Tag Archives: empathy

BELATED EMPATHY

BELATED EMPATHY.

There’s nothing new in what follows, nothing mysterious or intriguing. It’s that old old stab in the heart of wisdom that comes too late.

I’m reading Irving Howe’s magisterial THE WORLD OF OUR FATHERS. In this book bursting with detail, Howe documents the immigration of Eastern European Jews to the US – to the Lower East side of NYC in particular – from the 1880’s to the 1920s. He writes about long hours in factories, appalling housing, illness, loneliness, dislocation. He writes about hopes and dreams, the night classes and lectures, the workers’ groups. And he writes about the children of these Yiddish speaking parents, children who became Americanised, who, like so many children of immigrants, born out of the hardship of their parents go through a stage of resentment of those parents, even shame. It is not that they don’t love their parents, or are not grateful. But the parents are tethered to a past that simply has no relevance to these children impatient to plunge into the new world.

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