Is Empathy only present if you are well and well fed?

Starvation Diet. What is it?

Mmmmmm chocolate, Mmmmmm sandwich, Mmmmmm doughnuts, Mmmmmm beer. Spoilt for choice. Trying to resist. When I resist I put the money in a pot. When the pot is full I send it (the money, not the pot) to somebody who needs it to survive. The art comes about through the documentation of the process, here and in other places. There is no end to this project.

8 Sep 2010

Its like wearing a hair shirt for no reason

I started this extreme part of the project with clear ideas about why I was doing it. It was an experiment in increasing empathy, challenging my thoughts and getting a greater understanding. But with my head like cotton wool yesterday I realised that I was in no fit state to contemplate anything at a higher level let alone debate it in a sensible way. So I have started eating according to the normal starvation diet rules again, resist things I really don't need and give the money to the charity. I still feel the physical effects of the last few days but my head is clearing a little and I should be compus mentus by dinner time.


  1. Posted on Facebook By Dunn
    Arguably the more you suffer the more chance you have of empathising with the plight of others (just look to the hugly wealthy who often are seen to demonstrate very little empathy). An individuals suffering does not gaurentee that one will... not act predominantly in there own interests however. It does not guarentee that they will act altruisticly (sorry I can't even spell well enough to find these words in the dictionary). If ones own needs are not met they will be incapable of helping anyone else this does not mean however that they do not empathise only that they may understand the order of things. This is why on aeroplanes they tell you that in an emergency you should put the oxygen mask on yourself before your infant child. If you die your child dies. Also I suggest, refer to Maslow's hierachy of needs in terms of that I understand the point though I do not entirely agree with the sentiment. Empathy is not a luxury but a nessesity of a life well lived.

  2. I used to disagree with Maslow's hierarchy of needs, I found it patronising to think that you can only have a well lived life with higher thinking, empathy and care for others if you have your basic needs met. I had seen lots of people who had all these things and were living material poor lives. I think that when I was thinking about it though I was considering people in this country who do have basic needs met but seem poor according to this countries and this times standards. After feeling my brain turn to mush through lack of calories I may have a little bit more understanding of what a previous commenter on here was talking about, saying that anthropological studies had found that things like deep family bonds etc are not always so strong in survival societies. When you are struggling to survive children become means of production rather than cherished others and older people become liabilities. Being able to love and cherish and emphasise are maybe luxuries that we in the richer countries are able to afford. When I didn't have enough calories my brain didn't think straight, if I'd added to that a life time of malnutrition, nowhere to sleep safely and soundly and other health issues my empathy might have slipped even further. I guess that if we have been given the opportunity of empathy we should bloddy well use it and make sure that the way we use our privilege helps others in other countries and other times.

  3. However there is a danger of assuming that when an individual is not empowered to make a differance, for others in terms of material needs, that they are not capable of empathising with anothers plight. Perhaps it is indeed through understanding ones own pain or discomfort that true empathy or a good guess at it can be reached, rather than the hollow sympathy of percieved morality reliant on a postumus or covert system of rewards checks and balences. It will be interesting to see if your empathy (ability to imaginativly put yourself in their shoes so to speak and therefore see yourself as them) for those malnourised individuals increases in time due to your experiences. And I'm glad you ate the apple Eve-I mean Beth. Frm DunnKanyon :-)