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A psychologist explains how a nationwide ‘breakdown of empathy’ has created today’s toxic GOP

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Press-hating Trump supporter yells at journalists at Florida rally (Frank Thorp V)

How did we get to the point where a conspiracy-spouting birther could win the presidency by appealing to primal rage?

Psychologist Michael Bader writes in Psychology Today that a paper published all the way back in 1978 by developmental psychologist Edward Tronick may offer some disturbing clues.

Tronick’s paper, which was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, examines the importance of early interactions between a mother and her baby. In particular, the paper cites a study showing that mothers can instill cases of extreme anxiety and distress in their infants if they responded to them by keeping their faces perfectly still and expressionless.

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What does this have to do with contemporary American politics? Bader believes that modern society serves us poorly when it comes to giving us regular empathetic feedback, which in turn makes us feel equal parts angry and helpless.

“The ‘still face’ paradigm — the helplessness intrinsic to it and the breakdown of empathy that lies at its foundation — aptly describes the experience of many people as they interact with the most important institutions in their lives, including government,” he writes. “And, as with Tronick’s babies and their mothers, when our social milieu is indifferent to our needs and inattentive to our suffering, widespread damage is done to our psyches, causing distress, anger, and hopelessness.”

Bader says several regular occurrences in modern life have contributed to a nationwide “breakdown of empathy” that leave us feeling helpless and alone. Among other things, he cites students being forced into large-sized classes where they get little personal attention; long and stressful commutes that have no meaningful human interaction; and “waiting for hours on the phone for technical support.”

“This pain is increasingly prevalent among working and middle-class Americans who have seen their jobs lost to technology and globalization, their incomes stagnate, and the promise of a better life for their children appear increasingly unlikely,” he writes. “Their interactions with their doctors, pharmacists, bankers, landlords, state and federal tax collectors, social service agencies, auto dealers, and cable providers are too often marked by frustration and feelings of dehumanization.”

From this perspective, Bader thinks the rise of Donald Trump makes perfect sense — even though its end result is the stoking of a toxic tribalism that sets Americans against one another.

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“Donald Trump clearly spoke to this pain,” he writes. “He empathized with the traumatic losses and helplessness of the white middle and working classes. He helped them feel part of something bigger than themselves, a ‘movement,’ which combated their isolation.”

The whole analysis can be found at this link.


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Moon may be richer in water than thought — and it could help propel humans farther from earth

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There may be far more water on the Moon than previously thought, according to two studies published Monday raising the tantalising prospect that astronauts on future space missions could find refreshment -- and maybe even fuel -- on the lunar surface.

The Moon was believed to be bone dry until around a decade ago when a series of findings suggested that our nearest celestial neighbour has traces of water trapped in the surface.

Two new studies published in Nature Astronomy on Monday suggest there could be much more water than previously thought, including ice stored in permanently shadowed "cold traps" at lunar polar regions.

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Asymptomatic coronaagvirus sufferers lose antibodies sooner: study

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Asymptomatic coronavirus sufferers appear to lose detectable antibodies sooner than people who have exhibited Covid-19 symptoms, according to one of the biggest studies of its kind in Britain published on Tuesday.

The findings by Imperial College London and market research firm Ipsos Mori also suggest the loss of antibodies was slower in 18–24 year-olds compared to those aged 75 and over.

Overall, samples from hundreds of thousands of people across England between mid-June and late September showed the prevalence of virus antibodies fell by more than a quarter.

The research, commissioned by the British government and published Tuesday by Imperial, indicates people's immune response to Covid-19 reduces over time following infection.

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2020 Election

Early voting to be hit by heavy rain and flooding as Hurricane Zeta barrels towards the Gulf Coast

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Hurricane Zeta is expected to make landfall near Louisiana's border with Mississippi on Wednesday evening as campaigns work to get supporters to the polls and convince any undecided voters to back their candidate.

"Hurricane conditions and life-threatening storm surge are possible along portions of the northern Gulf Coast on Wednesday, and Storm Surge and Hurricane Watches are in effect," the National Hurricane Center warned.

"Between Tuesday night and Thursday, heavy rainfall is expected from portions of the central Gulf Coast into the southern Appalachians and Mid-Atlantic states near and in advance of Zeta. This rainfall will lead to flash, urban, small stream, and minor river flooding," the center explained.

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