A bit of empathy?

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The downfall was pretty spectacular. Not someone I know or have met personally but a friend of a friend of a friend and recognisably familiar in “my part” of London life.

He’d done something extremely stupid. And criminal. Not something that would have directly harmed anyone else but he’d been caught and, naturally, had faced justice. A jail term ensued in the US – not something to be wished on …well.. most people.

I am sufficiently self-aware (I think and hope) to recognise that hypocrisy and injustice have always been my most easily pressed buttons so I hope this isn’t an unfair over-reaction to what followed……

….namely a vicious round of mickey-taking, Schadenfreude and, to a certain extent, vindictiveness. Pretty tasteless, hurtful to his friends who were watching and completely unempathetic. Based on jealousy I believe. “Ah he has had an interesting life, I haven’t so I will mock and take pleasure from his downfall”.

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And, in this case, maybe discretion really is the better part of valour. I’m not asking people to like what he’d done, nor to condemn his punishment – but the pack does not need to turn on someone when they are already down, does it?

We can be better than this. We should be better than this. We must be better than this.

I was tempted to include a seasonal comment – “at this time of year ….” – but in fact this shouldn’t be limited to the Christmas period.

Particularly in this world of social media, of instant updates on events all around our planet (and even on comets and other planets) can we please learn to pause, reflect and switch on our empathy before firing out those messages of mockery and, worse, damnation?

It may not be your very first reaction to what you read but perhaps put yourself in the other person’s shoes? Imagine what it is like for them. What it would be like for you. Refrain from tweeting if you can’t be sure of the impact. Think about what it’s like on the receiving end of what you are about to say.

Happy Christmas and may you have a healthy, content and prosperous 2015.

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