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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 5/24/14

Empathy = 21st Century Enlightenment

By       (Page 1 of 1 pages)   8 comments, In Series: Gaming the System
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Clip from RSA Animate - 21st Century Enlightenment
Clip from RSA Animate - 21st Century Enlightenment
Image by RSA Animate)   Details   DMCA
Susan Lee Schwartz gave me a heads-up about a perceptive and thought provoking video animation produced by RSA titled "21st Century Enlightenment" by Matthew Taylor. When I went to the site I was delighted to find not just one, but several of these very tightly written essays that all point to empathy as the key to human progress in this century. Each is a video presentation where a speaker presents an essay as a graphic artist illustrates it on a white board (graphic recording). The visual helps one to grasp these fast paced expositions.

Rob Kall has written on the psychopathic behaviors that seem to permeate our global economy and plunder the world's resources. Clinically identified psychopaths are self-centered and lack empathy for others -- traits that foster destructive behaviors that disregard the wellbeing of others. At the extreme end of the spectrum, psychopathic killers take lives without conscience. At the opposite end of the scale, many of us would be surprised to find our own personal behaviors represented. Were we all to have well developed empathy, perhaps we would not be so divided and adversarial in politics, religion, and ethnicity.

Another excellent RSA animation titled "Age of Outrospection" by Roman Krznaric offers nuanced insight into the nature of empathy in our present time. It is relatedness that fosters empathy, and vice-versa. Our embrace of the relatedness of all humanity fosters stewardship of humanity and the planet.

Yet another of the RSA videos is titled "The Empathetic Civilization" by Jeremy Rifkin . Rifkin asserts that most primates are "soft wired" to neurologically mirror things they observe happening to others as their own experience. An example would be the creepy feeling you get when you see a bug crawling on someone else's sleeve. He advocates that we exploit these natural empathetic tendencies to prepare the groundwork for an empathetic society.

Our circumstances on this planet are changing at an accelerating rate. When I was born in 1939 the world population was just over 2 billion, when I turned twenty-one it had grown to three billion, and now it is over six billion. Climate change, scarcity of basics like clean air and water, and the concentration of wealth and power among a few individuals and corporations all herald the urgent need to foster empathy and relatedness.

These videos will get you thinking, and will give you a frame for evaluating political "-isms" like individualism, libertarianism, conservatism, and liberalism. The RSA has adopted "21st Century Enlightenment" as their banner or tag line. Maybe we all should.

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Richmond Shreve is a retired business executive whose careers began in electronics (USN) and broadcasting in the 1960s. Over the years he has maintained a hobby interest in amateur radio, and the audio-visual arts while working in sales and (more...)

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