It is an easy thing, that careless shrug. We’ve seen it on the global scale: Russia invades Ukraine and East Africa starves. Psychologist Dacher Keltner, from UC Berkley, calls this the “power paradox.” Keltner observes that“while people usually gain power through traits and actions that advance the interests of others, such as empathy, collaboration, openness, fairness, and sharing; when they start to feel powerful or enjoy a position of privilege, those qualities begin to fade. The powerful are more likely than other people to engage in rude, selfish, and unethical behavior.” I ran into Keltner’s work on empathy in an unforgettable piece in the Christian Century about Daniel Prude, who died on the street, pinned in police custody, confused, naked, and cold. And no one got him a blanket. Peter Marty wrote, “People with power don’t lack the capacity for empathy. They just typically insulate themselves from people they deem inconvenient.”
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