"…what is needed is a more transparent public debate around views of freedom, equality and democracy…a moratorium on the hyperbolic political rhetoric and incivility and begin a civil conversation around our differing views on human nature. This would offer us a moment in time to listen to each other, share our feelings, thoughts, concerns and aspirations, with the goal of trying to better understand each others' perspectives, and hopefully find some emotional and cognitive common ground." - Jeremy Rifkin on his book "Empathic Civilization, The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis"
Human nature, what is it? How are we really designed to operate, why do we experience such extremes within human nature? To love or to hate, create or destroy, we do all of these, it is within our nature to kill with one hand and nurture with the other. Its hard to decide what is right and wrong - can we even fairly judge. The spectrum of human behaviour is so huge and we are all part of it.
Jeremy Rifkins book is a detailed explanation of how we came to be a culture of incivility, and how he sees that empathy is the way forward for us as a civilization. He makes a connection between "cognition" and consciousness" and claims that we can program ourselves to be more empathetic. However love and empathy should not exclude the intellectual aspects of our being. We need to honour all aspects of our nature, not slice and dice, removing the bits we dont "like". We should be seeking balance in all things and not the separation of being.
Empathy is the ability and willingness to relate - not just cognitively or emotionally, but spiritually - to what another is feeling and thinking. By being empathic, we choose to "walk in another's shoes," without egoistically needing to "fix," teach, tell, one-up, advise, sympathize, interrogate, explain or "set them straight." This could also be described as unconditional love for another.
Lack of empathy is characterized by a callous unconcern for the feelings of others and lack of the capacity for empathy. Self motivated behaviour that overrides the needs of others, and a lack of remorse for the effects of that behaviour. Intellectualizing rather than "feeling", producing coldness and sense of removal/distance from ones own behaviour. A lack of willingness to observe ones own weaknesses, a feeling of superiority over others - narcissism.
There are four levels of consciousness:
1. Unconscious - instinctual, biological
2. Subconscious - habitual, without ones awareness, reactive
3. Conscious - aware, intelligent, conceptual
4. Higher Consciousness - intuitive, guiding, truthful, universal
On which of these levels does the empathy or lack of it manifest, or is it a product of all four. How much of this is learned behaviour or genetic. Do we have the ability to change from one to the other, would we change if we had the choice? Perhaps we need to integrate all the aspects of our nature so that light and dark may exisit in symmetry.
"The story we are told about human nature is that man is inherently self-interested, pleasure-seeking, sinning and utilitarian – doing the minimum to get the maximum benefits for oneself, and that this nature is driven by a life that is nasty, brutish and short. Indeed, all we have to do is take a cursory glance over history, and we’ll see the world stricken with crime, wars, genocide, power games, and greedy, greedy people taking advantage for themselves, to the detriment of everyone else" - Jade Keller - on the nature of being human
It would seem that since the beginning of our civilization the prevalent human behaviour has been antisocial and lacking in empathy - sociopathic. In every case the barbarians won. Will we change? Should we change? Is empathy merely a painful waste of time? While Avatar carried a nice Utopian fable that resonated with humanity, is it just another fantasy? Are we destined to rape, pillage and dominate the weak till the end of time? You decide...
RSA Animate - The Empathic Civilization
The Corporation - Documentary "What Kind of Person is it"