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  1. #1
    Senior Member Eileen's Avatar
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    Default sympathy for the despicable

    Though I always feel deep sadness for victims and am a proponent for justice (whatever that means - I am against the death penalty as a general rule, which I don't want to debate with anybody, but I do acknowledge the need for consequences/punishments), I also find that I am overwhelmed frequently with sympathy and compassion for the despicable people who commit horrific crimes--people who go on shooting sprees, mothers who kill their children, child molesters, etc. I suppose that these are the main types of despicable folks who I feel compassion for, and I guess that it's because I assume that they must suffer a great deal to do the horrible things they do. I always feel defensive for them when I hear people (or the media) demonize them, because there had to be real human pain there. I don't want to make excuses for the horror that they cause, but I don't want to disregard the humanity of these despicable people.

    Am I alone?
    INFJ

    "I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality." -Martin Luther King, Jr.

  2. #2
    Senior Member substitute's Avatar
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    Nope. I remember having a dream where I found Saddam Hussein under a road bridge, haggard and ragged and on the run, and I felt sorry for him and gave him a bottle of beer!

    I've studied Norman history since I was a kid, and developed a great fondness and attachment to William the Conqueror, even despite the despicable things he did... I find myself seeing good qualities that almost justify the bad... or at least, explain it.

    I've studied the Charles Manson case in depth too, and find myself in sympathy with him.

    So no, you're not alone, and yeah, I get it too - the people who assume that cos you don't hate them and sympathise, you therefore condone them. Meh.

  3. #3
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    What about sociopaths and others that probably don't suffer for the horrible things they do?

  4. #4
    Senior Member substitute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MacGuffin View Post
    What about sociopaths and others that probably don't suffer for the horrible things they do?
    Sociopaths suffer, believe me.

    *knows*

  5. #5
    Strongly Ambivalent Ivy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MacGuffin View Post
    What about sociopaths and others that probably don't suffer for the horrible things they do?
    Quite honestly they're difficult for me to fit into my framework. I have to believe they are suffering somehow, or that their lack of apparent suffering is a defense mechanism to protect them from awful things that happened to them at some point. I know that's not always the case, and the categories I've made for people in my mind don't always tidy up neatly.

    My reaction is similar to Eileen's and I will argue vehemently for mercy over death (in fact it has pissed my mom off more than once; she's more of an "eye for an eye" type). At the same time, I acknowledge that some people can't control their impulses and are given to horrific ones and need to be kept away from the public. I wish we had a more humane way of doing that.

  6. #6
    darkened dreams labyrinthine's Avatar
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    I feel a certain cautious sympathy. It is important to not project one's own innocence and sensitivity onto the cruel person. There are profound differences along with the commonalities. Very often cruel people are overly sensitive to their own feelings. They often really baby themselves, so don't need me to add to it. When I feel the most sympathy is when they die or suffer and everyone cheers. I don't pity them in the same way as innocent suffering, because I can also appreciate that an end has come to the suffering they cause. The pity I feel is that they are in fact a human being who hasn't merited kindness or sympathy. It is the most wretched state of things. It is a solemn moment in which I determine to not become them by celebrating their pain or death. It's a crossroads at which we define ourselves.

    People who are mentally ill and cause suffering are a different case altogether. I would venture that 'most' mothers who kill their children and such are a different category from cruel dictators and sadists.
    Step into my metaphysical room of mirrors.
    Fear of reality creates myopic morality
    So I guess it means there is trouble until the robins come
    (from Blue Velvet)

    I want to be just like my mother, even if she is bat-shit crazy.

  7. #7
    Senior Member substitute's Avatar
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    I'm not sure whether it really matters to me, the question of whether or not bad people actually suffer in some way. In a way that's still 'eye for an eye' thinking, that you can only 'love' and forgive them if they're still being punished in some way or form or other...

    My sympathy for sociopaths comes from back when I was about 11 or 12 and I was diagnosed as one - it turned out to be wrong and the diagnosis of attachment disorder was made when I was 13, which I've gradually started to get over in the last few years, making improvements there... but in any case, to begin with I'd be sent to these centres where they'd try to condition me and stuff, and I met a couple of adults who had been diagnosed long ago as sociopaths, and we got talking... neither of them have hurt anyone (physically at least) and have managed to stay out of jail - I'm still in touch with one of them. We talk in depth and I know that he suffers in his own way - not necessarily out of guilt or shame for the things he does (mostly not illegal, but mostly definitely unethical/immoral). But just because he's fucking hollow, and he knows it. He has a great thirst and hunger for FEELING, but can't seem to get any - and in a way, the things he does are sometimes attempts to engineer a situation to which he will have an emotional/compassionate response. It's fucked up, but basically yeah, he is suffering, because of who he is.

    I feel pity for him because of that, but I'm not sure... I mean I don't think the whole idea of the fact that he suffers in any way, shape or form is actually a factor in why I have time for him. I can't really say what is... I'll have to think about it some more...

  8. #8
    Senior Member cafe's Avatar
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    I acknowledge that I have felt sympathy for both Andrea Yates and Jeffrey Dahmer. Their crimes were horrific, but some of the circumstances that contributed to their committing them are very sad.
    “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”
    ~ John Rogers

  9. #9
    Strongly Ambivalent Ivy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cafe View Post
    I acknowledge that I have felt sympathy for both Andrea Yates and Jeffrey Dahmer. Their crimes were horrific, but some of the circumstances that contributed to their committing them are very sad.
    Yep. For me, those types of cases are a snap. It gets harder for me to be compassionate when I don't understand, but it's just as important then, if not more. I don't want to Jesus all over the thread but it seems like if we only have sympathy when there is a clear mitigating circumstance (mental illness, for example) we've missed the point of compassion. It's the prisoners who are universally hated who most need an advocate. Not to argue for their release, but to argue for their humanity.

  10. #10
    darkened dreams labyrinthine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ivy View Post
    Yep. For me, those types of cases are a snap. It gets harder for me to be compassionate when I don't understand, but it's just as important then, if not more. I don't want to Jesus all over the thread but it seems like if we only have sympathy when there is a clear mitigating circumstance (mental illness, for example) we've missed the point of compassion. It's the prisoners who are universally hated who most need an advocate. Not to argue for their release, but to argue for their humanity.
    The trick is arguing for 'their' humanity and not our own. I have witnessed the interactions between the very kind and the very cruel. The compassionate tend to project their deep innocence onto the cruel, while the sadist projects their guilt onto the gentlest of people. Part of their humanity is their cruelty. It is a horrific fact, but still remains. It is so different to approach this issue in the abstract than face to face. When wrestling with it on deeply personal terms, it can be dangerous to feel anything at all. There isn't really a 'right' way to feel about it because it is a scenario deeply wrought in irony. Whatever is true, the entire context, is important. Before we forgive the sadist, it is important to start by forgiving the minor grievances people have committed against us. Resisting the urge to judge and punish can be seen when we encounter the little annoying people. If we feel no compassion for them, what does our compassion for the dramatically cruel matter? It can actually be 'easier' to feel for a serial killer who never tortured someone we love, than to forgive someone who stole our hard-earned promotion or whatever.

    Regarding people who have suffered as a precursor to their cruelty, why would being a victim entitle us to be cruel? It entitles us to understand suffering. It can just as easily entitle us to become more compassionate. The pattern that creates the greatest cruelty is one in which while vulnerable (as a child, etc) a person is made to suffer, but also given opportunity to inflict suffering as a way to cope. This teaches the individual that a sense of personal power is gained through cruelty. As rational human beings, we are able to examine ourselves in a context outside of self. This makes us more responsible for our actions than an animal like a dog which is primarily a reactionary creature.
    Step into my metaphysical room of mirrors.
    Fear of reality creates myopic morality
    So I guess it means there is trouble until the robins come
    (from Blue Velvet)

    I want to be just like my mother, even if she is bat-shit crazy.

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