Tuesday, 13 July 2010
written by Jap Hastings
According to recent scientific research, human brains are wired for empathy. When humans, chimpanzees, and some other mammalian life watch another animal’s express emotion, the brains of both creatures exhibit the same neurological activity. This is called “neuron mirroring,” and it indicates that humans evolved to feel empathy for other creatures. It is for this reason that author Jeremy Rifkin states we are actually “softwired” not for aggression, violence, self-interest, utilitarianism, but for sociability, attachment, affection, companionship, and belonging – the empathic drive. He suggests that this drive “when repressed by our parents, education, business, and government” leads to the narcissism, materialism, violence, and aggression that we all know too well. [Entry continued below.]
[If you have ten minutes and forty seconds to spare, treat yourself to Jeremy Rifkin’s lecture and the wonderful animation that accompanies it.]
One of the most intriguing ideas presented in Rifkin’s work is the historical extension of family groups of blood ties to the theological and national level. Naturally, as someone working for the betterment of the world, he presents the possibility of the extension to all humans and to all life with the acknowledgment that Earth is our home. This is a wonderful idea, but how are we going to bring that about?
We must start by remembering that each of us is a biological species in a community of biological species. Humans (or at least civilized humans) have the tendency to think of themselves as above other species and above nature. We are and have always been a part of nature, the Earth, and the cosmos at large. Reject speciesism – “the widespread discrimination that is practiced by man against other species”. Instead, embrace the principle of Deep Ecology that every life-form has inherent value. Then work to shift the consciousness of every person you can to this new awareness by creating art, giving lectures, writing and blogging, writing on bathroom mirrors, biking across the country, pasting signs, spray painting walls, megaphoning in the street, and simply talking to everyone you can. I’m sure there are more –and better– ways to bring about this shift in awareness, but as always, it is up to each of us to do what we do best.
[What do you think are the most effective ways to bring about the empathic society? Please comment below.]
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