station close by about to get on a train to go home (outside of town nowadays), when 7 different people called me to inform/check about what had happened. There was a short moment of heightened brain activity, when realizing how close to the situation I was, and realizing I was about to get on a train (a public transportation situation, which of course would be an ideal target for a bomb for instance). That moment, even afterwards, seems a bit unreal. It made this so real.

I did get on the train and got off it as well, and went to sit down and drank a beer to evaluate and digest. Most friends of mine had been accounted for, except for one. I kept calling her and she kept not answering. After some hours, she did. She was at home.

That night, after somehow being able to fall asleep after many hours of trying, I woke up spontaneously around 4am and instinctively checked my phone for more news. Oh yes, there was another attempt in a small town southwards.

The next day, everything was the same but it was different.

The sky was grey, but different grey.

That evening I met up with my friend nearby at a beach bar, just to get out of the house.There was a wedding there, a very small one at that, but you could feel the love and the energy of the happiness. This was just 24 hours after the incident.

I sort of sneaked to watch the ceremony from the background, and it was beautiful. After the ceremony, the party moved to the beach bar we were sitting at, and the music started flowing. It was passionate, loving, energetic, and defiant.

This was amazing. It pulled me out of the dark thoughts of the past 24 hours.

These attacks have become, or always were in some way I guess, normality. Europe has had its longest period of peace. Other parts of the world have not been as lucky. But this is from my perspective, as this is my reality. That security is under threat now, so that it has become normality for us lucky Europeans, to be aware of a constant threat of an attack from any direction, to shake up our sense or security.

Well, again, not everyone has been so lucky, to have experienced this sense of security that we Europeans by no means take for granted, but had however grown accustomed to.

This is a wakeup call. I hope it is at least.

It’s not a question of religion. I will never agree to that being the reason. It’s about power, and it’s about suppression. It’s about human nature, and humans throughout history have been known for their desire to conquer and rule, by any means necessary.

There are a lot of good teachings in many of the main religions and their prophets’ words.

Mostly it’s about doing the right thing. Like, the one from the 10 commandments: Do not kill.

Thank you for this instruction. This would imply, that without this advice, people would see nothing wrong in killing each other blatantly. (which, it oftentimes, does seem to be the case).

Or, do not bear false witness — as in, do not lie.

I wonder how many people, even the people who follow the Book devotedly, live according to this rule.

The peculiarity in this is that the 10 commandments are shared by Christianity, Judaism as well as Islam, and all of these religions view these words from the sky, as told at Mount Sinai, as fundamentals of their moral code.

Was it really the moment that God spoke to the people, giving them these Ten commandments, that defined what was right or wrong? Or could it perhaps have been a human instinct, a hunch of right and wrong, which defined the rules to live by? Perhaps these were confirmed by the God speaking from heavens? Who am I to say, I was not there.

But I think it’s fair enough to ask the question, whether these moral instincts might have been there all along.

In Buddhism, the Five (or Eight, depending) Precepts are a guide to live your life by.

These five include for example: not harming living thigs; not taking what is not given; and not lying.

Buddhism is believed to have originated from a time somewhere between 6 and 4 BCE, based on the teachings of the Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama).

There is another common theme which keeps returning. The (somewhat unexplainable) belief in heaven and hell.

Even the Mayans were convinced about the underworld.

And how would you end up there? Or, how would you be granted access to heaven?

The day after the Barcelona incident there was a big gathering of people at Plaza Catalunya, next to the location where it went down. Spanish prime minister was there, but not only him — also the King of Spain was present. I watched this on TV at home, still shook up. There was a minute of silence.

After the minute of silence, the crowds started chanting something. First I thought they were perhaps chanting something in the lines of insulting the prime minister, who in the tense situation of Catalonian independence discussion is the bad guy in many people’s eyes over here.

No, they were chanting, we are not afraid. There was no visible, or audible attack on Rajoy. It seemed like in this moment, everyone was there for one purpose, which was peace, and solidarity.

A few days after that, there was a protest by thousands of Muslims in the same location, who made a very important demonstration about showing that Islam is about peace, and that the Muslim community of Catalonia is not standing by what those guys did, and that the pain they feel is the same, if not worse.

A few days after that, about a week after the events, there was a massive peace march. The estimates of people go up from 500.000 people to nearly a million.

The king was there again.

This time he was booed.

Perhaps for a reason, but I still found it cool he made a point of showing up, while in the light of the recent events a lot of his activities supporting questionable regimes have come into spotlight.

Anyway. Things are escalating, It is clear. Things are escalating, in our perspective. Of course things have been bad for many people for a long time. But in perception for us Europeans, things are escalating. Rise of Neo-nazis, as demonstrated bluntly a few weeks ago in Charlottesville. A president there who only makes things worse and then pardons a sheriff who was defying a court order the purpose of which was to ensure minorities are not discriminated against.

Freedom of speech is crumbling. Democracy seems a far cry.

Things are escalating, they have been for quite some time. Welcome to (new) reality.

At the same time, there is a ray of hope.

I believe people don’t need to be told what is right or what is wrong.

We know that by heart and now is the time to act on it.

We have got to be better than this.