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Humans aren't as good as we should be in our capacity to empathize with feelings and thoughts of others, be they humans or other animals on Earth. So maybe part of our formal education should be training in empathy. Imagine how different the world would be if, in fact, that were 'reading, writing, arithmetic, empathy.'
Empathy is important in every life. In the book all quiet on the western front Paul is faced with a hard decision in which he must chose empathy or to ignore the facts. Though Paul is a soldier he find it in himself to be empathetic. He must put his ideals as a soldier behind him.
In chapter eight Paul is sent home from the front for awhile. When home he is commissioned to work as a sentry at a prison camp. In the prison camp Russians who have been captured during the war are being held. As Paul guards them he begins to empathize.
“They stand at the wire fence; sometimes one goes away and then another at once takes his place in the line. Most of them are silent; occasionally one begs a cigarette butt.
I see their dark forms, their beards move in the wind. I know nothing of them except that they are prisoners; and that is exactly what troubles me. Their life is obscure and guiltless;—if I could know more of them, what their names are, how they live, what they are waiting for, what their burdens are, then my emotion would have an object and might become sympathy. But as it is I perceive behind them only the suffering of the creature, the awful melancholy of life and the pitilessness of men.
A word of command has made these silent figures our enemies; a word of command might transform them into our friends.”
With this empathy Paul overcame the ideas of your Allies enemy being your enemy and tied to help the Russians by feeding them and giving the cigarettes. Other solders probably would have not done that, but Paul finds it in his heart to have empathy and act on it. From the beginning of the book we could see that Paul had deeper meaning than just a soldier. This chapter help show it.