I call it Why Don't They Just...? syndrome.
I suffer from it myself. I know that mental illness is not the fault of the mentally ill. I know that. I just have trouble actually feeling it, especially with the mildly/marginally/none-completely-disabling mentally ill. (Strangely, I have more success feeling compassion for alcoholics and the drug-addicted, even though in some instances, a good case could be made that they could have prevented it themselves, that it is their fault.)
[A] member of the House of Lords, speaking at the launch of a report on hunger in England, declared “We have lost a lot of our cookery skills. Poor people do not know how to cook. I had a large bowl of porridge today, which cost 4p. A large bowl of sugary cereals will cost you 25p.” That people may not have the time to make the oatmeal because they’ve only got a few minutes between two exhausting jobs, Lady Jenkin didn’t see.Is that necessarily a conservative way of thinking? I remember when I was a child reading a bit in Reader's Digest, surely a "conservative" publication if ever there was one, that suggested an experiment - get rid of your car, break a few windows in your home, empty your wallet, scatter garbage in your neighborhood, disable most of your plumbing, put you cleaning implements, most of your clothes, your savings and investments off limits, don't communicate with any of your friends or family who are well-off or even minimally comfortable -- now, "make something of yourself."
But it seems to me that this failure to empathize, to understand what the situation of a person other than yourself entails is not a matter of conservativism, or if it is, it has its just as damaging counterpart on the left, which is the patronizing attitude that that the sick, the poor, the disenfranchised, the abused not only need our help, but they cannot in any way help themselves, and they CERTAINLY can't help US.
They are completely OTHER.
They are equally wrong, harrumphing "Why don't the lazy louts just do what we do," and cooing, "the poor dears can't possibly do what we do."
When scripture talks about the poor, it isn't talking about the Other, it is speaking to and about ALL of us. All of humanity is poor, we are all in this together.
Recall, it was a king who cried out, Incline your ear, Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and oppressed.