A world in which empathy is evaporating – Be the change series

It cannot be doubted that it is a world of increasing intolerance. The space for diversity is decreasing everywhere, though the most obvious aspects are those with implications on human rights of large segments of populations and have a political context.

This is convenient, because if someone else – say the political system or the government – is responsible for the problem, then we can shrug off our responsibility and claim to be helpless or indignant victims of injustice.

This does not explain the shrinking diversity in the world as a whole. Small makers of unique and useful things are giving way to large business empires providing products that have uniform standards globally. Now buying something unique by a small craftsman is a niche experience with its own value because it is rare.

From a time when public intellectuals had talents in multiple areas and were often self-taught, we now recognize specialists for their talents in a single area. A person not certified or licenced to do something is understood to be incompetent, which is nonsense, of course.

Any information given based on individual experience that is not certified by a recognized body is usually prefaced by “I’m not an expert ….” even if the advice is meticulously researched and useful. It would be just as simple to say “I don’t have certification or a licence, but I stand by my research”. But we are conditioned to devalue ourselves unless validated by an external authority.

Doctors routinely devalue disagreements of parents with their diagnosis, because the parents don’t understand medicine, but if the parent has understood what the doctor says adequately, the parent has a vast observation of the patient that the doctor doesn’t!

Even in your local vegetable market, indigenous vegetables are disappearing and you see near identical stacks with every vendor that are obtained from the same wholesalers.

These are just a few examples, and I believe you could come up with several more from your observations.

In every case, we see an inability to recognize a person as anything more than one label assigned to them. The objectification as that label and when that label is missing, the person is not recognized as important. We are learning to relate to people as limited concepts.

And then there are the obvious problems with the rise of narcissistic leaders and increasingly intolerant societies. Countless countries around the world are at war with their minorities. Others are on the way with a rise in prejudice, judgmental views.

And then there are those who believe they speak on behalf of human rights, who oppose this superiority, the hostility, the injustice. They too are unable to see the humanity of the people they object to.

In the end, it will not matter. If we are not able to see people as humans, if we are not able to feel empathy for others, it will not matter that everyone feels righteous in their devaluation of the unworthy, it will be a lonely and mentally disturbed world.

I am planning to do a series of posts addressing these growing challenges, and while I don’t have full answers, I am proposing that we need to alter how we respond to circumstances drastically if we are to hope for a kinder world.

If this triggers recognition in you and you think it is necessary, please do interact in comments, write blog posts of your own as responses or taking the idea forward and share with me.

Vidyut
  • Vidyut
  • Vidyut has a keen interest in mass psychology and using it as a lens to understand contemporary politics, social inequality and other dynamics of power within the country. She is also into Linux and internet applications and servers and has sees technology as an important area India lacks security in.

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