Redefinitions 6 – AST VS Popular Memes, Empathy

Still having problems finding a way into AST for folks, this will be attempt number I don’t know any more, another series, I suppose. The plan is to keep them short and manageable, hope to make the point with a barrage from many angles. I’ll start with the definition for AST – here’s the first, it means Antisocialization Theory – and then how it alters the narrative of a number of topics.

AST redefines everything, but we’ll try to show how, specifically, for this list of ideas:

human nature

social life





relatedness theory




etc. Oh, forgot some (and this will be a feature):


trauma and healing, psychology


culture, tradition



Redefinitions – 6. Empathy

AST, a definition:

AST is the theory of our hurt, the human science of not deterrent and socialization, but of abuse, punitive and otherwise, and our antisocialization, which long word means exactly what it sounds like it means: to have been made antisocial. It is about the dark side of our social control, the stuff we supposedly don’t want to happen, beyond that the person maybe did what they were bloody well told.

The AST Theory of conflict states that the failures and ostensibly unintended consequences of our rough control are deeply and vastly consequential in human life, and its author can get very expansive, imagining it to be the post powerful and destructive force driving us.

The central idea is that structures and ways of being within the human social group – laws and punishments, ordeals, etc., –  add up to pain and trauma for the individual, while laws prohibit simple reactive violence and simple revenge, and so the individual is “charged” with bad feelings, antisocialized and looking for a fight they are allowed to have. The group’s leadership – administrators of the law – can then exploit this reservoir of anger, point it at someone and allow the citizens the “freedom,” not an accident and not irony, we are always seeing this, to deflect and unload their frustrations.

AST asks you to note, that our own people frustrate us, and exploit our frustrations at will in this system, using us to abuse some Other, some human group in a war or a pogrom, or an apartheid. That is what I call the AST theory of conflict, weaponized by our own, to be discharged in some group conflict.

Hmm. Not sure if that will be the one I use every time, but I like it for our first few entries:

AST, “Empathy”

We’ll go with the same format again, the Psychology Tobay definition first: empathy is an emotion we experience when we see suffering; we get it, we know how it feels, we feel it some ourselves. It is love in practice, an empathic person feels your pain, it is one of the positive things in life, and with more of it, the world would be a better place.


I mean, I’ve heard the reverse, some famous mouthpiece called a very famous person an “empathic bully,” a few years ago, like he feels you and so he knows exactly how to hurt you and push you. (Ah, one for the list, another entry: “bullying,” adding now.) Mostly, though, empathy is good, we say, most folks don’t want to use it against you.

I’ll start my critique from the same place as last time too, pragmatism: you don’t think the bad guys empathize with each other? You don’t think racism is a bunch of people “getting it,” about each other, “supporting,” other people who share the same feelings? I think the hate groups are empathy gone wild.

AST thinks empathy is the bad thing.

I think it’s the “free with,” version, the automatic version, the “I don’t have to think and it doesn’t really do anything good” version. Empathy is when you share the feeling because you share the life and fully understand the circumstances. Empathy is when you feel bad when something bad you’re familiar with happens to someone like you. I’m sorry, it is.

Sympathy is the one you want.

Look at the big picture. You have empathy now and look at the world. We talk about it like it’s going to save the world, like we just invented it yesterday. The monkey’s empathy isn’t working, Woody!

Sympathy is the active thing. We are not changing the world by only understanding what we understand without even having to try. The application of sympathy indicates a positive motive and effort, of caring first and then seeking to understand, in order to care effectively.

I’m sorry, but empathy is none of that, it’s rather empty in comparison. A shared feeling for a shared circumstance is sort of the opposite of trying to stop whatever is causing the pain. Most folks aren’t going to tear down the shared lifestyle to fix the shared pain – it’s just the infamous thoughts and prayers, much of the time. With sympathy, perhaps the problem isn’t in-group, perhaps the system causing the pain is not your system to protect and you really can work for a real change.

The difference, caring first, sans understanding, this is the difference between sympathy and empathy, and it’s also the very difference between AST and the status quo of our warrior society, which punishes first and understands second, if ever.

Hmmm. Doesn’t feel comprehensive, but that was the idea.

Jeff May 10th., 2022



“AST thinks,” isn’t the point, is it? I’ve left AST out of the logic, this isn’t a proper part of the series, you wouldn’t need AST to put empathy in better perspective is all I’ve shown here!

But this is another AST hack on ourselves, this, this morality we have that ends at the border, this business that we love our own and only make constant war on some Other and this is morality, basically if you love anyone, the few hundred in your village but not the nearly eight billion outside, you have reached the peak of human kindness. It is part of AST that we are embittered, violent and dangerous, but talk about our empathy, part of our antisocialization that we focus on the positive and turn a blind eye to the rest.

Oh. I think I know which one I want to write next.

Jeff May 12th., 2022

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