Keeping our attention focused on the sciences, I thought that a presentation that has been passed around recently highlights some of the ideas talked about in the document. Jeremy Rifkin’s talk on The Empathic Civilization highlights a study in evolutionary biology that discusses the idea of empathy. Rifkin explains that as our idea of selfhood develops during our childhood so does our ability to empathize— increase selfhood, increase empathic development. He believes that this development allows us to feel each other’s struggles and causes us to act out of compassion for each other. Empathy extends our identities so we think of “the human race as fellow sojourners.” He believes that if we repress our true empathetic nature then we allow our secondary nature, one characterized by aggression and selfishness, to take over.

It seems to me that, as stated in the document, an increased understanding of self should change how we treat other people. Empathy is based upon the recognition of the validity of another person’s experiences and emotions. In one sense, it’s the recognition of a commonality between all individuals. This is what allows us to form bonds of loyalty with others. This is what allows us to understand the oneness of humanity.

If empathy and a true understanding of self are emphasized then oppressive practices born out of tradition and sexism (such as this one) can be changed.  

Watch Rifkin’s video below:

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