The new empathy?

“We look forward to seeing you again soon, Ms Michalopoulou,» I read on the printed supermarket receipt. «We wish you a Happy Easter.» The humanized, «thinking» machine never ceases to amaze me. I virtually forget that behind it lies a whole system of values – values of the advertising world – which offer us what we are seen to be lacking: intimacy, a polite manner, even pacifist feelings. Take, for example, the advertisement for childrens’ clothes we have seen pasted on billboards everywhere (including the entire stretch of Kifissias Avenue) which attempts to compete with the pacifists who formed human chains in protest against the war in Iraq. It shows a moody, well-bred blond child next to a peace sign and the phrase «Stop it. For my sake.» Thus, the clothing firm managed to convey a social message; that it supports peace (as, by association, do its customers). The restaurant which offered an haute cuisine dinner and promised to share the profits with the children of Iraq had the same aim. Great idea; a dinner in honor of the hungry. Also, the diners will be guilt-free because their evening is a social contribution. Such is the nature of compassion these days: Fulfilling your own needs, you convince yourself that you are also serving the common good. Along with the goods, you buy yourself a conscience, so that you, like your supermarket, can wish a «Happy Easter» to those who are suffering.