Empathy research is thriving these days. Several new books enthusiastically champion an increase in empathy as a cure for humanity’s ills. This enthusiasm may be misplaced, however. Empathy has some unfortunate features; it is parochial, narrow-minded, and innumerate. We’re often at our best when we…
A wide ranging and unfocused analysis by Teju Cole of the drone war in light of President Obama’s reading habits:
How on earth did this happen to the reader in chief? What became of literature’s vaunted power to inspire empathy? Why was the candidate Obama, in word and in deed, so radically different from the President he became? In Andrei Tarkovsky’s eerie 1979 masterpiece, “Stalker,” the landscape called the Zona has the power to grant people’s deepest wishes, but it can also derange those who traverse it. I wonder if the Presidency is like that: a psychoactive landscape that can madden whomever walks into it, be he inarticulate and incurious, or literary and cosmopolitan.
Does the appreciation of literary complexity equal the capacity for social justice and moral conviction? Or is it more complex than that?