”The Juices of Empathy” By John Richardson

Dear Mr. Editor, many citizens of Country Sint Maarten spend a lot of time trying to understand why we are second class citizens in our own country. Differently put, there is a constant sense of feeling downtrodden among the citizens.


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Please allow us to explain: Empathy is the ability to understand another person’s thoughts, perceptions and feelings. Empathy is a phrase used in psychology in the Humanistic Approach. There are five basic approaches: the Biological, the Behaviorist, the Cognitive, the Psycho-dynamic and the Humanistic Approach. Some names associated with the Humanistic Approach are Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow’s. The Humanistic Approach emphasizes understanding a person’s behavior by understanding the way a person experiences the world. Humanists emphasize the potential for human growth. The focus is through helping and confronting to foster growth in that individual. Empathy can also be explained through the following proverb that states:"Never judge someone until you have walked for a day in their shoes". Do the shoes fit comfortably? Are they good shoes? For example if you do not like someone, does that mean that person is not likeable for the rest of their life? Could that individual be going through a mood swing? We are very efficient and eager to jump to conclusions but the reality is that we cannot properly assess the person in question from such a brief encounter. In other words there could be situational factors at play. The brief encounter referred to is different than the interaction the citizens have daily with government. The present government has been there since 10-10-10. Besides the time elapsed since 10-10-10, government has resources available to it that the individual has no access to. Empathy is genuine, it is a quality that is easy to recognize, connect to and experience but it is not readily found. To be genuine, honest, balanced or real means first of all to be that way about you. How can you see honesty in a person if you have never experienced what it is to be honest? To make that statement you would have to base it on a notion, feeling or understanding of what honesty is. How can politicians connect with us when they have never experienced some of the hardships that the citizens are presently experiencing? Politicians are fair game because they epitomize more often than not the ills of the country. Their sense of distributive justice is only present in discussions, not in policies. Their disconnect with our suffering has been proven over and over and is based on fundamental attribution errors. Politicians are afraid to allow pain and sorrow into their fray of mind because of the uneasiness it creates. Politicians are in a comfort zone, at least for the duration of their term. Much time is spent chilling rather than working. You be the judge and make the assessment on the collective production of the trias politica since 10-10-10. To be a judge means you need to have all 360 points in the circle covered. It is practically impossible to have all points covered, you are better off not judging, but listening, sensing, feeling the gut in motion and appreciating the value of the encounter. Politicians should stop seeing us in a derogatory light. Politicians should see us as stakeholders, their equal. How can the individual members of government, parliament, ombudsman, advisory council, audit chamber etc not be challenged both intellectually and emotionally by what the majority of the citizens, their friends, are going through? Isn’t it true that "one must first learn to follow before one can become a leader"? If politicians and other leaders are afraid to be challenged and confronted, how will they ever develop a sense of empathy? Votes can be bought; reports can be commissioned but empathy cannot be willed. Empathy has to be earned by going through that process of inner dialogue which leads to transformation and a better comfort zone. Even politician and others need growth. Perhaps after such a process it will be easy to determine who is a Sint Maarten and who is not. Perhaps after such a process the government of Country Sint Maarten will start seeing the citizens as clients and not as puppets-patients? To be seen as a puppet-patient means that you will never be able to help yourself. To be seen as a client reflects a relationship with government in which there is equality and not subordination, slavery or abuse. Suffering comes from a distortion of growth, usually caused by the demands of other people. Those others should be facilitators not dictators. In Country Sint Maarten much suffering is caused by governments’ inability to be humanistic in their approach towards the citizens. If government neglects their role as facilitator who is to cover for them? The NGO’s, the Red Cross, the Churches, the Investors, the Netherlands? Read the constitution and judge for yourself. The citizens are seen as patients, not participants. Government is the doctor and our therapy reads: "To be milked as often as possible even if death follows". The foreigners are allowed to get away with murder every day. This is not fair, nor just. Did you ever wonder why Sint Maarten’s wealthy has chosen to hide their wealth in off-shore companies? Isn’t this murder of a different order? Doesn’t this say something about how the wealthy trust the politicians? In other words the politicians don’t even have respect or empathy for their sponsors. The sponsors fend for their selves by maximizing their profits. What is it worth to have disgruntled citizens from a governments’ perspective? Country Sint Maarten has about 120 different nationalities. How has the integration of these many nationalities gone so far? Is there a policy or is everything left to chance? Are you surprised that our downtroddenness comes from the growing ills, the decline in living standards, the lost of purchasing power and burdens that are placed on us daily by our elected officials? Unintended Kant’s categorical imperative comes to mind. Our government and all others involved in plotting the course forward should learn to act in such a way that any principle applied in coming to their action, can be universally copied by other rational leaders. In other words they should go beyond self to first of all end the local downtroddenness and secondly to make the world a better place for us all.

John A. Richardson on behalf of the Pythagoras-group.