The Derision of Empathy

 daffodil 1

“Old English sōfte; yielding, gentle, mild, agreeable.
Related to Old Saxon sāfti, Old High German semfti; cognate with German sanft.


I have a soft spot for animals;
I am soft on my nonhuman kin.
As soft as a baby’s bottom.
A typical example of the softer sex:
Accused of being “oversoft;”
Soft-boiled; soft-hearted;
A soft job, soft target –
For a sob story.
“Sentimental,” “weak” and “foolish”…
A “big girl’s blouse;”
With a lack of “grip” on “reality.”

I am deficient in hardness;
My upper lip’s not that stiff.
I don’t have a “stomach” for violence.
I am considered by many to be “soft in the head;”
Someone who gives soft answers –
When tough is the standard, the norm.
When the buck is supposed to stop with Bambi;
When the Benjamin Bunny, Jemima Puddle Duck ‘phase,’
Is meant to end abruptly,
With a rabbit stew;
A Pepper Pig pot-roast.
With old friends drowning –
In gravy and plum sauce:
The stuff of bedtime nightmares.

But there’s no soft-soaping me.
There’s no soft-pedalling;
To persuade me to turn a blind eye;
To deaden my ears to the screaming.
I can’t be soft on oppression, on cruelty.
I can’t be soft on suffering, neglect.
I am not projecting, imagining;
I am not “anthropomorphizing.”
I can see with my own, un-blinkered eyes.
I recognize pain when I hear it.
I smell the fear in excrement and blood.

And I don’t want a “taste” of your “real world”.
I have seen behind closed doors;
Where a Blue Beard horror plays out daily.
And I am not “over the top,”
Because I lack testosterone,
Or a killer’s ‘instinct’ –
Because I view silence as complicity.
And Aristotle’s ‘Great’ Chain,
As a self-serving fantasy;
Preaching man’s ‘superiority,’
Without conscience or impunity:
Making a virtue of enslavement.

“No pain, no gain,” you say;
But I won’t numb out on your ‘necessity’ myths.
There is a common beingness,
That modern time forgot,
But sorely needs to remember.
The Golden rule of a bygone Age:
To “Do – as you would be done by.”
To live and let live,
To harm none.
There’s an idea in that idealism,
That’s not “infantile” at all:
And it’s not one I want to “grow out of.”

Away with your exploitative, soft money!
If there’s to be a future,
Violence won’t be a soft option.


Heidi Stephenson
Pic: Claire Palmer





By Heidi Stephenson

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