Word for feeling empty

EMPTINESS Synonyms: 19 Synonyms & Antonyms for EMPTINESS

See definition of emptiness on Dictionary.com

  • nounvoid, bareness

synonyms for emptiness

  • desolation
  • vacuum
  • blank
  • blankness
  • chasm
  • destitution
  • exhaustion
  • gap
  • hollowness
  • inanition
  • vacancy
  • vacuity
  • waste
  • depletedness
  • desertedness

antonyms for emptiness


  • closure
  • capacity
  • fill
  • fullness

Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition Copyright © 2013 by the Philip Lief Group.

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How to use emptiness in a sentence

It felt to him that he simply walked straight out of her life into a world of emptiness and ice and shadows.


In the desolate emptiness of desert that yawned ahead, he saw this single tree that blossomed, and offered shade.


All the election officials present check the complete emptiness of the box.


Augustine, however, had been gifted by chance with a spirit lofty enough to feel the emptiness of such a life.


What must be the horror, darkness and emptiness of those living substances that are "inferior" to us?


What seemed new was the beach and its desolation—its emptiness.


Then, oppressed with a sudden sense of the emptiness of the world, she went into the house.


It made you feel ridiculously self-conscious, standing behind bars like this and shouting into emptiness.


But though it meant finally but emptiness and the struggle to forget, I was powerless to draw back now.


A cold wave swept down my spine, and a sort of emptiness came to the pit of my stomach.



  • aplastic anemia
  • bloodlessness
  • chlorosis
  • emptiness
  • ischemia
  • lifelessness
  • aridity
  • aridness
  • bleakness
  • emptiness
  • underdevelopment
  • abyss
  • cavity
  • chasm
  • emptiness
  • gap
  • gulf
  • hiatus
  • hole
  • hollow
  • hollowness
  • interstice
  • interval
  • lacuna
  • nihility
  • nothingness
  • nullity
  • omission
  • opening
  • preterition
  • pretermission
  • skip
  • tabula rasa
  • vacancy
  • vacuity
  • vacuum
  • void
  • womb
  • emptiness
  • frivolousness
  • fruitlessness
  • hollowness
  • idleness
  • ineffectiveness
  • ineffectuality
  • meaninglessness
  • pointlessness
  • senselessness
  • unprofitableness
  • worthlessness
  • a stomach for
  • ache
  • appetence
  • appetency
  • appetition
  • big eyes
  • bottomless pit
  • craving
  • desire
  • emptiness
  • esurience
  • eyes for
  • famine
  • famishment
  • gluttony
  • greed
  • greediness
  • hungriness
  • longing
  • lust
  • mania
  • munchies
  • ravenousness
  • starvation
  • sweet tooth
  • vacancy
  • void
  • voracity
  • want
  • yearning
  • yen
  • abjection
  • aridity
  • bankruptcy
  • barrenness
  • beggary
  • dearth
  • debt
  • deficiency
  • deficit
  • depletion
  • destitution
  • difficulty
  • distress
  • emptiness
  • exiguity
  • famine
  • hardship
  • impecuniousness
  • impoverishment
  • inadequacy
  • indigence
  • insolvency
  • insufficiency
  • lack
  • meagerness
  • necessitousness
  • necessity
  • need
  • neediness
  • pass
  • paucity
  • pauperism
  • pennilessness
  • penuriousness
  • penury
  • pinch
  • poorness
  • privation
  • reduction
  • scarcity
  • shortage
  • starvation
  • straits
  • underdevelopment
  • vacancy
  • want

Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition Copyright © 2013 by the Philip Lief Group.

single word requests - What do you call something that makes you feel empty?


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Sometimes there are some thoughts that make you feel so empty that when you deeply think about it it's like you are a plastic bag that all the air goes out of. It's a combination of fear, sadness and uselessness (I mean philosophically not emotionally or psychologically like how people have less self confidence). I personally find myself having that feeling sometimes when I feel so deeply like I understand death. And it takes me with it. But I don't know how to describe it in English. I first thought of "voidening" but I don't think that is even a word. And also I think it's actually totally something irrelevant :)). So how one would describe it? I want to use it in a context such as:

It doesn't always bring the same emptying feeling with it.

But emptying also doesn't feel right. It doesn't express it the way I want. I'm looking for something more poetical that can deliver my feeling better.

Another example of that feeling is when I imagine myself all alone in the middle of space far from every other planet or living organism. Cold, dark, and silent.

  • single-word-requests
  • meaning
  • word-choice
  • synonyms


It fills me with a forlorn feeling

TFD - sad or lonely, especially from being deserted or abandoned.

MW - bereft, forsaken. "left quite forlorn of hope". Sad and lonely because of isolation or desertion.

Example sentences from the web:

1 - "I often pick up an abandoned, forlorn feeling from houses where the owners have died."

2 - "waved them goodbye from the door like forlorn parents waving off a honeymoon couple"

3 - "growing stronger with each passing day is the empty, forlorn feeling that totally consumes me."

4 - "This passage captures the forlorn feeling of chronic illness. Even if you finally reach remission, you have no friends left that want to spend time with you. The isolation is ghastly."

5 - "A relentlessly forlorn feeling wouldn't go away, no matter how many beers he washed down."

I would call that feeling "deflated."

deflated adj
1. having lost confidence, hope, or optimism

TFD Online

The figurative usage suggests the opposite of being "inflated," meaning filled up with something, (usually a gas, as a balloon), that would render the object full and buoyant.

Want to improve this post? Provide detailed answers to this question, including citations and an explanation of why your answer is correct. Answers without enough detail may be edited or deleted.

I would use draining. Especially in the context of the example sentence you provided.

This happens to me regularly, now that I'm older. I always refer to it as my Existential Crisis or Midlife Crisis. The two are related although not exactly the same, but I suspect some of us experience both simultaneously. Some people may feel one way or the other, however. And I'm sure every individual experiences it their own way.

Existential crisis (examples from Wikipedia of the feelings / thoughts involved):

  • Realizing that the Universe is more complex, mysterious, larger and beyond current human understanding.
  • Searching for the meaning of life.

Midlife crisis (examples, also from Wikipedia):

  • A deep sense of remorse for goals not accomplished.
  • Ambitious to right the missteps they feel they have taken early in life.
  • Longing to achieve a feeling of youthfulness.


For completeness, I'll also offer up angst:

A feeling of deep anxiety or dread, typically an unfocused one about the human condition or the state of the world in general.

Like Bread's answer, it is often prefixed by existential, which probably fits your requirement more.

I'd go with despair.

Definition of despair

1: utter loss of hope

a cry of despair 

gave up in despair


You are feeling Detachment.

But there are two forms of it:

  1. First form is when you are at peace... When there is a complete detachment (also called non-attachment) from things, people or concepts of the world and thus attain a heightened perspective. Example Thought: "Everyone is so perfectly playing the drama of life."

  2. Second form is when you are deeply troubled... When there is an attachment, but nothing worthy visible in that attachment (so it is effectively an attachment to something whose worth is nothing). This is also called - Existential Crisis. Example Thought: "If one day I will be forgotten, what is the purpose of all my work?"

Generally, second form is a precursor to first form.

Source for first form.

Source for second form.

You're looking for an adjective to describe the thing making you feel such a way, right? So words like "existential crisis" or "isolation" aren't right. "Foreboding" is also incorrect: it means, "the messenger that comes before" and refers specifically to feelings like dread, where the subject feels that something bad is coming. It has nothing to do with feeling empty.

Just keep in mind that we will use slightly different words depending on the context. Your request includes several distinct kinds of emotional states, so you can't necessarily use a single word as a "catch-all." Depending on the kind of empty you feel (actually empty or empty of energy, empty of desire, etc), and whether there's sadness mixed in, or just pure numbness, and/or if you reached that point by working hard or by a big disappointment, etc.

  • J. Taylor's "dispiriting" is good after a failure or a disappointment. "dis-" means "apart" or "split," "reversing" or sort of "not." So the word means, "to remove of [object]'s spirit." It's the kind of empty you feel when you lose the will/desire to face a problem or try again. e.g. "His third failure to pass the bar exam left him dispirited. "

  • "Draining" has also been suggested, and it's very good for emotional fatigue. It can be sudden and complete ("I never knew how draining writing that report could be." or, "The court battle was utterly draining.") or gradual and/or partial ("Being in this relationship and fighting the same fights all the time is so draining. I just want to leave it behind.").

    • Another option is "numbing [thing you're describing]" You might use this with "mind-numbing" or on its own: "I never want to go back to that mind-numbing medicine again." "Eventually, the pain was replaced with a numbing chill (in my heart/throughout my mind)."

We often use phrases in English for this kind of complex emotion/state, too. You can say that something "left a void" or "created a void" in yourself or your heart. You can specify what was drained or emptied out or exhausted: "(something) drains [my] will to live." You can use "numb" or "unfeeling" in a phrase too: "it left me numb (and unfeeling) to [something]. "


This is an old word that means something is dark, gloomy, and depressing. "Distant" and slow-moving and sad. This word is not described as archaic or obsolete over at it's page on Merriam-Webster, but it certainly is out of common use. Incidentally, it's obsolete enough that my English instructor accused me of plagiarism after using it in a paper. An example of it's use:

Because of its saturnine character, I couldn't help but drive faster past the graveyard that night.

Another example of that feeling is when I imagine myself all alone in the middle of the space far from every other planet or living organism. Cold, dark, and silent.


source: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/isolation

I would call that feeling "foreboding." Cold, dark, and silent and foreboding!

foreboding noun

A feeling that something bad will happen; fearful apprehension. ‘with a sense of foreboding she read the note’ 

apprehension, apprehensiveness, anxiety, perturbation, trepidation, disquiet, disquietude, unease, uneasiness, misgiving, suspicion, worry, fear, fearfulness, dread, alarm premonition, presentiment, intuition, feeling, vague feeling, suspicion, inkling, hunch


Implying that something bad is going to happen. ‘when the Doctor spoke, his voice was dark and foreboding’ 

citation: oxford dictionary




Google: entirely lacking or free from.

Merriam-Webster: being without a usual, typical, or expected attribute or accompaniment —used with of an argument devoid of sense, a landscape devoid of life.

So you could say "devoid of happiness / hope / joy"

Synonyms: free of, empty of, vacant of, bereft of, deprived of, destitute of, bankrupt of


TCD - A soul-destroying job or other activity is so boring that it makes you very unhappy:

Example sentences:

It doesn't always bring the same soul-destroying feeling with it.

Nursing in the combat zone was soul-destroying because of all the innocent lives lost.

Continuously battling with the insurance company was destroying her soul and sucking all the joy from the marriage.


Personally I find Derelict particularly dramatic:


  • abandoned especially by the owner or occupant

Destitute might also resonate well:


  • lacking something needed or desirable


When something is said to be "vapid" it is completely uninteresting and boring. Here is a link to the definition at Merriam-Webster. For example:

It is tragic how many people like the music on the radio, considering popular culture is so vapid.

It doesn't always bring the same eviscerating feeling with it.

  1. to deprive of vital or essential parts

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All diseases are from the nerves. Is it so?

Psychosomatics is a term adopted in medicine to refer to such an approach to explaining diseases, in which special attention is paid to the role of mental factors in the occurrence, course and outcome of diseases. Psychosomatics studies the influence of psychological factors on the occurrence of a number of somatic (bodily) diseases.

According to scientists, about 50% of all diseases in industrialized countries are psychogenic in nature. The main method of treatment is psychotherapy, the purpose of which is to establish connections hidden for the patient himself between his emotional conflicts and the onset of symptoms of the disease. nine0003

As you know, pain indicates that something in the body is not working properly. This is a kind of signal for help. When our emotions remain unheard for a long time, and mental pain continues to grow, the body comes to the rescue. The most vulnerable place of a person suffers. In some people, with severe stress, the cardiovascular system suffers, in others, the intestines, etc. Each person has his own body reactions, including those due to hereditary predisposition. Diseases such as hypertension, bronchial asthma, polyarthritis, neurodermatitis, migraine are classified as psychosomatic diseases. And the list of diseases, the occurrence of which is associated with the human psyche, is growing. nine0003

There are several causes of disease :

1. Genetic or constitutional predisposition of the organ.

2. Stress, psycho trauma.

3. Internal conflict.

To paraphrase a famous saying, you can say "Tell me what you are sick of, and I will tell you who you are. "

The table below lists the main psychological causes of disease. It is worth noting that this is not a universal table and it will not replace traditional medicine, but it can be a good help in finding the harmony of mind and body. nine0003

Alcoholism, drug addiction . Unable to deal with anything. Terrible fear. The desire to get away from everyone and everything. Reluctance to be here.

Feelings of futility, inadequacy. Rejection of self.

Allergy . Who can't you stand? Denial of one's own power.

A protest against something that cannot be expressed. It often happens that the parents of an allergic person often argued and had completely different views on life. nine0003

Appendicitis . Fear. Fear of life. Blocking everything good.

Insomnia. Fear. distrust of the life process. Guilt.

Escape from life, unwillingness to recognize its shadow sides.

Vegetative dystonia . Infantilism, low self-esteem, a tendency to doubt and self-accusation.

Excessive appetite . Fear. Self-defense. distrust of life. Feverish overflow and getting rid of feelings of self-hatred. nine0003

Obesity . Hypersensitivity. Often symbolizes fear and the need for protection. Fear can serve as a cover for hidden anger and unwillingness to forgive. Trust in yourself, in the very process of life, refraining from negative thoughts - these are the ways to lose weight.

Obesity is a manifestation of a tendency to defend oneself against something. The feeling of inner emptiness often awakens the appetite. Eating provides many people with a sense of acquisition. But mental deficiency cannot be filled with food. Lack of confidence in life and fear of life circumstances plunge a person into an attempt to fill the spiritual emptiness with external means. nine0003

Lack of appetite . Denial of personal life. Strong feelings of fear, self-hatred and self-denial.

Khudoba . Such people do not like themselves, they feel insignificant in comparison with others, they are afraid of being rejected. And so they try to be very kind.

Cellulitis (inflammation of the subcutaneous tissue) . Accumulated anger and self-punishment. Forces herself to believe that nothing bothers her. nine0003

Myopia - Fear of the future.

Glaucoma The most obstinate unwillingness to forgive. They press old grievances. Crushed by all this.

Farsightedness - Feeling yourself out of this world.

Cataract . Inability to look ahead with joy. Foggy future.

Conjunctivitis . Some event happened in life that caused intense anger, and this anger is intensified by the fear of reliving this event again. nine0003

Blindness, retinal detachment, severe head trauma . A harsh assessment of the behavior of another person, jealousy, coupled with contempt, arrogance and rigidity.

Dry eyes . Evil eyes. Unwillingness to look with love. I'd rather die than forgive. Sometimes a manifestation of malice.

Barley . Occurs in a very emotional person who cannot get along with what he sees. And who feels anger and irritation when he realizes that other people see the world differently. nine0003

Head: diseases . Jealousy, envy, hatred and resentment.

Headaches . Self underestimation. Self-criticism. Fear. Headaches occur when we feel inferior, humiliated. Forgive yourself and your headache will disappear by itself.

Headaches often come from low self-esteem, as well as low resistance to even minor stresses. A person complaining of constant headaches literally consists of psychological and physical clamps and tension. The habitual state of the nervous system is to always be at the limit of its capabilities. And the first symptom of future diseases is a headache. Therefore, doctors working with such patients first teach them to relax. nine0003

Loss of contact with one's true self. The desire to justify the high expectations of others. Trying to avoid any mistakes.

Throat: diseases . Inability to take care of oneself. Swallowed anger. Crisis of creativity. Unwillingness to change. Throat problems arise from the feeling that we "have no right" and from a sense of our own inferiority.

The throat, in addition, is a part of the body where all our creative energy is concentrated. When we resist change, we most often develop throat problems. You need to give yourself the right to do what you want, without blaming yourself and without fear of disturbing others. A sore throat is always an annoyance. If he is accompanied by a cold, then, in addition to this, also confusion. nine0003

Angina . You refrain from harsh words. Feeling unable to express yourself. Feeling angry at not being able to handle a situation.

Laryngitis . Anger makes it difficult to speak. Fear makes it difficult to speak. They dominate me.

Tonsillitis . Fear. Suppressed emotions. Silent creativity. Belief in one's inability to speak for oneself and independently achieve the satisfaction of one's needs. nine0003

Diabetes . Longing for the unfulfilled. Strong need for control. Deep grief. There is nothing pleasant left. Diabetes can be caused by a need to control, sadness, and an inability to receive and internalize love. The diabetic cannot bear affection and love, although he craves them. He unconsciously rejects love, despite the fact that at a deep level he feels a strong need for it. Being in conflict with himself, in rejection of himself, he is not able to accept love from others. Finding inner peace of mind, openness to accepting love and the ability to love is the beginning of a way out of the disease. Attempts to control, unrealistic expectations of universal happiness and sadness to the point of hopelessness that this is not feasible. The inability to live one's own life, because it does not allow (does not know how) to rejoice and enjoy one's life events. nine0003

Respiratory : diseases. Fear or refusal to inhale life fully. You do not recognize your right to occupy space or exist at all. Fear. Resistance to change. Distrust in the process of change.

Suppressed sexual desires. wants too much; takes more than he should and gives with great difficulty. He wants to seem stronger than he is and thereby arouse love for himself.

Gastric diseases . Horror. Fear of the new. Inability to learn new things. We do not know how to assimilate a new life situation. The stomach is sensitive to our problems, fears, hatred of others and ourselves, dissatisfaction with ourselves and our fate. Suppression of these feelings, unwillingness to admit them to oneself, an attempt to ignore and "forget" them instead of understanding, understanding and resolving can cause various stomach disorders. Gastric functions are upset in people who bashfully react to their desire to receive help or a manifestation of love from another person, the desire to lean on someone. In other cases, the conflict is expressed in a sense of guilt because of the desire to take something by force from another. The reason why gastric functions are so vulnerable to such conflict is that food represents the first explicit satisfaction of a receptive-collective desire. In the mind of a child, the desire to be loved and the desire to be fed are deeply connected. When, in later life, the desire to receive help from another causes shame or shyness, which is not uncommon in a society whose main value is independence, this desire finds a regressive satisfaction in an increased craving for food. This craving stimulates the secretion of the stomach, and a chronic increase in secretion in a predisposed individual can lead to the formation of an ulcer. nine0003

Gastritis . Protracted uncertainty. Feeling of doom.

Irritation. A strong outburst of anger in the near past.

Heartburn . Fear. The grip of fear. Heartburn, excess gastric juice indicates repressed aggressiveness. The solution to the problem at the psychosomatic level is the transformation of the forces of repressed aggression into the action of an active attitude to life and circumstances.

nine0009 Gastric and duodenal ulcer . Fear. Firm belief that you are defective. We fear that we are not good enough for our parents, bosses, teachers, etc. We literally can't stomach what we are. We always try to please others. No matter what position you hold at work, you may have a complete lack of self-esteem. In almost all ulcer patients, there is a deep internal conflict between the desire for independence, which they highly value, and the need for protection, support and care laid down from childhood. These are people who are trying to prove to everyone that they are needed and indispensable. Envy. People with peptic ulcer are characterized by anxiety, irritability, increased diligence and a heightened sense of duty. They are characterized by low self-esteem, accompanied by excessive vulnerability, shyness, resentment, self-doubt and, at the same time, increased demands on themselves, suspiciousness. It is noticed that these people strive to do much more than they can really do. For them, a tendency to actively overcome difficulties, combined with strong internal anxiety, is typical. Anxiety, hypochondria. Suppressed feeling of dependence. Irritation, indignation and at the same time helplessness from attempts to change oneself, adjusting to someone's expectations. nine0003

Hemorrhoids . Fear of not meeting the allotted time. Anger in the past. Heavier feelings. Inability to get rid of accumulated problems, resentments and emotions. The joy of life is drowned in anger and sadness. Fear of separation. Suppressed fear. Gotta do the job you hate. Something urgently needs to be completed in order to receive certain material benefits.

Constipation . Unwillingness to part with outdated thoughts. Stuck in the past. Sometimes in acrimoniousness. Constipation indicates an excess of accumulated feelings, ideas and experiences that a person cannot or does not want to part with, cannot make room for new ones. The tendency to dramatize some event in one's past, the inability to resolve that situation (complete the gestalt) nine0003

Irritable bowel syndrome . Infantilism, low self-esteem, a tendency to doubt and self-accusation. Anxiety, hypochondria.

Colic . Irritation, impatience, dissatisfaction with the environment.

Colitis. Uncertainty. Symbolizes the ability to easily part with the past. Fear of letting go of something. Unreliability.

Flatulence . Tightness. Fear of losing something significant or being in a hopeless situation. Worry about the future. Unrealized ideas. nine0003

Indigestion . Animal fear, horror, restlessness. Grunts and complaints.

Belching . Fear. Too greedy attitude to life.

Diarrhea . Fear. Refusal. Runaway.

Acne (acne) . Disagreement with yourself. Lack of self love

A sign of a subconscious desire to push others away, not to let yourself be considered. (i.e. not enough self-respect and acceptance of yourself and your inner beauty) nine0003

Furuncle . A particular situation poisons a person's life, causing intense feelings of anger, anxiety and fear.

Neck: diseases . Unwillingness to see other sides of the issue. Stubbornness. Lack of flexibility. He pretends that the disturbing situation does not bother him at all.

Eczema . irreconcilable antagonism. Mental breakdowns. Uncertainty about your future.

Bones, Skeleton: Issues . A person values ​​himself only for what turns out to be useful to others.

Arthritis . The feeling that you are not loved. Criticism, resentment. They cannot say no and blame others for being exploited. For such people, it is important to learn how to say “no” if necessary. Arthritic - one who is always ready to attack, but suppresses this desire in himself. There is a significant emotional influence on the muscular expression of feelings, which is extremely tightly controlled. Desire for punishment, self-reproach. victim state. A person is too strict with himself, does not allow himself to relax, does not know how to express his desires and needs. The “inner critic” is too well developed. nine0003

Herniated discs . The feeling that life has completely deprived you of support.

Curvature of the spine . Inability to go with the flow of life. Fear and attempts to hold on to outdated thoughts. distrust of life. Lack of integrity of nature. No boldness of conviction.

Lower back pain . Unrealized expectations in the field of interpersonal relationships.

Sciatica . Hypocrisy. Fear for money and for the future. nine0003

Back: diseases of the lower part . Fear of money. Lack of financial support. Fear of poverty, material disadvantage. Forced to do everything myself. Fear of being used and getting nothing in return.

Back: diseases of the middle part . Guilt. Attention is riveted to everything that is in the past. "Leave me alone". The belief that no one can be trusted.

Back: diseases of the upper part . Lack of moral support. The feeling that you are not loved. Holding back feelings of love.

Blood, veins, arteries: diseases . Lack of joy. No movement of thought. Inability to listen to one's own needs.

Anemia . Lack of joy. Fear of life. Belief in one's own inferiority deprives one of the joys of life.

Arteries (problems) . Problems with arteries - inability to enjoy life. He does not know how to listen to his heart and create situations associated with joy and fun. nine0003

Atherosclerosis . Resistance. Tension. Refusal to see the good.

Frequent upset due to sharp criticism.

Varicose veins . Being in a situation you hate. Disapproval. Feeling overwhelmed and overwhelmed by work. Exaggeration of the seriousness of problems. Inability to relax due to guilt when receiving pleasure.

Psychosomatics - one of the areas of work of our doctor - Orekhova Violetta Pavlovna (psychotherapist) . Psychotherapy will help to deal with such problems and cure a number of diseases. In our Medical Center there are both individual and group classes. Also, Dr. Orekhova accepts remotely. When there is no time to come to the center, or the patient wants anonymity, then the classes are conducted using the Internet connection.

"Human suffering, moral emptiness and bonds of feeling" - Carnegie Council address, June 8, 2015


Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like you to imagine for a moment a world without human rights. It's such a violent place where violence is the only currency between people. Fear is its fuel and pacifier. A world where everything is characterized by cruelty and deprivation. Where conflict rushes freely along the rails of discrimination and hatred, and each person desperately seeks to snatch the prey for himself alone; where every man, every woman and every child fights against the arbitrariness and whims of those in power; where even the rulers in their tyranny live in fear of being forcibly overthrown. This is a terrible place: our disgusting place of suffering. nine0003

70 years ago, out of the smoke of a war far more terrible and destructive than the colossal flames that ended in 1918, nations built a new system for peace - again. And because of the suffering of the wildest conflict and the most detailed, mathematically planned genocide the world has ever seen, these states knew that if countries and peoples could not live together, they would again behave as in the past, but already using nuclear weapons; no one can win, the whole world will be destroyed. And they created the United Nations and drew up the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. nine0003

It begins with the words " Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world..."

Recognition of the inherent dignity and inalienable and equal the rights of all people. Respect for differences and beyond, as well as the understanding that, despite our differences, we are one, being together on this planet, where we all must live and die. These are the foundations of freedom, equality and justice. And freedom, equality and justice - this is what holds the seven letters together in the word "n-a-d-e-zh-d-a". Is this space between letters now collapsing? nine0003


A few weeks ago, while thinking about people on boats in the Mediterranean, I left my apartment in Geneva and got into my car. This crisis, along with the crisis of the Rohingya people in Southeast Asia, has sent the world into rising unrest. People like us, but in much greater desperation, entire families involuntarily share their suffering through our flat screens and iPads as they swim or sink in the abyss of blue cemeteries. And so I drove on a bright spring day to a beautiful place on the southern shore of Lake Geneva. My destination was the Royal Hotel in Evian-les-Bains. It is here on July 19For 38 years, representatives of 31 nations met for a shameful discussion that was virtually erased from our memory.

The Evian Conference was organized by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the face of a looming massive refugee crisis due to Hitler's fierce anti-Semitism. After the German annexation of Austria in March 1938, faced with brutal attacks, seizure of personal property, restrictions on freedom, campaigns of racial slander, and deep and well-founded fear, Jews began to move en masse from Germany and Austria. Roosevelt understood that no country—certainly not his—could resolve this crisis alone. He believed that only a collective solution could overcome this difficulty. nine0003

Hitler also hoped that other countries would accept the Jews he was trying to expel. In his speech in Königsberg 4 months before the Evian conference, he chuckled: “I can only hope and wait that the rest of the world, which has such deep sympathy for these criminals, will be generous enough to transform this pity into practical help. As for me , we are ready to put our luxurious ships at the disposal of these countries for the transport of criminals." nine0003

Indeed, Hitler had already put them forcibly on ships and sent them in different directions across the Mediterranean and across the Atlantic Ocean.

At the same time in July in Evyan, although many delegations eloquently expressed their concern about the suffering experienced by Jews in Germany and Austria, this feeling was only part of the rhetoric. The result of this meeting was a polite but indifferent denial of reality. Neither Europe, nor the United States of America, nor Australia have accepted refugees in any significant number. nine0003

In the verbatim report, two concepts were repeated over and over: "density" and "maximum concentration". In European countries, the "density" of the population was already quite high, and they reached "maximum concentration", in other words, there were simply no places in the hotels of the world. In 1938, of course, these were absurd words, given today's population in Europe. And today it would be just as funny to hear such words.

The participants in the Evian Conference, of course, could not imagine the future scale of the Holocaust, nor foresee that Europe would be drawn into another destructive war, while the shamelessness on the part of the Evian delegations is striking: even their oral statements were short, since many participants were eager to join the outdoor activities that awaited them at the resort. nine0003

The Nazis must have rejoiced at how little - or not so little - their anti-Semitism had in the rest of Europe. They also realized that if expulsion became increasingly difficult, eventually slave labor and extermination would be their alternative.

Ironically, many of those countries that refused to accept refugees were themselves once occupied and subjected to violence by the same Nazis and desired sympathy, which was denied to the Jews on July 1938 years old

And what is happening today? It is clear that Europe in 2015 is not the same as in 1938. There are many European countries, led by Germany and now also by France, that are ready to take very seriously, in cooperation with the European Commission, not just the number of people they have to relocate, but also broader, more comprehensive measures to resolve the crisis. And we support their efforts to do this and more. However, this is not easy, as other countries in Europe stubbornly refuse any proposal that requires them to accept more migrants. And I'm worried about whether this second category of countries will set the tone? Look at the Syrian refugees: only a small part of the world, led by Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan, has shown relentless generosity since 2011; while most of those who could help have not done so and are not fulfilling their moral obligations. nine0003

Shouldn't we then ask ourselves what our future will be like if we succumb to the weakness of the mind, to fanatical populism, where it is so easy to stir up our fears and subdue our thinking? If all states in due time begin to repeat the behavior of most countries opposed to immigration, and surround their foreign policy with barbed wire, clusters of machine guns and ships, indifferent to the suffering of unfortunate people who are fleeing war and persecution - what then will our common fate be? ? Where will humanity go then? nine0003


German novelist Günther Grass passed away six weeks ago. In his last interview, he told El Pais newspaper that today "There is war everywhere. We are in danger of making the same mistakes as before; without realizing this, we may end up in the abyss of a world war."

Many of our ongoing crises, including human rights and accompanying suffering remain unresolved, from the Occupied Palestinian Territory to the deeply scarred eastern communities of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with new scourges added in recent years such as in Syria, Iraq, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Libya and Yemen. And it is this acceleration of crises, which are occurring faster than we can collectively resolve them, or even earlier crises, that is now truly a cause for concern. ", "Boko Haram" and "Shabab", shocked us all. They stunned us. And, of course, they demand re action from states, which must be both efficient and reasonable. nine0003

However, it can only be reasonable if these states recognize the importance of distinguishing between a state that must respect its human rights obligations and those extremists who think otherwise. Unfortunately, we still see many governments expecting that they can only save their people from the threat of terrorism through security or military measures. They are very wrong. In the short term, they can dampen terrorism and deal with apparent insecurity. But as the months go by, it starts to reverse. Since a state that tightens control will reduce the space for alternative political opinions and suppress civil society, thereby providing an inexhaustible supply of frustration and suffering for violent extremists in a timely manner, because the suppression of criticism in a police state contributes to the transition to even lower standards of service. public services, including justice, outright corruption and deep inequality. From a military point of view, this is also true: if not carefully controlled, air and ground operations will result in civilian deaths and injuries in numbers that will destroy all moral arguments made to justify fighting at all. nine0003

Until we stop this obsession with security/military operations, until we think differently and can turn our attention not only to the fight against ideology, but also to placing international humanitarian law and human rights law directly at the center of the government measures, it is very likely that these groups, despite temporary setbacks, will continue to develop and grow, threatening us, and their violence will continue to be extreme. nine0003

Won't Günther Grass be right? If countries already afflicted by terrorism and prone to breaking the law continue to collapse, and humanitarian crises continue to worsen, the number of migrants continues to grow, border security is tightened, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is betrayed by more and more countries, are we in danger of losing everything? ?

Will we reach a state of moral emptiness? From Ukraine to the Central African Republic, why do people hate others with such rage; and why do their actions become so violent? Why does the murder of women continue to exist in today's century? Why are people with albinism hunted for their body parts while LGBTI people continue to be persecuted and so many people around the world fear for their lives? Can't we break these sharp and poisonous boundaries? nine0003

In 1932, Albert Einstein wrote a wonderful letter to Sigmund Freud. This happened only 14 years after the end of the First World War; and as Europe struggled to its feet, the violent political group, the Nazi Party, which was destined to expel both of these men from their homeland, had just won more votes than any other political party in Germany. "Is there any way to save humanity from the threat of war?" Einstein wrote. "Is it possible to control the development of the human psyche in order to protect him from the psychosis of hatred and destruction?" nine0003

Freud developed the theory that latent wild urges awaken in all human beings when the forces that are usually designed to restrain them stop working. His answer to Einstein was very long, and I do not agree with some of its parts, but one of them, I think, should be quoted in full:

' writes Freud. But he also says "The superiority of one strong man can be overcome by the union of several weak ones. Strength is in unity." He continues: “In order for the transition from brute force to the rule of law to take place, one psychological condition must be fulfilled ... The unity of the people must be permanent and well organized; it must establish rules to cope with the risk of possible uprisings; it must create mechanisms to guarantee that these rules, laws, are respected, and that such acts of violence, which the laws require, take place properly. This recognition of the public interest awakens in the members of the group a sense of unity and fraternal solidarity, which is a real strength." nine0003

Thus, to Einstein's question about how to prevent war, Freud replies that it can be prevented by the rule of law and the "bonds of feeling" it helps to create: bonds of sympathy and identification, or empathy.


What exactly is the rule of law? And how do we extend it to empathy?

Basically, there are two ways of perceiving the rule of law. One simply ignores the content of the laws: what matters is their formal structure. If the laws are adopted properly: by the competent authority, at the state level, without retroactive effect, and the like, then they are properly implemented. This is a narrow, formal legal and procedural view: "rule by law" and not the rule of law. He ignores the fact that some laws may be unjust, and in fact, tyranny operates precisely on the basis of such a perception. Apartheid is an example of a situation governed by norms that were unjust in themselves and illegal under international human rights law. nine0003

The second perception of the rule of law is much deeper. This vision of the rule of law takes into account how laws ultimately contribute or do not contribute to the legal protection of human rights, which flow from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the ten major human rights treaties and conventions, which are the essence, the accumulated wisdom derived from the human experience of long pain, which is rooted in customary law and, of course, in religious laws.

These universal human rights principles include the right to life, liberty and security of the individual. Denial of torture. Freedom from unlawful or arbitrary arrest and detention, and the right to a fair trial. They include equality. The right to education, health care, food, housing, clothing and social security. Denial of any form of discrimination, whether based on gender, race, ethnicity, color, creed, sexual orientation or any other factor. Freedom of expression and association, as well as the right to privacy. Freedom of belief, conscience and religion. The issue here is justice: is the law fair? nine0003

The quality of the lawmaking process is as important as the quality of the law itself. The rule of law requires transparency: there should be no hidden rules. The opinion of those whose interests are directly affected should be taken into account. And all people, institutions and enterprises - public and private, including the state itself - must be held accountable for any violation of the law. Only this vision of the rule of law prevents the law from allowing torture or disenfranchising women and ethnic minorities. And it is this vision, based on equality, participation, transparency, accountability and the collective good, that creates the "bonds of feeling" that Freud speaks of. nine0003

Let me turn to the topic of hatred and violence, the extreme manifestation of which is the calculated destruction of human life. Often these horrors are preceded by a slow eruption of hatred, first verbally and then through personal acts of physical intimidation and assault, followed by discrimination, resulting in all kinds of actions and laws, leading to a gradually increasing mass outbreak of violence. But first there was the word.

Clearly, freedom of expression, including freedom of speech, is fundamental to the preservation of human dignity. It is on this freedom that democracy is based, because it opens up the possibility for people to assert the enjoyment of all other rights. Basically, it is a window into and out of which freedom of thought can make a difference. The "bonds of feeling" also require freedom of expression. Because tyranny and atrocity in its extreme form flourish in its absence, and therefore tyranny will always try to suppress it. And the difficulty is that tyranny will often also try to pervert the enjoyment of this freedom by others, abuse it, knowingly transform it into incitement to hatred in order to impose its will. And not only tyranny will try to do this, but also those who are filled with fanaticism and chauvinism and, ultimately, hatred. nine0003

Significantly, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) singles out freedom of expression in article 19 and incitement to hatred in article 20. The second article states: “Any speech in favor of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law." So the difficulty of the task, the real difficulty is how to know where the boundary is, how to know when one becomes another. nine0003

Naturally, freedom of expression requires sufficient space and must be expanded. And the right to freedom of expression, which ideally everyone should enjoy equally, in practice - in a thinking society, only a few (extremists) can enjoy, since the majority understand too well the danger that many, most or all will use it in extreme forms, because the risk of violating Article 20 increases many times over with each successive increase in numbers. At the same time, the threshold for separating these two articles should remain high for the reasons that I have already mentioned: article 19is still the best indicator of tyranny in action.

Given the importance of these two articles, my Office began organizing a series of expert meetings in 2012 to identify elements that would help improve our understanding of where the line between the two articles lies. They considered the context; intention; personality of the speaker/writer; the form and content of the opinion, as well as its scope; and the likelihood or inevitability of violence. We are also pleased to note that, officially known as the Rabat Action Plan, this initiative is now gaining a lot of interest and we are working with civil society, especially in the Middle East and North Africa, to further develop and refine it. . In fact, we are working hard to strengthen the foundations of Freud's "feeling bonds". nine0003

But there are also broader and more insidious forms of intolerance in societies, including democratic societies, that should not and probably cannot be dealt with through prohibition and the application of criminal law. What to do with stereotypes? With prejudice? With cunning assumptions that cast a shadow on many interactions, forming the view that humanity is divided into severely limited groups.


Today, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism, xenophobia and negative attitudes towards migrants are reappearing not only in Europe, although of course they occur there, but also in other regions that make up most of the world. Can we fix this? Can people of different backgrounds, history and religions live together and stay true to themselves without oppressing other people? More than half of the world's population now lives in cities, and these cities are increasingly becoming multicultural and multiethnic. In a world where we all meet more and more people from other cultures or with very different opinions from ours, is it possible to create and maintain empathic bonds so that we can live in peace together? nine0003

The answer is yes, and it is in education, not in formal education, but in education that starts in primary schools and is shaped to a large extent by understanding human rights. Transfer of knowledge about rights - about the content and meaning of human rights. The little people of the world must know that they also have rights, they must practice these rights, they must be able to think critically and, above all, they must be humane and kind. Children and adults can learn to respect the dignity of others; understand when they start looking for a scapegoat; and analyze the instinct that can lead us to judge others when life seems unsafe. Schools around the world must themselves practice the rights they want to teach: the atmosphere in them must be conducive to this. Because evil is not the exclusive property of moral monsters - Hitlers, Polov Potov, Torquemadas and Tamerlanes of our history. The ability to choose between good and evil is available to each of us, as Origen says. Moral emptiness, indifference to the fate of others, is a choice. We can understand it, but we must resist it. When people are drawn into indifference to the fate of others, it may stem from a sense of fear. It may be partial indifference: "our" group is important, "their" group is not fully equal with us and not fully deserving of human rights. The need for a sense of belonging—we are important and they are not—is a powerful rivalry. But the path of moral emptiness and discrimination leads to hatred and to a world of wars. If not deliberately avoided, they threaten us all. nine0003

Schools are not the only place to learn; we learn new lessons throughout our lives. But schools can create and radiate a culture of respect. Not only within ethics classes, but also within the entire curriculum. I am increasingly surprised, for example, by the fact that a large number of schools around the world focus only on the narrow history and geography of their own countries, ignoring the fact that many students come from other cultures. For more respect and better knowledge of the world, is it possible to introduce course world history?

Such a subject, now taught in very few schools and universities, can develop a sense of community that transcends all boundaries. Connectivity - cultural, economic, environmental and democratic - among the world's communities. The way people hold on to their traditions or part with them. And a long history of migration, the influence of people who have enriched every culture. Inevitably, these lessons have firmly rooted in us a deep conviction that all people are equal. Jewish family fleeing the Nazis; Tutsi family running from a cold, sparkling knife at 1994; woman, man and child fleeing war, persecution and economic desperation - all these people fully deserve human rights.

Our planet is indivisible. There is no longer such a thing as a small, distant country. There is no such thing as an acceptable level of discrimination against any group. But as the years move us further and further from the memory of the horrors of the wars of the last century, their lessons may not seem so pressing; our vigilance weakens; and we forget that intolerance, although it begins with a quiet murmur, will result in a movement that will bring disaster to people's lives and destroy the world. nine0003

We must cultivate respect and acceptance, not just tolerance for other communities, relentlessly starting over and over again, constantly re-establishing the rule of law and bonds of empathy. Only in this way can every government, every society and all of us truly put into practice the principles of our equal and universal human rights, and this will prevent our world from becoming a disgusting place of suffering and keep it peaceful and human in the little blue pearl that we call the planet - home for all people.

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