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Empathy is a practice and priority, not a mere psychological mechanism. Practicing empathy is a way of being in the world, creating a safe space of openness, acceptance and toleration. In the face of a contagion of Omicron, we need a contagion of empathy. Empathy is contagious. This is a condition you actually want to share with someone else, especially someone who seems to need some empathy – all the while being clear to set firm boundaries against bullying, delusional thinking, and compassion fatigue. Keep in mind this list is a top ten “count down,” so if you want to know what is #1, fast forward to the bottom.
Here are my choices and predictions for the top ten trends in empathy for the year 2023.
10 – Empathy for the jurors in the trial of the century. The prediction is that Mr T will stick to his story – “we was robbed” – even after he is indicated, believing there is no such thing as bad publicity. The prospective defendant is innocent until proven guilty and so on. However, it is noteable that a former-NSA analyst was sentenced to nine years in prison in July 2019 for hoarding official documents [https://www.nextgov.com/cybersecurity/2019/07/ex-nsa-contractor-serve-9-years-hoarding-classified-information/158564/]. This seems open and shut. Nevertheless, this trend is about the jurors and not the defendant. This promises to be a long, headline-grabbing trial, and the jury will have to be sequestered, cut off from news, and, subjected to a lot of legal jargon. Being without Facebook and Twitter and other
is. While the challenges of finding an unbiased jury are not trivial, all that is needed for a fair trial are twelve people who are willing to set aside their opinions and look at the facts from the point of view of the law as defined for them by the presiding judge. That sounds like creating a space for critical thinking and taking multiple points of view, the latter the folk definition of empathy.
9 – Empathy in time of war becomes Red Team not kindness. All the empathy in the world is not going to help anyone if one country invades another with a list of intellectuals, business people, and politicians to be arrested and killed. That noted, the need for helping, compassion, and good works of all kinds is still on the critical path to building a better world. Yet in time of war or threat of war, the power of empathy consists in putting oneself in the shoes of the opponent, thinking like the opponent, and thereby anticipating and thwarting the opponent’s moves. Putting oneself in the opponent’s shoes requires taking off one’s own shoes first. Never underestimate the power of empathy – never – yet empathy does not work very well with psychopaths, bullies, totalitarian dictators, and the criminally insane. Many of these individuals will take the affective, bottom up empathy and use it against you. Therefore, empathic engagement must be limited to cognitive empathy – use critical thinking to try to figure out what the Other is thinking and feeling in order to intervene in a way that is useful according the standards of a humane community.
8 – Elon “44 billion up in smoke” Musk gets empathy for his employees, customers, and stakeholders. And if you believe prediction, then I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I would like to sell to you. The empathic truth of this admittedly cynical prediction is that many of the things that make a person good at business make him or her relatively poor empathizers. Business leaders lose contact with what clients and consumers are experiencing as the leaders get entangled in innovating the technologies in new products and services, solving legal issues, reacting to the competition, or implementing the software required to sustain operations. Yet empathy is the ultimate Capitalist Tool. Empathy is on the critical path for serving customers, segmenting markets, positioning products (and substitutes), taking the perspective of the competition [not exactly empathy but close enough?], building teams and being a leader who actually has followers. Saying that the purpose of business is to make money is like saying the purpose of life is to breathe. Definitely do not stop breathing. The purpose of business is to deliver value and satisfaction to customers. Then the revenue shows up. When the ontology of empathy exposes it as the foundation of community, then expanding empathy becomes nearly synonymous with expanding business. For example, building customer communities, building stakeholder communities, team building, are the basis for brand loyalty, employee commitment, and sustained or growing market share. Can revenue be far behind? Sometimes leaders don’t need more data, we need expanded empathy, though ultimately both are on the path to satisfied buyers, employees, and stakeholders. “CEO” no longer means “Chief Executive Officer,” but “Chief Empathy Officer.” This time one can hear the groans—from the executive suite, not the cubicles.:
Listen on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/6nngUdemxAnCd2B2wfw6Q6 Empathy is one of those things that are hard to delegate. This role shows up like another job responsibility with which the CEO of the organization is tasked—along with everything else that she already has to do. As if she did not already have enough alligators snapping at various parts of her anatomy, one has to be nice about it, too? But of course empathy is not niceness, though it is not about being un-nice. It is about knowing what others are experiencing, because one has a vicarious experience and then processing that further to expand boundaries and exercise leadership.
7 – Etiquette Gurus and celebrity life coaches go back to school to learn empathy. The latest poster child for this trend is Sara Jane Ho, who reportedly broke up with her boyfriend of four years over text, and rationalizes it with a meme about context, in which the context sounded like she was busy making a Netflix show. This is right up there with trend #8, getting fired by a Twitter tweet. The context, according to the author of the article, Maureen O’Connor, was that Ms Ho’s eyes were getting puffy from crying, and she would not “look good” on her Netflix show. Empathy is a high bar and one does not get there every day. If Ms Ho’s resume is to be believed, she is a graduate of Phillips Exeter Academy, Georgetown, Harvard (attended), and now a Netflix sensation. One speculates that she is a survivor of a Tiger Mom or Bootcamp Dad (or both), and may herself benefit from getting a good listening at the side of a committed mentor. Based on the review of Ms Ho’s project by Maureen O’Connor [ https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/02/style/sara-jane-ho-mind-your-matters.html], she (Ms Ho) exemplifies the kind of etiquette which is a disguised application of sadism, hostility, aggression, and one-upmanship. While I do not know the details and maybe I am missing the humor, but so far, all these people are easy to dislike. You go to take off your coat and you can’t because there is a knife in your back. There is nothing wrong – but something is definitely missing – empathy.
6 – Empathy is a practice not a mere psychological mechanism. Empathy is the practice of authentically relating to the other person. The practice of empathy is a way of being – being with and in relation with others. Many of the misunderstandings of empathy – especially in the form of compassion, pity, emotional contagion – can be traced to treating the practice of empathy merely as a psychological mechanism. There is nothing wrong with this as such. However, what gets missed is the relational quality of empathy. Drive out bullying, hostility, aggression, bad language, and empathy naturally comes forth. People want to be empathic if given half a chance.
5 – Empathy expands for the True Believer, but not agreement with the conspiracy or delusion. The criteria for identifying the True Believer is he or she doubles down. When the space does not arrive from Alpha Centauri – or your candidate does not win – the True Believer does not say, “I might have been mistaken and maybe I need to look at my assumptions or inquire into other scenarios.” The True Believer doubles down – “We was robbed!” “We will catch the next space ship!” It does no good – none – to disagree with the True Believer or to argue or reason, because the delusion or conspiracy theory is holding together the True Believer’s personality. To give up the delusion would be to give up the personality, to risk the disintegration of who the person is. What to do about it? Teach critical thinking. Both empathy and critical thinking create a space of acceptance and tolerance in the context of which the power of the delusion starts to shrink. More on this in the next trend.
4 – Empathy and critical thinking form an alliance. It is a bold statement of the obvious that the ongoing breakdown in community standards bodes ill for a cultural and political and public conversation context in which disputants engage in near delusional disagreement on basic quantitative facts such as the rules of etiquette, basic science such as the biology of vaccinations, gender distinction (or not), the basic results of elections, and so on. Though it is not a quick solution, it is hard to think of a better one: teach skills in critical thinking such as assessing facts against sources, evaluating the reliability of sources, reporters, informants, and so on, against prior performance, checking validity and logic of arguments, and engaging enlarged thinking in taking the point of view of the other person, especially if the person (or group) disagrees with one. (See Jonathan Haber, (2020), Critical Thinking. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.) Taking different points of view, of course, is the basic folk definition of empathy. But do not forget to take off one’s own shoes before trying on the other’s or one will get projection, not empathy.
3 – Translation replaces projection as the underlying model for empathy. “Translation” as in translating between languages or between different artistic media or different signaling systems. In short, psychologism – psychology in the negative sense – is replaced by the linguistic speech act of translating the other person’s experience into one’s own and then giving it back (empathically) to the other. This paradigm of empathy as translation is arguably at the same level of generality as empathy as projection, but remained undeveloped until the rise of hermeneutics along a separate trajectory. The modern innovators of interpersonal empathy such as Carl Rogers (1902–1987) might be read as leap-frogging back to the original sense of entering the other’s world in order to translate it into the first person, subject’s own terms. The translation model of empathy (credited to Johann Herder (1744 – 1803) of whom one rarely hears today) also fits well with what Gordon Allport (1897–1967) and Kenneth Clark (1903–1983) were doing in arraying empathy against racism and prejudice in expanding the boundaries of community by empathically translating between them. An entire possible alternate history of empathy, as yet unwritten, opens up at this point – empathy as translation between persons.
2 – Empathy for the Amazon rain forest grows and reaches a critical mass, but will its critical mass be enough or too late to overtake the “critical mass” of green house gases. The challenge is that global warming does not live like an actual possibility for most people, who cannot imagine such an outcome – for example, just as in December 2019 no one could envision the 2020 global pandemic. Empathy is oxygen for the soul. If the human psyche does not get empathy, it suffocates. Climate changes makes this metaphor actual. If humanity does not drown as the massive Greenland and Antarctic ice sheaths slide into the oceans, humans will suffocate as the levels of green house gases and heat overwhelm temperate habitats. There is no Planet B.Empathy is a bridge: The bridge between the gridlocked present and a seemingly impossible-to-imagine future is empathy. The empathic moment is an act of imagination. That is the interesting thing about empathy. It may seem like a dream; but the dream lives. It is inclusive. Lots more work needs to be done on this connection. For purposes of this list of predictions, this “shout out” will have to suffice. For specific actionable recommendations, see David Attenborough’s A Life on Our Planet, now streaming on Netflix: https://www.netflix.com/title/80216393
2a – Vaccine deniers get empathy and say: “Oh, I wish I were already experiencing the minor side effects of the latest booster shot instead of systemic organ breakdown!” People get the latest booster against Covid, parents get their children the measles and polio and other shots the children need for school, which gets into people’s arms at an accelerating rate. Vaccine deniers get empathy and say: “Oh, I wish I were already experiencing the minor side effects of the latest booster shot instead of systemic organ breakdown!” Biological science continues to produce small, medium, and large “miracles,” even as basic health care services for citizen’s struggle. People become medical doctors and nurses and enter the healthcare field because they want to make a difference. They experience an empathic calling to intervene to reduce the pain and suffering in the world. Then these same people get caught up in the faceless, unempathic bureaucracy of a healthcare system where capitation means doctors have to see an unworkable number of patients a day – four an hour for eight hours. Using empathy and medical ethics, the doctors push back saying: “I am required by medical ethics to spend as much time with the patient as is needed to get the patient the medical treatment they require – and are entitled to be paid for it.
2b – Men lead from empathy in the struggle against domestic violence (DV). When powerful men such as Bezos, Musk, Ellison, Gates, Biden, Milley, clean up their failures of leadership and take action saying “Violence against women anywhere – home or work or anywhere – is unacceptable and here are the resources for intervention,” then a breakthrough will occur. Men will find their voice and speak out even more loudly and provide leadership against domestic violence to those of their own gender who just do not get it.
While women have provided the leadership and will continue to do so, powerful men must step up and provide guidance to their fellows about proper boundaries and respect for them in relationships. This is ongoing. What is new: powerful men step up and speak out and provide leadership among men in establishing respect for boundaries in creating communication, affection, and affinity.
For data- and empathy-based innovations that have occurred in the past year in the fight against domestic violence see No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us, New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2019. Some sixty percent of domestic violence (DV) victims are strangled at some point during an abusive relationship (p. 65): Big red flag that the perpetrator is escalating in the direction of homicide/Femicide.
Empathy almost always has its uses when tuned to the specific circumstances. Yet empathy is unhelpful in dealing with sociopaths, psychopaths, and [most] bullies. They take whatever empathy you give them and use it the better to manipulate. Top down, cognitive empathy – yes – to understand whether they are a threat and are going to escalate; but therapeutic empathy – “i get you, bro” – is often counter productive. What is productive? Set limits. Set firm boundaries – and enforce them.
Turns out that only some 15% of the victims in one study had injuries visible enough to photograph for the police report (p. 66). Most strangulation injuries are internal – hence, the title. Good news/bad news: The Fatality Review Board is an idea that is getting attention with law enforcement and the local states attorney function. More progress and action is needed in this area.
(1) People stop saying, “I just don’t get empathy” and commit to the practice of empathy. Empathy is a practice and, like all practices, it can be improved by training. Remove the obstacles to empathy such as cynicism and bullying—and empathy comes forth. Remove the resistances to empathy and empathy naturally and spontaneously expands. Most people are naturally empathic.
The one-minute empathy training is trending: Eliminate the obstacles to empathy and a space of acceptance and toleration spontaneously emerges.
Most people do not sufficiently appreciate this: people are born with a deep and natural capacity for empathy, but they are also born needing to learn manners, respect for boundaries, and toilet training. Put the mess in the designated place or the community suffers from diseases. People also need to learn how to read and do arithmetic and communicate in writing. But there is a genuine sense in which learning to conform and follow all the rules does not expand our empathy or our community. It does not help the cause of expanded empathy that rule-making and the drumbeat of compliance are growing by leaps and bounds.
The work at hand? Remove the blocks to empathy such as dignity violations, devaluing language, gossip, shame, guilt, egocentrism, over-identification, lack of integrity, inauthenticity, hypocrisy, making excuses, finger pointing, jealousy, envy, put downs, being righteous, stress, burnout, compassion fatigue, cynicism, censorship, denial, manipulation, competing to be the biggest victim, insults, injuries to self-esteem, and narcissistic merger—and empathy spontaneously expands, develops, and blossoms. Now that is going to require some work!
Teaching empathy consists in overcoming the obstacles to empathy that people have acquired. When the barriers are overcome, then empathy spontaneously develops, grows, comes forth, and expands. There is no catch, no “gotcha.” That is the one-minute empathy training, pure-and-simple.
References and Notes
“The One-Minute Empathy Training”
May I introduce myself? Here is a short introduction to who i am and my commitment to empathy, including a one-minute empathy training. Total run time: about five minutes. Further data: See also
(c) Lou Agosta, PhD and the Chicago Empathy Project
Empathy in time of war means two words – Red Team.
In time of war or threat of war, the power of empathy consists in putting yourself in the shoes of the enemy, thinking like the enemy, and thereby anticipating and thwarting the enemy’s moves.
“Red Team” also happens to be the title of an eye opening, engaging book by Micah Zenko, Red Team: How to Succeed by Thinking Like the Enemy (New York: Basic Books, 2015: 298 pp.). Though it has been around for seven years, it is very timely – and, in many ways, a page turner. Time to catch up on our reading.
“Red Team” is a drill first developed by the US military to fight simulated war game battles in the Persian Gulf or western Europe during the Cold War. In the simulation, Blue Team is the US – “the good guys.”. Red Team is the other side. Zenko tells how the head of the Red Team really was named “Paul Van Riper.” He was.
Zenko narrates Van Riper’s assertiveness in questioning assumptions and how he brought forth the power of the Red Team in conducting asymmetrical battle, refusing to fight on the enemy’s terms, and acting unpredictably. Van Riper also spoke truth to power in calling out the improprieties of going outside the chain of command to “order” the Red Team not to shoot down the Blue Team aircraft. When the simulation was replayed with more equitable rules in place, the results were eye opening. Red Team was winning – decisively. The “authorities” decided to stop the simulation because the Red Team’s successes were getting to be embarrassing to the “good guys.”
Zenko provides engaging background on Red Team training and thinking at the University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies (UFMCS). Instructors and participants are taught how to distinguish the traps of social conformity and the “mind guards” and “blockers” who enforce it. The idea is to find and shed a spotlight on one’s blind spots beforeencountering the enemy. Zenko writes:
Students are taught the basics of cultural empathy and semiotics (i.e., the philosophical study of signs and symbols), without which a red teamer cannot identify and understand the values and interest experienced by those within a targeted institution [in the simulation] [. . . .] The four pillars that UFMCS curricula are based upon are critical thinking, groupthink mitigation, cultural empathy and self-awareness (pp. 38. 39).
Each of these pillars maps to a dimension of empathy or a breakdown in empathy (my view, not Zenko’s). Critical thinking counters the breakdown in empathy described as emotional contagion. Groupthink is the above cited conformity that blocks empathic understanding of what is possible for the other group (“side”). Self-awareness is not specific to empathy and is always relevant to understanding others, enabling an empathic response based on the context, not preconceptions. Cultural empathy is precisely taking a walk in the other’s shoes with the cultural appreciation of differences.
Such top-down cognitive empathy is not limited to the military, but is highly relevant to business, sports, and any situation in which information asymmetries exist in a context of zero sum game competition. Business is an obvious application. Most executives think of themselves as intrinsically better than their rivals. Such commitment to being right is all-too-human and, in certain ways, may even contribute to success – for a while. Thus, we generally find it extremely difficult to understand or empathize with rivals (p. 168). Zenko writes some things that are not flattering to executives;
Virtually all of the research that has been conducted on business decision-making finds that executives are distinctly uncreative, deeply myopic, and overconfident both in themselves personally, and also in their company’s ability to beat its competitors (p 235).
While it is easier said than done, the recommendation to perform red teaming promotes the leader as a fearless skeptic with finesse and a willingness to hear bad news and act on it. As a leader, if you don’t mind problems but really hate surprises, then red teaming is the way forward. Another way of saying that is to have your surprises simulated in a Red Team exercise rather than on the battle field, in the market place, or while trying to land the airplane.
Let us take a step back because, with a title such “Empathy in Time of War,” the reader may expect calls “to bind up the […] wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan ~ to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace.” And, to be sure, one can do worse than quote Lincoln’s second inaugural address delivered in 1865 at the end of the American Civil War. Still, this was delivered at the end of the war. The 600,000 were already deceased, and it would soon be 600,001 when Lincoln himself was assassinated.
Empathy has many dimensions, four to be exact, in both times of war and peace. Different dimensions of empathy come to the foreground in different situations. This discussion looks at all dimensions of empathy, but the one most relevant is that of putting oneself in the other’s shoes. This is the folk definition of empathy – perspective taking – with the other’s motives and context, insofar as one has access to them. Take a walk in the other’s shoes – in this case, the shoes of one who is out to do you no good – the enemy. (An enemy is defined as an individual or institution that is committed to behaving in such a way as to do, enact, or cause physical, emotional, moral, developmental, or spiritual harm to another person or group.)
Speaking personally, I cannot believe that anyone would try to force a choice between empathy and compassion. The world needs more of each. Why would that celebrity psycholinguist from Yale try to force a choice? (And if you do not know his name, you will not read it here.) Still, if as a thought experiment, one had to choose, go with empathy.
Let us consider a use case. The NY Times reports that Russia has a list of prominent Ukrainian intellectuals, journalists, business persons, politicians, and government officials to be killed or detained as Russian forces sweep across the country. The Red Team empath who takes a walk in the opponent’s shoes knows what he is dealing with – mafia style totalitarianism. What do you do when assassination is central to your opponent’s business model? Don’t expect any mercy. Man the barricades! The compassionate person may still use the rational part of cognitive ability (and perspective shifting) to arrive at the same conclusion, but the compassionate Red Team decision maker doesn’t really know what to say, at least not from the perspective of compassion. The Russians love their children too (to quote Sting)? It is only a small segment of the Russian regime that proposes to kill everyone in sight? Even psychopaths have a soft spot for children and pets (except that they do not)? This is not a zero-sum game? Actually it is a zero sum contest if the Russian team is attempting to “de capitate” the Ukrainian government.
It is quite possible that compassion, rational or otherwise, is just not a good fit for certain types of conflicts unless one can rework the situation so it is not a zero-sum game. Once the first stone flies or the first bomb goes off, both compassion and empathy are a lot less useful. Yet never underestimate the power and pertinence of empathy. That is the point of the Red Team initiative – empathy helps one survive in a hostile environment into which one is thrown due to circumstance and live to fight another day.
It really does seem that Putin and his generals did not Red Team the invasion of the Ukraine, now in its third day (2/25/22) thing very well, which, of course, does not mean that the Russian forces cannot still flatten Kyiv with artillery barrages.
Let us consider another use case. Russia threatens to invade the Ukraine – this is prior to Russia’s actual invasion. The Ukrainian team conducts a war game playing both sides. Since the Ukrainians are outnumbered, out gunned, have limited air power, and limited air defense, they are not expected to win. This is of course the reverse of the war games conducted by the US Military where the “blue team” is the USA, and the other side is generally outgunned, which of course why it was so surprising when Paul Van Riper and his red team scored a knock out. In the war game, the Ukrainian Blue Team allows the Russians to enter the country, since they cannot stop them. Then the Ukrainians blow up the bridges behind the Russian Red Team. The explosives need to have been set in advance (which seems not to have occurred in real life).
The Russians resupply struggles and some of their units run out of gasoline. These are set upon by small units equipped with antitank weapons that were hiding out in decommissioned ICBM siloes. Note that Ukraine was briefly the world’s third largest nuclear power before surrendering their nuclear weapons in 1996 in exchange for security assurances from Russia and The West. (Big mistake. But that is another story.) However, the Ukrainians still have hardened infrastructure, including bunkers, and siloes, albeit empty of missiles. They use this infrastructure to allow the Russians to drive buy, then pop up from the rear and inflict damage. The Ukrainians are defending their homeland, their families, and their lives. Red teaming takes such factors into consideration. Of course, the Russians have elite special forces, but the Russians are also relying on conscripted twenty somethings who have been told that they are going for training but are actually being sent off to war. You can’t make this stuff up. Under this scenario, the Russians expected to accept the Ukrainians surrender in three days. The Russians have enough fuel and resupply for nine days. If the Ukrainians can hold out for ten days, they win.
Update: This just in (12:30 PM CDT 2-27-2022). Unconfirmed reports state that some teenage Russian conscripts (soldiers) are surrendering in tears. Ukrainian authorities are allowing them to borrow cell phones to call their mothers, who are reportedly already lobbying Putin to stop the madness. The power of mothers should not be underestimated! Stand by for update. Meanwhile,,,
Empathic interpretation is a redescription of cognitive, top-down empathy. Engaging the empathic process as cognitive empathy is especially usefully and powerful in the Red Team situation of thinking like the enemy. But do not stop there. Even if one does not have enemies, if one gets stuck and does not have a good feel affectively as to what is going on with the other person, say one’s best friend, then mobilizing an intellectual operation to shift perspective cognitively can free up one’s possibilities for relating and interacting. If I find another person distant or emotionally remote or “on the spectrum,” one may usefully consider what one knows about what the other person had to survive or the challenges the person is facing or what one knows about the person’s role or aspirations or history. All this become grist for the mill of “jump starting” empathic relatedness where relatedness is missing.
Earlier in the discussion, empathy was described as having four dimensions and the third dimension (3) of empathic interpretation, taking a walk in the other person’s shoes was called out. The other three dimensions include (1) empathic receptivity – be open the feelings and thoughts of the other as a vicarious experience that distinguishes self and other (2) empathic understanding – engage the other as a possibility in his shared humanity (4) empathic responsiveness – acknowledge the other in a form of language or gesture that recognizes the other’s struggle, contribution, or issue. One can easily appreciate how the “bottom up” aspects of affective empathy become less relevant or useful in the context of war. Less relevant, but not completely irrelevant, since, as Lincoln pointed out in the opening quote, even long wars eventually have an outcome and the healing properties of empathy (and compassion) return to the critical path.
This is highly relevant to psychotherapy, psychiatry, empathy consulting, and life coaching. Only here “the enemy” is not the client, but the person’s disorder, diagnosis, or blind spot. It is truly a “love the sinner but hate the sin” moment (to mix in a spiritual metaphor with the clinical one). Here one must work to form an alliance with the client against an aspect of himself that keeps him attached to his own suffering. Though the suffering is real, it can be sticky and becomes an uncomfortable comfort zone.
It is not appropriate to diagnose public figures based on their crazy statements and behavior, nor do I propose to do that here. Yet there is a concerning parallelism between delusional behavior and the political fabrications (i.e., lies) and fake news of demagogues, fanatics, and fellow travelers of the Big Lie. Politicians as a class have never been known for their rigorous integrity in honoring their word, yet the success that some demagogues have in persuading the people to follow them – often off a cliff – must give one pause.
Such influence often comes from the would-be charismatic “leader” believing his own lies and fakery. It does lend a force to the fanatic’s message and comes to resemble, without however being the same as, the delusional person’s self-delusion. Though there is too much suffering to bear between where the world is at right now (2/25/22) and some end point = x, the most likely outcome is Putin is finished. Putin is done – a shell of a human being, ravaged by the neurological consequences of power and Covid. We do not know how suicidal he is – think of Hitler in his bunker. Not a comforting thought. The question is whether Putin decides to take the rest of the world with him in a nuclear holocaust, and whether saner minds in the Kremlin can stop him. Red Team that!