10 June 2010

Jeremy Rifkin on The Empathic Civilization

It’s always nice to read an article or book, or hear a talk, that expresses one’s own ideas in a slightly different way, coming from a completely different ground. There’s an affirmation there—I’m not the only one who sees this phenomenon; I’m not just making it all up. And so it was with that sense of “yes, someone else gets it,” not to mention the brilliant presentation of RSA, that I thoroughly enjoyed the animated treatment of Jeremy Rifkin’s Empathic Civilization.
When we talk about building an empathic civilization, we’re not talking about utopia. We’re talking about the ability of human beings to show solidarity not only with each other, but with our fellow creatures who have a one and only life on this little planet.
Rifkin traces a history of human development similar to the story I tell about organization over three millennia. He then asks a provocative question:
Is it possible that we could actually extend our empathy to the entire human race as an extended family, and to our fellow creatures as part of our evolutionary family, and to the biosphere as our common community?
Essentially what Rifkin describes, albeit briefly in the animation and in far more depth in his massive book, is the creation of civilization-ba, and the types of connections that are consistent with Valence Theory. He describes how the technologies that create UCaPP – ubiquitous connectivity and pervasive proximity – also enable the “empathic embrace” of Haiti among the entire human race mere hours after the disastrous earthquake.

At the Enlightenment, we were “materialistic, self-interested, utilitarian, and pleasure-seeking,” according to Rifkin’s reading of the philosophers of that time. But no longer: a UCaPP world means we are bound in relationships that enable Rifkin’s empathic civilization, and define my Valence Theory. I agree with Rifkin: we have to extend our identities to realize that we are all – as I express it – members of one organization, and to rethink the human narrative, as he expresses it. Only this fundamental reconception will save us from the worst aspects of what we can be: narcissistic, materialistic, violent, and aggressive.

Take ten minutes and watch the video. It’s well worth it.

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Anonymous said...

First Nations people managed to do exactly what you are calling for and they did so for about 60,000 years. I think we should be able to manage as much don't you?

Anonymous said...

This sounds suspiciously like Marx and his take on human nature-thus his optimism. I know Rifkin realizes this as well. The similarities are to close to be a coincidence.

Anonymous said...

What about the response to the Pakistani floods? Seems the West has a very sordid history in Hati and losing that colony appears to be very important to Western Imperialism. I wish we would empathize more with our class identities...The ruling class keeps using the term middle class and never refers to the working class. This is a deliberate obsfucation to keep us from establishing empathy along these lines, racism, sexism, nationalism and all manner of isms are utilized by the hegomonic class to keep this fundemental divide and our distinct interests from forming political consciousness of oneself as part of the working class. Upper middle or lower working class or whatever the case may be.