Empathy: Why Is Humanity Failing At It?

Humanity is supposed to be the most brilliant species, why don’t we care for more than just ourselves? Why is civilized society destructive? What can’t humanity restore its balance with Nature? The way the title reads hints at the answer.

The Curse Of Free Will

Living beings can do whatever they wish within their biology, knowledge and resources. Biologically, humans are generalists; we can do a lot of different things. We also posses a unique ability to store and transfer abstract information. Humans are only limited by what we know, and the resources to accomplish a task. This opens us up to almost limitless good and bad actions.

What guides individual and societies’s actions? In addition to limitations; convenience, incentives, and selfishness guides us. Whatever is easier or creates the most benefit generally prevails. Instead of carrying around reusable containers, we buy beverages in disposable ones. Cheap energy makes us mobile instead of staying put. We have as many children as we like because we are almost paid to have more. Costs are externalized: we do not see the ecosystems our consumption destroys, the accumulation of our waste, nor those exploited.

Actions Without A Compass

Given unlimited action, what governs our actions — almost nothing. That is the curse of human capacity, we only care about what we depend on. Culture dictates how we make our livelihood. Unlike indigenous cultures that depend on intact local ecosystems, we depend on domesticated landscapes. Other life and land becomes resources. Civilization’s cultural monopoly forces us to participate in society, or we starve.

Individually, because we live in a world of billions of strangers, we no longer have a small tribal community that we depend on for our existence. We walk by homeless strangers and do nothing because the hoop of our tribe has been shattered. We lack the capacity to care for more than our own family.

What is left to guide us to right actions? What is right and for whom? Can ethics or empathy guide us — no. The curse of morality is that the beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Ego and our one soul leads us to perceive the world solely from our point of view. Empathy is our last best hope, but empathy also relies on how we make our livelihood. If a world depends on domestication for its survival, then we destroy the natural world to make a living. Empathy cannot save us. Civilized incentives direct us to exploit. We must use money, shop, and eat farmed or gardened food to survive. Even gardens displace the wild.

Empathy Is False And Fails

There is no true empathy if it is self-oriented. Empathy is a feel good word to make us feel better about our actions. It cannot truly guide our actions. So are morals, and ethics. They are all BS if culture creates a world all about me. This is why I say time and again, that civilization can never be fixed.

All major religions were created by civilization to support it. None of them question dominion, male dominance, or family size. In fact human dominion over other life is cannon, and in some religions woman cannot be heads of the church. In 2022, we still live in the dark ages. Our religions fail us. Our morals and ethics fail us. Empathy is an empty promise.

Evil Of Civilization

The greatest sleight of hand is for civilization to make us believe that our own culture is true, and must continue at all costs. The reality is that civilization forces all seven billion of us to destroy the wild life on Earth to live. We are deceived into thinking we are following a right livelihood. Instead, we are the great destroyers, generation after generation.

Where is empathy for the loss of trillions of non-human lives, for extinctions, or for the disruption of the climate? Civilization has turned humans from living in harmony with all life, into the great satan species. All of us are now one massive, steam rolling, killing machine.

The Achilles’ heal of empathy is that the thing that we believe will save us, fails because we only care about ourselves and what we make a living from. If there were 100x fewer of us, allowing us to make a living wildcrafting, then for the first time in 10,000 years we would care about other species. Even if we wanted to do good, we are imprisoned to domesticate food, forests, and seas.

If We Want Empathy: Start With Our Vagina Or Penis

If one really cares beyond themselves, start with our own procreation. Have a one-child family to reduce human population to a level to reduce dependence on domestication. If everyone had a one-child family from now on, our population would drop to 1 billion in 100 years. Keep it up for another 100 years and we get down to a sustainable level of 100 million. One would do a lot more good getting snipped than recycling, haha. This would not be the end of the world, but the saving of the world — of Earth.

We must remember indigenous Earth-based spiritualities. We may have to add to Native spiritualities is that civilization is the first sin. Thou shall be indigenous — never civilized. Civilization is the great killer of worlds. Yep, we now have dark chocolate and modern medicine. But as indigenous peoples, herbalism works pretty good, and viruses do not migrate from domesticated animals to humans.

Empathy becomes possible again when we return to small interdependent tribal communities. When we return to the wild in small numbers, we regain hope for future for all life.

Is Humanity Failing Empathy?

By living in a world of strangers, it may be that humanity has made empathy unworkable. We are evolved to live in small communities where our survival depends on our ability to know, trust, and get along with our neighbors. Living with strangers has atrophied our social community skills. Empathy does not work with strangers the way it does for family and those we depend on.

What makes humanity different from other species, is not our intellect. It is our ability for denial, our ability to lack empathy, to take more than our share, to not share the surplus, to ignore the suffering of others. A wolf can kill every dear, but it only takes what it needs. With civilization, humanity cannot live within in our limits, within Earth’s carrying capacity.

It all comes back to family size. More is less for all. Less is always more.

[Image] Kubkoo.

Chuck Burr is author of Culturequake: The Restoration Revolution. Revised 10th Anniversary, Fourth Edition.