Jeremy Rufkin tells us in this piece that our collective empathic response to the disaster in Haiti has been remarkable. Interestingly, our ability to empathize is greater when such events are caused by nature over those caused by mankind. Rufkin tells us, “the response by people all over the world has been immediate. Governments, NGOs [Non-Government Organizaions], and individuals are mobilizing relief missions, and social websites are lighting up, as the collective human family extends a global empathic embrace to its neighbors in this small Caribbean nation.”
Rufkin continues, “Yet, when faced with similar tragedies that are a result of human-induced behavior, rather than precipitated by natural disasters, we are often unable to muster the same collective empathic response.” Rufkin explains that when human behavior imposes suffering, we tend to shrug our shoulders and say “That’s human nature, you can’t change it.” And thus our response is considerably less as a result. Rufkins asks us to question these assumptions and consider that they may be false. Rufkins reminds us of the discovery of mirror neurons – those that help us with empathy. He reminds us that our empathic abilities have steadily grown over time. He contends, ” the extension of empathy to our species as a whole and to the other creatures that cohabit this planet with us” is an acheivable goal.
I think Rufkin is on to something.
You may say I am a dreamer, but I am not the only one . . .