Don’t be so em-pathetic


There's old stories of emperors who'd wander the streets in disguise.

Dressed in rags, they'd pretend to be beggars, sussing out their capital city at street level. They weren't slumming it for fun, like modern rich kids; they really wanted to see shit.

It's hard to imagine a modern leader, figurative or otherwise, indulging in such nonsense. Queen Lizzie pouring cups of tea in a Hounslow shelter? Please. You'd have more chance of a Kardashian changing your brake pads. The closest Bezos or Musk would get to sleeping on bare earth would be a meditation retreat where they'd bought the entire island.

And [your world leader of choice]? Come on - I remain unconvinced any of them have bandwidth beyond re-election. Certainly not to truly empathise with those they serve, let alone like or despise.

But fuuuuuuck. This is us too, right?

Ambitious folk hunting experiences, always driving upwards, thrusting; eyes on nothing but the prize. Because life is short, and there's only time for one. Old you is always in the rearview mirror... and it goes without saying we skip entirely the lives we don't experience.

But there's insight in the other side.

Years ago as a single man, I followed some dating advice - the source, by now, is surely cancelled - and made an online profile as a woman. I had been messaging for months as myself with a dead response rate; switching personas, it was minutes before I was knee-deep in dick picks and dozens of messages hitting me up all like Heeeeeeyyy :)

That one guy who put in the effort and made me laugh? I could have kissed him there and then. My time as a woman made me a better man (and my dates were still terrible, so consider the alternative).

People say they want to be rich, but feeling rich is no more than having slightly more than necessary money; the ability, say, to walk into a restaurant and order what you like. But how would you know that, if you had never sweated over the bill, or served the food, or spent an evening eating nothing but air, or at the very least brushed shoulders with people living desperately on the edge?

Can you really be a great salesperson if you've never sat on the other side of the table, been pitched to? Or been a great supplier, without being a great buyer?

Let me tell you: I didn't really understand eating til I learned to cook.

Didn't really get what it means to be a kid before I became a dad.

In years of marketing, I've grown to despise the way its influence has crushed a certain empathy; the idea of 'consumers' has taken us over, as if we're not talking about real humans, real people. This language exists to distance ourselves; make us feel like we understand someone without any of the necessary steps towards emotional investment.

We're up in the towers, not down in the streets. Wearing shades not rags.

But that person you hate just made a great point.

You're talking shit? Of course; we all are.

If you can't smell it, you've spent too long as yourself.




photo: 何 颖