Empatialähettiläs Yeboyah

Our first Empathy Ambassador, rap artist and DJ Yeboyah also known as Rebekka Kuukka, says that without empathy, Finland would fall apart. “What if we would tackled difficult conversations with empathy instead of automatically putting our guards up?”, asks Rebekka.

Why is empathy important to you?

Things would not work in any society unless we were able to empathize with one another. Empathy holds us together. Empathy should not only remain a matter of humanity, but nature and animals should also be involved. Empathy for all living things is what keeps us alive.

What is your way of spreading empathy around you?

Whenever I make decisions, I try to think beyond my own interests. Although naturally one thinks first from one’s own point of view, I always stop to think and reflect how it all looks from another’s point of view. I treasure this, as it means that I get more information and insights! When others are happy, I want to share their feelings of happiness and in conflict situations I always try to understand all parties involved. If that is not possible, you must at least respect the other.

Who is your role model for empathy and why?

I really respect how calm Maryan Abdulkarim is in difficult situations and empathizes with those who strongly disagree with her. It’s really important to be able to have a calm conversation and control your emotions, even if you come from very different extremes. Yet, it is difficult to stay calm and control my emotions if someone denies my human rights or looks down on me.

What situation in your life would you have hoped to receive more empathy?

It takes a lot of courage to talk about difficult experiences, especially if you come from a marginal position. It feels bad when someone questions what I have to say. When someone talks about terribly difficult things, such as sexual abuse, one must remember that it is not just a story that everyone has the right to judge. Behind the story is a person for whom it has been very difficult to open and speak up.

Also, as a feminist, sometimes I wish I received more empathy. Many times, when you do something good for the world, you and the whole cause that you support is expected to reach perfection in everything. Thus, it also requires empathy to face the imperfections in people.

Why do you think it is important for Finland to be an empathic country?

I believe that Finns are empathic, but at the moment many societal structures and the general atmosphere are not. The media often reinforces impersonality and lack of empathy by highlighting only one type of a person and bundling all the others in this group. Especially in the debate on refugees and immigration, lack of empathy is often evident. People cannot relate to the human suffering of those fleeing their homes or they might question people’s experiences of racism in Finland. In these instances, it feels like we’re a country far from empathy.

Empathy is really important and is not adequately taken into account in social debates. What kind of a world would it be if we tackled difficult conversations with empathy instead of automatically putting our guards up and acting defensively? We could find better solutions quicker if we thought about what it would feel like if we had to forcibly leave our home. Even the conversation itself would feel more comfortable and inviting if it’s parties were empathic to each other.

Talking about empathy may seem soft and sentimental, but I think soft things need more visibility and appreciation.

Which act, person, or organization deserves recognition for your empathy?

Brown girls (Ruskeat tytöt)! The Brown Girls media changed my life. It was really important and revolutionary to see different bodies and hear different opinions that what the mainstream Finnish media is offering to us. By highlighting people from the margins, Brown Girls increase empathy and act as a countermeasure to othering. It also requires a great deal of empathy to work on such personal matters. I would like to see the work of the Brown Girls gain more appreciation and resources in Finland.