Opa, Tudo Bem?
We’re huge nerds about TED.com. And this same nerdiness is starting to form around TED Talks that are drawn out on white board, like the UPS commercials, by RSAnimate.
A recent talk that grabbed our attention is by Jeremy Rifkin on “the empathic civilization”. In his ten minute talk, he draws up his belief as to why the next step of humanity’s consciousness and empathy is to ”extend our identities to think of the human race as our fellow sojourners.”
Humanity has morphed it’s identity as population, industry, religion, and nation states have spread. We have banded our identity to our tribe, our theological beliefs, our flag.
Our empathic sense linked into those similar to us in these ways. These were the people we were physically around or from whom we heard news. Our neurons would mirror their experiences, our instincts taking over, allowing us to “experience another’s plight as if we’re experiencing it ourselves.”
Given technology and the spread of information through social media, our empathic sense is naturally being stretched beyond our current identities, calling us upon our instincts to begin experiencing the plight of others in remote towns and villages, living under a different national banner, praying to a different god, and daily walking far different steps than our own.
The 2010 earthquake in Haiti was perfect example of this. As of May 2010, $1.3 billion had been donated through 96 non-profits, with an average donation of $50. As of January 2012, $3 billion had been donated by the US and $12 billion overall. Humanity’s empathic sense took over. They couldn’t help but give.
But were we to only understand this side of the story, we’d have a great case for never leaving our own town. If our empathic instinct is going to take over every time a world disaster hits, then what is the purpose in being multinational? We’d have no reason to venture beyond our borders and see, touch, hear, and taste for ourselves the day-to-days of these people.
Only when we work for an NGO abroad or spend extended periods of time in cities of great wealth and extreme poor, do we begin to understand the complexities. Only when we begin connecting with other expats working years in environments abroad, do we learn about the terrible challenges in ensuring the billions of pledged dollars go to the Haitian people. (Some articles note, 1% of the US pledged funds actually went to the Haitian people. The rest went to US Aid organizations and military outfits).
Increasing collaboration and reducing the corruption will always be important. Effectively drawing up plans as to how to prevent the negatives and propel the positives when disaster strikes is equally needed.
We are half way there if we allow our empathic selves to grow subconsciously broader, extending our families and sense of identity. The second half will be made up in educating ourselves as to what to do when this empathy for citizens across the globe takes over.
How might we ensure great waste is limited? We need more brilliant minds in on these debates. And brilliant minds are constructed and compounded when more people venture outside their comfort zones to experience extended periods of time abroad.
You’ve been given one Earth. Travel, live, work and study about it.