LETTER: Empathy needed in society

Arts and cultural activities teach the value of understanding others

Dear Editor:

The current gallery show at the Arts Centre, Budding Artists, has inspired me to comment on the value of arts and culture in modern society.

The show is comprised of works by students from Giant’s Head Elementary Scool and is on display until March 22.

The work demonstrates both the skill of young artist and the careful guidance of instructor.

In this world of high-speed internet communication, development of artificial intelligence, conflicting values, global warming, civil discord, etc., Barack Obama, for one, has identified what scientists and philosophers are recognizing as “empathy deficit” and the effect it has on society.

Research has shown that individuals who lack empathy do not have the capacity to feel emotions of others.

History has shown that people who lack empathy such as dictators Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, etc., have led followers into unthinkable violent consequences. Another example is Charles Manson.

Arts and cultural activities teach individuals the value of empathetic understanding of people who are different from themselves.

Elvis Presley sang about walking in someone else’s shoes and we understood a different perspective in the movie Dancing with Wolves.

One movie among many that profoundly affected me was Schindler’s List. And, who has not been moved by John Lennon’s song Imagine?

And, as other examples of the power of visual art, what about Picasso’s Guernica or the visual horrors depicted by Goya?

Think, too, how Dickens’ writings changed child labour laws. Or, how about the power to invoke empathy of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Art in its many forms promotes empathy.

It helps us understand another point of view and develops cooperation and communication.

Art is not always about competition or entertainment. It does, however, stimulate thinking.

Hopefully, it leads to a dialogue, and possibly, a change for the better. We owe this to our children and the next generation.

Jean Evanishen

Summerland

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