“Love, Hate and Everything in Between” is quite a vast concept for a documentary film. There’s so much to consider, and limiting it to less than an hour must have been a task in itself.
Last night the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of the Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) hosted a screening of this Alex Gabbay film which looks closely at empathy; how it originated, whether people are becoming more empathetic, the difference between empathy and sympathy, and the progress in neuro-science that’s given us greater insight into the workings of the mind, including the development of empathy.
“Empathy is instinctive”, proclaimed one of the people featured in the film.. “It’s an amalgamation of cognition and feeling”, said another. “There’s a continuum of empathy”, said yet another. “Empathy is more important than compassion”, was another comment. .
As you can see, even amongst those who specialise in this area, there still isn’t total agreement on what empathy is – whether it can ever be passive, how it links to feelings and emotions, how one uses cognitive processes to become empathic. Nothing is very clear, and yet it is absolutely vital that we develop a discourse on this important matter.
We shall be writing in greater detail about some of the aspects of this film and the thoughts that we’ve had subsequent to seeing it. For now though, we’d like to commend Alex Gabbay for making such a film and enabling us to think carefully about what empathy is, rather than merely accept it as one of those words that we use with great regularity without really exploring what we actually mean by it.
The contributors to the evening’s “discussion” were thought provoking, and it’s clear that there’s been some thoroughly interesting work done in this field. We’re looking forward to following up on the work of Mary Gordon, for instance, who is championing practical ways of developing empathy for children in our schools through her “Roots of Empathy” programme.
See more on her website.
Likewise, Professor Simon Baron-Cohen’s thoughts about “the continuum of empathy” are something that we definitely want to review. His book, bought at the event, “Zero Degrees of Empathy”, is something that we’ll be commenting on in future blog posts.
Empathy is important. Within the film, there were plenty of occasions when the film producer and director channelled our thoughts and made it explicit that we can’t function effectively as a society or indeed as an individual without having a fair amount of empathy. We would go further than this and say that we can’t ever function to our full potential without “social intelligence” of which empathy is a major component. But whilst we are encouraging and developing our empathy, we need to ensure that we know ourselves, who we are, what we want, and indeed what values we have in order to interact socially and empathetically with others.
It was also wonderful to be in a room full of people that were at the very least receptive to talking and listening to what people had to say about empathy – very apt.
Our only criticism would be that it would be good to develop this further and actually have an opportunity within these presentations and meetings to be more social and participatory, i.e. a greater dialogue between the platform speakers and the audience.
All in all this is definitely a documentary film worth watching. Also, keep an eye on RSA events such as these.