Tag Archives: Democracy

Empathy is required for democracy

Post Syndicated from arp242.net original https://www.arp242.net/empathy.html

As humans, we’re fundamentally “selfish”, for lack of a better term, as our own
feelings and experiences are our baseline. We’re also fundamentally empathic,
which is why most of us aren’t assholes.

It’s fairly easy to be empathic with people close to you: your family, friends,
coworkers, and other people you directly interact with. You’re aware of their
feelings, and much of the time you adjust your views and behaviour accordingly.
In my observation a lot of conflicts that happen – fights with your spouse,
coworker, etc. – are a failure of empathy: you don’t fully understand the other
person’s feelings and perspective. Some people have a structural failure of
empathy and we call those people assholes.

Empathy gets harder the further you go away from your immediate circle. To be
empathic towards people you’ve never met or whose lifestyle is radically
different from you requires some amount of effort; you need to be aware of their
circumstances and feelings to emphasize with them. This is one reason why
fiction is quite important: it trains empathy.

The current political situation seems to be spiralling out of control in the
United States; but it’s hardly just the US where this is happening, I see it in
all other countries where I’m reasonably familiar with the politics as well: the
Netherlands, Belgium, and the UK. It’s just more extreme in the US, which is
mostly due to how the political system works.

There is a lot that can be said about all of this this, but one of the most
important core reasons is a structural failure of empathy. This is something
I’ve seen on all sides of the political spectrum, it just takes different forms.

Empathy comes in two forms: you can have emotional empathy, “I understand why
you feel like this”
, and intellectual empathy, “I understand why you could
hold such a viewpoint (even though I don’t agree)”
. Both are important; people
don’t feel angry for no reason, and they don’t vote a certain way without
reasons either. For a democracy to function there needs to be some form of
genuine understanding – or empathy – across the population.


On the right you see things such as “BLM is just a terror organisation”. Framing
it like this “inoculates” people against developing empathy. I mean, would you
care to listen to Osama Bin Laden to develop empathy for him? Probably not.

On the left, anyone who is opposed to BLM or affirmative action is a racist.
It’s a massive failure of empathy to frame things like that, and just as most
people wouldn’t pay much attention to what a terrorist has to say, most people
also wouldn’t pay much attention to what a racist has to say.

There are plenty of stories of former neo-Nazis apologizing with tears in their
eyes for their past actions. Some people really are just bad, and some people
are just good. Most of us? Somewhere in between and a complex mix of both. Our
environment matters a lot. European, Chinese, or Indian people are not
fundamentally different from Americans as human beings, yet their attitudes,
behaviour and societies are. I’ve lived in a bunch of different countries over
the past few years, and the differences are quite striking, even within
neighbouring countries in Europe.

Germany went from being a democracy to Nazi Germany and back to being a
democracy all in the span of just 15 years. This is a particularly striking
example and entire books have been written about the sequence of events that
made this happen, but it’s an important lesson to not underestimate external
influences on people’s actions.

There are a few factors that come in to play here: the rise of partisan
mainstream media is an important part. This is definitely something where things
are worse on the right with stuff like Fox News, The Daily Mail, spurious claims
of “liberal bias”, “fake news CNN”, and so forth. This also exists on the left,
but less so.

While Vox seems concerned about how Chapo Trap House will hurt Sanders’
chances
, and relativities the content as “mockery”, “insults”, and
“conventional punditry and political analysis leavened by a heavy dose of
irony”. But if you look at the actual content then that seems like a
rather curious take on things. Does “haha, that was only ironic” sound familiar
to you? And this isn’t some obscure podcast no one heard of, it’s one of the
biggest ones out there.

I got permanently banned from /r/FuckTheAltRight a few years ago for pointing
out that a “punch Trump” protest was misguided and pointless
under rule 1:
“No Alt-Right/Nazis”.

Overall, I feel things are in pretty bad shape. It’s pointless to argue which
side is worse or who started it. It’s really bad everywhere, and because “the
other side is worse” is an absolute piss-poor defence for tolerating – or even
doing – the same thing on your side. People love to throw “false equivalence”
around as some sort of defence, and that’s just missing the bigger picture.


How did we get here? I think there are a few reasons for this. When a large
group of people do something very clearly wrong then there is almost always
something more going on than just “there is a problem with those people on an
individual level”, because the baseline of “bad people”, so to speak, just isn’t
that large.

Some of the reasons include:

  • The media landscape changed significantly, and people get stuck in “echo
    chambers”.

    I don’t really like the term “echo chamber” as it’s misused so often. There is
    nothing wrong with engaging on a Donald Trump community or a socialist
    community. It’s normal and natural to want to talk to like-minded people
    without having to explain and defend your views every other comment. However,
    if all you do is engage with like-minded people and never hear anything
    else … yeah, then there’s a problem. The increasing partisan nature of
    media, as well as social media, are a big factor in this. I’ll expand on this
    in another post later this week.

  • Certain actors encourage a lack of empathy for personal gain; Donald Trump is
    an obvious example of this, as are his stooges in the form of Tucker Carlson
    and the like. Tucker Carlson is not an idiot, I have every reason to believe
    that he knows exactly what he is doing: adding more drops to the empathy
    inoculation for personal gain, because if you make sure people distrust – even
    hate – the other side then they’ll remain loyal to you.

    No one wants to be seen as a racist or sexist, so calling people you don’t
    like racist is a simple way to “win” an argument, shut people up, and get an
    audience with some outrage-driven piece. “Standing against racism” is a noble
    cause, but just because you have the appearance of doing so doesn’t mean
    you’re actually doing it.

  • A lot of regular people feel let down and forgotten; I don’t think it’s a
    coincidence that in 2008 Obama – generally seen as a bit of an “outsider”
    candidate – got elected on a campaign of “Change”, and that Trump – another
    outsider – got elected in 2016 on a campaign of “Make America Great Again”.
    These seem like the same message to me, just phrased differently. I see the
    same pattern in other countries, where people vote on similar-ish candidates
    and parties (it’s largely due to the differences in political systems that
    makes the US situation so extreme).

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with the basic idea of capitalism, but
    in its current incarnation it’s letting a lot of people down. Almost any good
    idea driven to its extremes is stupid, and capitalism is no exception. Yet
    over the past few decades the moderations to file off capitalism’s sharp edges
    have slowly eroded. This, again, is more extreme in the US, but it’s happened
    everywhere.

I’m not sure how to get out of this mess, since a lot of the problems are
complicated without easy solutions. Essentially, a lot has to do with the
breakdown of out democratic and economic institutions. These are not simple
problems.

But an active effort to understand and empathize with people needs to happen
first, instead of treating everyone you don’t exactly agree with as an enemy. A
democracy only works if everyone acknowledges everyone’s legitimacy, otherwise
it just becomes bickering over small issues.

Why the 100th Anniversary of Women’s Right to Vote in the U.S. is Important to Celebrate on International Women’s Day

Post Syndicated from Jocelyn Woolbright original https://blog.cloudflare.com/why-the-100th-anniversary-of-womens-right-to-vote-in-the-u-s-is-important-to-celebrate-on-international-womens-day/

Why the 100th Anniversary of Women’s Right to Vote in the U.S. is Important to Celebrate on International Women’s Day

Why the 100th Anniversary of Women’s Right to Vote in the U.S. is Important to Celebrate on International Women’s Day

Seven months ago, I joined Cloudflare to work on the Public Policy Team focusing on our democracy projects such as Project Galileo, Athenian Project and Cloudflare for Campaigns. Since I joined the team, I have learned a lot about how important cybersecurity protections are for organizations that are the target of sophisticated cyberattacks, while also learning about the complex election security environment in the United States and abroad.

It seems fitting that on International Women’s Day, a day people throughout the world are celebrating the achievements of women, we also celebrate the Centennial Anniversary of the Women’s Suffrage Movement which was the tipping point that gave many women voting rights in the United States.

Since I have been working on Cloudflare’s election security projects, this day means something extra special to me and many of my colleagues who believe that voting is the cornerstone of democracy and that having access to information regarding voting and elections is essential.

Why the 100th Anniversary of Women’s Right to Vote in the U.S. is Important to Celebrate on International Women’s Day

Here are five reflections that I want to share on International Women’s Day and the Centennial Anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment which granted women the right to vote in the United States:

1. The Women’s Suffrage Movement in the United States was a decades-long battle

The Women’s Suffrage movement burst into view in the United States in 1848 at the Seneca Falls Convention, where participants introduced the notion that women deserved their own political identity and that a righteous government cannot exist without equal rights for all. These organizers passed the torch to the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage, founded in 1913, which raised awareness through distributing pamphlets at street meetings, organizing parades, speaking tours, and petitioning Congress to pass legislation on the movement. In 1919, the Senate passed the Nineteenth Amendment and it was officially ratified on August 26, 1920.

2. Due to racial inequality, many women of color in the United States were not granted the right to vote until 1965

With the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, it technically granted women the right to vote. However, due to widespread inequality within the ranks of the women’s suffrage movement who primarily focused on white middle-class interests, many African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanics, and American Indian women did not receive the right to vote until later in the century. African American women were not guaranteed the right to vote until the Voting Right Acts of 1965. During the height of the civil rights movement, The Act was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson to prohibit racial discrimination in voting.

Why the 100th Anniversary of Women’s Right to Vote in the U.S. is Important to Celebrate on International Women’s Day

3. There has been a historical, global increase of women in political power

Much has changed since the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. The Center for American Women and Politics in the United States reports that in every presidential election since 1964, the number of female voters has exceeded the number of male voters.

There has also been a historical increase of women in elected offices around the world. This is evident with the highest number of women ever elected to the U.S. Congress in 2018, Slovakia electing the first female president, the United Kingdom electing 220 female MPs to the House of Commons, women making up 49% of Senate of the Republic of Mexico and female Prime Ministers in Denmark, Norway, and Finland. Foundationally, the right to vote is a nonpartisan issue that benefits the interest of the country, strengthens our democracy, and with more women in office, it promotes diversity of thought and experience.

4. The spread of voting and election information has changed

The way we share information has evolved dramatically from distributing pamphlets in 1913 to millions of people sharing information on the Internet across the world in 2020. State and local governments now use their election websites as the primary source to provide up to date announcements and information on how to register to vote, find designated polling stations, and access election results. Political campaigns use their digital infrastructure to release information about their policies, accept donations, recruit volunteers and give updates on the campaign to increase supporters’ engagement.

5. Access to election information is essential to voter turnout and democracy.

Voting is a crucial tenet of our democratic system and regardless of circumstance, individuals should have access to the information necessary to exercise their rights without outside interference. At Cloudflare, our mission is to build a better Internet and part of that is ensuring that users have access to accurate, trusted information, in a safe environment. With many upcoming elections in 2020, it is important that we have confidence in the democratic processes and that starts with ensuring their website infrastructure and internal teams are secure against malicious efforts to take them offline and shake voter’s faith in democracy.

Cloudflare has made election security a priority, investing our time in the Athenian Project and Cloudflare for Campaigns as political campaigns and state and local government election websites are the first line of defense in election security. In 2016, it was reported by the Department of Homeland Security that state and local government election infrastructure in all 50 states were targeted during the Presidential election. Fast forward to 2020, we are protecting more than 170 state and local government election websites and providing services to 18 of the 32 U.S. Presidential campaigns.

Therefore, it seems fitting that we celebrate the Centennial anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment and International Women’s Day, highlighting the achievement of women throughout history and the importance of voter confidence in the democratic institutions that many fought to participate and have their voices heard.

Working at Cloudflare has allowed me to learn how important access to information is to Internet users, and voters across the world, and I am proud to work for a company that supports strengthening democracy.

If you are interested in learning more about our election project, please visit cloudflare.com/athenian/ & cloudflare.com/campaigns/usa/.