Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Plot to increase empathy

Here is someone who proposes that mandatory social media service can save America by increasing empathy towards other populations:
Whether his assessment is right or not, two facts emerges as crystal clear. Each of us – blue, red, old, young, urban, rural, black, white, gay, straight – tends to care disproportionately about those with whom we share empathy and interdependency. And as our country becomes more fragmented rather than unified, our communities of concern get narrower. In fact, even the Occupy Movement, which has effectively called attention to the most obvious “us and them” gap, has been criticized for its lack of diversity, particularly in southern cities where there are large African American populations.

This is ironic in an age of social media when we have remarkable tools to connect us to each other. ...

So here’s my idea for saving America in case the Occupy Movement doesn’t work. It’s an idea that could help us increase empathy. It takes full advantage of social media’s true potential. ...

We require every 18-year-old in America to participate in mandatory social media service as part of a daily or weekly routine for one year.
We assign our young adults to a racially diverse online social group comprised of 12 people from different regions, backgrounds, income brackets. (Google+ is a potential platform.)
We present each group with a social challenge – obesity, jobs, poverty, high cost of education, even the problem of young men getting their sex education from watching online porn – and we ask them to solve the problem. ...

Will a group of strangers on a social platform really solve big issues like unemployment, poverty, obesity, and urban violence? Maybe not. But as a society, we might solve our most pressing problem. The need to create greater empathy and understanding between and among people who are different but share a vested interest in America.
This seems like just an isolated wacky idea, as noted here, but there is an ideology behind it.

George Lakoff, Author and Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at UC Berkeley, explains why promoting empathy is central to leftist objectives:
Let's start with the attack on empathy. Why empathy? Isn't empathy a good thing?

Empathy is at the heart of progressive thought. It is the capacity to put oneself in the shoes of others -- not just individuals, but whole categories of people: one's countrymen, those in other countries, other living beings, especially those who are in some way oppressed, threatened, or harmed. Empathy is the capacity to care, to feel what others feel, to understand what others are facing and what their lives are like. Empathy extends well beyond feeling to understanding, and it extends beyond individuals to groups, communities, peoples, even species. Empathy is at the heart of real rationality, because it goes to the heart of our values, which are the basis of our sense of justice.

Progressives care about others as well as themselves. They have a moral obligation to act on their empathy -- a social responsibility in addition to personal responsibility, a responsibility to make the world better by making themselves better. This leads to a view of a government that cares about its citizens and has a moral obligation to protect and empower them. Protection includes worker, consumer, and environmental protection as well as safety nets and health care. Empowerment includes what is in the president's stimulus plan: infrastructure, education, communication, energy, the availability of credit from banks, a stock market that works. No one can earn anything at all in this country without protection and empowerment by the government. All progressive legislation is made on this basis. ...

We cannot let conservatives get away with redefining empathy as irrational and idiosyncratic personal feeling. Empathy is the basis of our democracy and its true meaning must be defended. ...

Democrats should go on offense. They need to rally behind empathy -- real empathy, not empathy reframed as emotion and personal feeling. They need to speak regularly about empathy as being the basis of our democracy. They need to point out that empathy leads one to notice real social and systemic causes of our troubles and to notice when and how judicial decisions and legislation can harm the most vulnerable of our countrymen. And finally that empathy is the reason that we have the principles of freedom and fairness -- which are necessary components of justice.
Empathy is a leftist code word.

No comments: