By: Elliot Johnson, Edoardo Takacs, and Ben Lisa
Empathy Brings People Together
Empathy begins with understanding life from another person's perspective. Nobody has an objective experience of reality. It's all through our own individual prisms.
– Sterling K. Brown
Only with Empathy will we be able to understand each other, and it was in the book, All Quiet On The Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque, where Paul began to feel a sense of empathy towards the soldiers of an opposing country. Paul has been fighting on the front for months now, but he has never met an opposing POW face to face. He has never looked at their face to try and feel his opponent. He realizes he’s not fighting animals, but real human beings “It is strange to see these enemies of ours so close up. They have faces that make one think—honest peasant faces, broad foreheads, broad noses, broad mouths, broad hands, and thick hair.” It was only then when Paul began to feel different about his enemies in general. Not faceless monsters, but real and vivid people. Paul was sent to a training camp after his leave. This camp, was next to a POW camp for Russians. When Paul is set on guard duty, he sees the sad and pitiless men, who stand on the other side of the barbed wire fence. After a while, he begins to feel empathy towards them, since many of them die, “Almost every day one of them dies. I am on guard during the burial. The prisoners saying a chorale, they sing in parts, and it sounds almost as if there were no voices, but an organ far away on the moor.” He decides to make them feel better by giving them something:
I take out my cigarettes, break each one in half and give them to the Russians. They bow to me and then light the cigarettes. Now red points glow in every face. They comfort me; it looks as though there were little windows in dark village cottages saying that behind them are rooms full of peace. [Chapter 8]
Paul has seen so much in the time of the war. None of them have made feel about the enemy, except for sadness, confusion and hate. However, once he sees these men—who aren’t tameless beasts, but who are calm and subtle—he feels empathy, for he feels that are not so different from him. They all left their family behind to fight a war that was fueled by power and greed. Paul realizes that that they are human as is he, so like he treats like humans. With kindness and respect. In Paul’s short time at the camp, he developed a sense of kinship and empathy towards the Russian soldiers, for he realized that they’re human as well. Paul’s experience with the POWs will make it much harder to kill and enemy soldier. That is not a beast, but a human being, with feelings and emotions.