Something many of us probably do not know is that connected to our drive to survive, is an empathic disposition driving the evolution of “civilisation”. Humans have a long history of empathy that unfortunately our history books tend to forget about. The book The Empathic Civilisation – The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis, by Jeremy Rifkin, tells another story.

As a commenter on Peace: How Do We Find It? said, “so now all we need to change, is the minds of the entire human population.” That sounds darn right impossible, doesn’t it. It doesn’t sound very promising, nor ethical, BUT if humans are empathic at their core then maybe we don’t have to change people minds – maybe we just have to REMEMBER a part of ourselves we often forget.

Rifkin writes about the change in people’s minds that led to the spread of Christianity around 1500 years ago.

“Cast adrift from their tribal bonds and thrown together with people of different cultures form around the empire, large numbers of individuals suddenly found themselves alone in dense urban environments and without a sense of identity… what was missing was a powerful new narrative that could put every single individual at the center of a compelling cosmic story of creation, tribulation, judgement, and redemption, and, by doing so, recast the very meaning of human existence… it would be a young sect calling itself Christians that would take Rome and the empire by storm with their story.” [1]

This video is not a replacement but it is a brilliant summary of the book:


Oh and this interview with the Rifkin is pretty cool too:


It seems to me that while conflict and competition play important (and positive) roles in life processes, if we have an empathic disposition then conflicts don’t need to have violent and destructive consequences.

Could small shift in the way we frame our story? Could books and clips such as this one contain the butterfly effect strong enough to realise our empathy and better the world for each other and future generations?

Or will it be a new cosmic narrative that addresses our own distorted sense of identity?

Rifkin describes three Industrial Revolutions, each based on a developments in energy/communications technologies:

1. coal/print

2. oil/radio-television

3. (maybe) the Internet/alternative energy

In order to avoid “planetary collapse” in the face of “a rapidly accelerating juggernaut” of climate change and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, (or, if you’re a climate change skeptic, then just exchange those two words for human population which is undeniably ridiculous and out of control) a revolution is necessary.

If this third revolution happens, Ruskin writes that it ‘will be marked by a “distributed” model of energy production (and use) that will rely on the new assumption that human nature is not inherently selfish, but rather that people ‘want to collaborate with others, often freely, for the sheer joy of contributing to the common good.‘[2]

How’s your empathic disposition as we come up to Christmas?

Do you think such a revolution is possible?

I do, but that might be summer and the fact that I just got my first scooter, bringing back my pre-India incurable optimism…


[1] The Empathic Civilization – The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis, by Jeremy Rifkin.

[2] As summed in a review in ONE COUNTRY, Bahai Internationa Community New York, Ed. Brad Pokorny.