We Need to Talk About Empathy…. (Again!)

Today I’m going to write about empathy. About thinking how you would respond in a situation to help you understand the actions of another. This is one of the qualities that makes us good human beings.

A few weeks ago, Manchester, a city that i visit regularly and love like a second home, was attacked by a terrorist. A suicide bomber detonated at an Ariana Grande concert, killing 22 people and injuring many more. People, including young children, suffered life-changing physical injuries. Others suffered life-changing mental injuries, such as anxiety, PTSD, shock and survivor guilt. Everyone can agree the attack was horrific and the victims, and their loved ones, should be treated with respect and care.

 

“One of the victims was not treated with respect and care by broadcast journalist and national embarrassment Piers Morgan.”

But one of the victims was not treated with respect and care by broadcast journalist and national embarrassment Piers Morgan. That was Ariana Grande.

Here comes the empathy: imagine you had organised an event. It could be a party, a concert, a circus, an air show, whatever you fancy, but you, personally, are the reason all the guests are there. Then imagine something horrific happens, beyond your control, that causes death, injury and, at the very least, upset, to every person there. What would you do? How would you feel?

“I would probably run straight to my parents, and cry on them, to be reassured it was not my fault.”

Here’s I would do: I would cry. I would cry and cry and cry, feeling incredibly guilty and blaming myself. I would probably run straight to my parents, and cry on them, to be reassured it was not my fault. I would probably get some therapy, but I can tell you, for a good while, I would be useless to anyone.

I am 33 years old and Ariana Grande is 23. What did she do immediately after the concert she was headlining was attacked? She felt guilty, she cried, and she went home to be with her family. This behaviour is normal in a completely freakish situation.

“The inference of his tweets was that she owed them, because they paid to watch her perform.”

Now, Piers, who has a history of suggesting mental health problems in young people is a myth, took to Twitter to criticise Ms Grande for flying home to recover with her family rather than visit with the wounded in Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, like the Queen did. He, he pointed out, would have gone and visited. The inference of his tweets was that she owed them, because they paid to watch her perform.

Remember, this was a hospital, filled with sick and injured children. What will help them is someone being calm, normal, and empathetic. What will not help them is a distressed young woman, wracked with guilt, breaking down in tears every two seconds because she is so utterly, irrevocably heartbroken. A young woman who is blaming herself for the horrific injuries laid out before her.

Now, I hope Morgan never had to test out this theory, and actually have to put into practice “what he would do” if something so utterly abhorrent happened at an event he hosted. But what he should consider is having some empathy for the situation Grande found herself in, and kept his Twitter hole shut, rather than seeking publicity for being nasty.

“No dice, Morgan. I have to call you out.”

Two weeks after the attack, Ariana Grande held another concert in Manchester. A benefit to raise money for those injured and/or bereaved in the attacks. Again Piers took to Twitter, this time to eat his words, saying he “misjudged” Grande and he apologised. Smashing. So it’s fine to publicly humiliate someone who has been traumatised because they’ve now demonstrated their worth to you and you apologise? No dice, Morgan. I have to call you out.

His actions immediately after the attacks were cruel and showed no empathy. For all he said “she’s 23, not a child”, he needs to sod off, because as far as dealing with a terrorist murdering a load of your fans, 23 is very frikkin’ young. She was as much a victim as anyone else in the arena that night and it was nobody’s place to judge how she protected her sanity in the days following the event. Not even the place of a dusty old hack desperate for attention.

“Let’s all aim to be more Dan Hett next time we go on Twitter and less Piers Morgan.”

Thankfully, most of the outpouring filling Manchester has been of love, support and empathy. Victim Martyn Hett’s brother Dan has been particularly inspirational, leaning to dark, British humour to cope with his unimaginable grief.

So let’s all aim to be more Dan Hett next time we go on Twitter and less Piers Morgan. Let’s empathise first so we don’t need to apologise later.

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