Doom and gloom is the tone of the day. We are on the brink of extinction, and have a better idea of the atrocities that happen every day – but is this the reality? Are we worse than we ever have been before? More violent, more deceitful, more uncaring?
I’d like to say, for the record, an emphatic NO.
I dare say, in carefully considered optimism, that despite our shortcomings, that we are better. I can say we care more about each other and about our planet than we ever have. We identify with each other on a deeper level than any other time in recorded history.
If you haven’t watched this RSA animate The Empathic Civilization, you should. It will make you feel better about your fellow humans, and hopeful about our shared destiny. We have not gotten more violent, it is just that we are able to see more of the violence. As shown in the short video, we went from identifying with only those who were our blood, and then, to only those who were in our tribes, then only those who were in our same religion, then nation, now, where do we draw the line?
When there is a disaster clear across the globe, we hear about it in real time and react just as quickly. There is an outpouring of empathy and love for folks, who we used to not identify with. Now, we see and know the truth that we are the same self just in different disguises (thanks Dr. Chopra).
We have to be alert to this truth and cultivate that empathetic drive. We need to change our narrative. I stand and say our primary drive is not survival of the fittest, but cooperation and not competition. Sure these are a part of our secondary drive, competition, narcism, materialism, violence and aggression.
But our first and primary impulse is to help that person up when they have fallen, not to kick them. It is to relate to the struggle we see in another human being. Think of when we feel most close to others – when they are suffering. It’s an involuntary impulse when we witness an act of kindness, our chest puffs up, our eyes water, we feel for them as if we were them.
My favorite quote from the video about empathy is this, “Empathy is grounded in the acknowledgment of death and celebration of life and rooting for each other to flourish and be.”
We are hard enough on ourselves and each other, and propagating the narrative that we will crush one another on our way up is detrimental and false. When one of us does better, it helps us all. It is the basic and primary truth. Now if only we see it.
Additional Reading and Watching: