So says Barbara Oakley, author of Cold-Blooded Kindness: Neuroquirks of a Codependent Killer, or Just Give Me a Shot at Loving You, Dear, and Other Reflections on Helping That Hurts in an interview with Buffalo Books. Oakley has some good insights:
Book learning is okay, but it doesn’t necessarily help you understand life. I have friends, for example, who are radical liberals—communists at heart. If I’d had no experience, I would listen to their tales of the wonders of Marxist equality and think “Gee, it’s so easy! That’s all we need to do.”
But I’ve worked with the Soviets—I spent a year as a Russian translator on Soviet trawlers up on the Bering Sea. I know now how gullible my Marxist friends are.
But my friends all hang out together in a little academic, self-reinforcing klatch. It’s virtually impossible to get through their shield of virtuousness.
As Oakley says, empathy is not the universal problem solver–sometimes, it helps, sometimes it hurts. You have to be smart enough to know the difference.