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Bill Buford's "Among the Thugs"

Updated on June 18, 2013

Reflections on Bill Buford's "Among the Thugs"

In his essay, “Among the Thugs”, Bill Buford describes the surprise that the English feel when the Italians retaliate against their behavior. They are extremely disturbed that an Italian would throw a rock at their vehicle, because someone could be injured. This appears to be an arrogant display of hypocrisy. Yet, where does this hypocrisy arise from? Perhaps it stems from a lack of empathy.

If the English were able to empathize with the Italians they might not have thrown liquor bottles at them. They may have realized that the Italians could be harmed in the same way that they feared harm when the Italians reacted to their own inappropriate behavior. If the English could understand how the Italians felt they could have monitored their behavior more. Yet, the English didn’t care about the Italians. They felt that they were better than them. They probably could empathize, but they chose not to consider the Italians position. This may be because they were heavily under the influence of alcohol or just out for a good time and did not want anything to bog them down.

However, I think this story displays the great difference between empathy and sympathy. The English could understand the Italians feelings, but they were not willing to share in them. They disliked the Italians and were unwilling to sympathize. It is amusing to see that the English and Italians were actually feeling the same emotions of outrage and injustice, but that they were aimed at each other.


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