Empathy and dumb bastards

Alexei Sorokin
3 min readApr 25, 2022

I’m plagiarizing Umair Haque! A little bit. I never thought I would.

My entire life I’ve advocated for empathy. I consider myself an empathetic person. I could never accept dismissing or degrading a person, let alone millions of people, based on their political views. In fact, I’m convinced that the likes of Hilary Clinton make a terrible mistake and lose elections when they label their opponents “deplorables”. That’s just arrogant.

75 million people voted for Trump. I estimate that 100 million Russian people support Putin. They are many decent people in these groups. Educated, kind, also empathetic. You can’t dismiss them all as dumb or evil.

On Russia. I said it many times: even if you accept election fraud in Russia, even if you rationalize (propaganda) this level of support, even if you question the polls (people fear expressing their true opinion), I personally believe that most Russians support Putin and everything that comes with him — that includes Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. In Russia’s big cities the numbers are different but the overall support can easily be seventy plus percent. Blame me all you want for relying on anecdotal evidence. Anecdotal evidence it is: I know too many people in Russia who are happy with Putin; some of my relatives support him passionately; the vast majority of my parents’ friends and connections support him. My parents are in Russia (well, my Mom is no longer but she left just recently).

Even in the face of the war, I try to stay empathetic. As I mentioned above, I rationalize: of course, the Russian people have a different view, because they are victims of extreme state propoganda.

However, I’m increasingly struggling to stay empathetic. I don’t want to go too low and spread the hate by sharing the actual videos and interviews that I’m coming across every day but what I am seeing makes me lose all hope.

Huge audiences on televised programs singing about nuclear missiles destroying Europe and America; similarly, TV programs where prominent journalists (pro-Putin of course but that’s not the point) and well-known commentators giggling with pride about — well, again Russia’s nuclear bombs removing New York City from the face of the earth.

Families in their kitchen with their young children singing songs glorifying Russia and hating the West, the Russian flag wrapped around them.

Alexei Sorokin

A Russian immigrant in America, father of 4, Cambridge and Harvard Business School alum. I run and write every day. https://runningwritingliving.substack.com/