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If an empathetic society is what would bring about world peace, how can we make people more compassionate?

I mean can anyone think of any practical solutions such as legislation that could be passed or changes in the education system that could change the values of our society?

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    Sep 30 2011: People may embrace compassion more often when they realize the benefits to themselves and to the whole of humankind. We cannot give to others, something we do not have in ourselves, for our selves. Often, people who are not compassionate with others are not compassionate with themselves, so they are providing information as to what they feel about him/her "self". Compassion creates more peace, joy and contentment in our lives both as the giver and reciever. "Be" what we want to "see".
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    Sep 30 2011: It has much to do with the opinion formers of this world. The inevitable end result of 'Opinion forming' is autocratic - so a better label, perhaps, would be 'opinion facilitating'. Ideal opinion facilitators should be unbiased, empathetic and have absolute respect for culture, individuality and autonomous belief systems.

    The trouble with opinion formers, such as the media - and narrow, blinkered educational curricula - is that they are inherently biased towards narrow motives, whose origins are in commerce and economic viability. However it is difficult to knock these because, quite apart from the predictable howls of derision from those who treat capitalism as a kind of religion, the commerce blueprint has become our educational and media reality.

    I am a believer of the inherent goodness in people, and the upshot here is that if education and the media were to 'facilitate' rather than 'form', then empathy, compassion and even world peace might follow.
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    Sep 30 2011: Be nice.
  • Sep 30 2011: Tell them to stop killing each other.
    Tell them, to stop, hitting their children.
    Tell them, to start thinking practical.
    Tell them, if they do not.
    to kiss their butts good bye!
    OH, tell them to look up the word, "empathy" and while they are at it.
    Tell them to look up the word, "legislation"..
    Ms. Emma, is New Zealand feeling the pinch too? With Respect!
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      Sep 30 2011: Tell "them" ???

      "We've" been telling "them" for thousands of years ... it hasn't worked yet.

      [Of course, while "we're" busy telling "them" (and wondering why "they're" not listening,) "they've" been telling "us" (and wondering why "we're" not listening.]

      Personally, I think a good place to start is with me. And I think being nice would help a lot.

      Next, I think it would be helpful to think in terms of "us." (Only "us.")


      We cannot legislate kindness. Education requires educators who demonstrate the principles we would like to teach.

      If we want to "change the world" we have to change ourself and the world will change automatically.

      "Be the change that you want to see in the world." - Mohandas K. Gandhi
      • Sep 30 2011: Emma, did an excellent job!
        It is not education. It is basic, human kindness.
        The only educator's in this world, are the parents.
        Can you say, by, by?
        Thank you and with respect.
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          Sep 30 2011: I agree, Emma did an excellent job.

          As did you.
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    Sep 30 2011: I am an atheist and by no means a religious man, but I'm willing to admit that there is some wisdom in some religions sometimes.

    "Ye cannot serve God and Mammon at the same time." - the Bible

    "Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill. Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt. Chase after money and security and your heart will never unclench." - Tao te Ching

    I am a fan of E.O. Wilson's concept of Consilience, or in my extreme version, hyperconsilience. The basic idea is that reality is obviously unified - and so is knowledge. So I'm sorry if this seems off-topic.

    "To be master of any branch of knowledge, you must master those which lie next to it; and thus to know anything you must know all."
    Oliver Wendell Holmes

    The thing we value most in our society is money, because that is the most obvious thing that guarantees survival, power, reproduction, health, etc. - compassion doesn't guarantee any of those things, and may even hinder in the acquisition of money/power etc.

    However, the algorithm of social/natural selection can't be stopped - if there is a social framework in which one value/trait is rewarded with health/survival/reproduction, etc. then it will be selected for.

    We have collectively dissociated from the fact that the purchase of wasteful luxury goods deprives real people of the capital resources they need to live. We cannot dissociate from others' suffering and still retain our compassion. That is what it means to say that you cannot serve both God and Mammon at the same time.

    In another conversation, I have seconded one TEDster's suggestion that we place an effective income cap upon money, like we had in the 50's. Such a system requires asceticism of no one, but moderation of everyone.

    I think once more people begin to see that money does not really exist, but people do exist, then I think we can create a smarter, more compassionate society.
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      Sep 30 2011: "The thing we value most in our society is money, because that is the most obvious thing that guarantees survival, power, reproduction, health, etc. - compassion doesn't guarantee any of those things, and may even hinder in the acquisition of money/power etc."

      The opposite is true. If everyone starts to invest in others this would give the best guarantee for sustenance. For this you have to trust in other people and not fear.

      Millions of years the human species lived in groups of around 40 persons that where interdependent of each other. Do you think we could have survived if this was not true?
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        Sep 30 2011: Your system is a little different in the Netherlands than in the US, I suspect.

        I believe strongly that we are all interdependent, whether we acknowledge it or not, and ideally we would acknowledge it. In fact, the TED quote in my profile states

        "We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men;and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.” -Herman Melville

        I also like the quote

        “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.” – Martin Luther King, Jr

        However, whatever empathic and compassionate qualities we have were developed under conditions in which we were obviously and practically interdependent - the socially constructed world we live in (at least in the US) is not like that for several reasons.

        First, although food is perishable, money is virtually non-perishable. I surely cannot eat the entire kill myself, so it behooves me to share, so when you get the kill then I won't starve. Quid pro quo. However, in the present system, it is only worth my time to help you if I am paid back with interest. In total it does not benefit me to give you what you need just because you need it and I have it. So compassion doesn't often provide direct survival benefits

        Second, the financial/political elites in power are completely insulated from the negative consequences of their actions. Their survival does not depend upon how they treat others, or the state of the country. So given that they are insured against risky, catastrophic governing/behavior, why should they care about what the little people are suffering?

        Wealth allows rich people to see themselves as Gods, as somehow better than the poor and homeless that they ignore and look down upon. But you cannot be compassionate toward someone if you refuse to even acknowledge them.
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    Sep 29 2011: we have to rule out adding mdma to the water?
    • Sep 30 2011: We could create the opposite society from a Brave New World
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    Sep 29 2011: Start with personal practice.

    Find others who act in kind. (get it?)

    Seek a teacher.

    Actually, I think that one idea is worth a whole TED talk. We in the west don't really seek teachers for personal development. We heed our parents (hopefully), listen to preachers (some of us), we go to school... Many of us take developmental classes like yoga and meditation, some of us even hire 'life coaches'... But I know very few Westerners, and not so many even in the East, who seek for someone by whose example the can set the course of their own behavior. Too often, those wise enough to seek a teacher tend to over do it and go off the deep end into 'guru-mania' or become mindless fanatic followers of campaigns that conflict with their personal ethics.

    Seek a teacher on how to behave, as a human being, in the hopes that once you've learned how to behave (in every sense of the word) you may serve as a useful example to someone else who needs to get their kit in order.
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    Sep 29 2011: I might consider your question more seriously if I cared a little more about strangers.
    Sadly, it's just me and my close ones.
    Perhaps I should be erased out of the picture, then, as a solution... or a start, at least.

    But the compassionate would spare me, eventually.
    I guess this is why it's impossible to reach this empathetic society : the compassionate are way too compassionate with those who are not.
    • Sep 29 2011: The question is how could someone like you become more compassionate and don't say its impossible. Or even how can we avoid our next generation being uncompassionate like you are. Compassion comes from experiencing suffering and experiencing it in the plight of others. Perhaps you are either narcissistic or you have never experienced enough adversity to give you sympathy for others.
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        Sep 29 2011: Maybe be easier on people, especially when hypothesizing about to enforce compassion.

        There are the common guru's tools for tricking people into compassion. Listen to some Alan Watts.

        But the main thing is to cultivate your own so that you can inspire those who perceive your right action, even if you never hear tell of it.
        • Sep 30 2011: Can you direct me further to these common guru's tools or the correct Alan Watts material to listen to?
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        Sep 30 2011: Then clearly the response is to ensure he suffers some adversity! There's your formula for developing compassion.
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        Sep 30 2011: It is like Gisela already stated.
        Unfortunately, those that have little love or compassion of their own have to discover this by experiencing the opposite of it.
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      Sep 29 2011: Well Gerald... I don't think a perfect world is possible, but hopeless ideals like a hopeless ideals like an universally empathic society do serve the purpose of counter balancing our animal instincts to rob, rape, kill etc.

      All people fall somewhere on the line between good and evil, compassionate or indifferent, as a mix of both.

      All someone has to do to enjoy your compassion is become one of your 'close ones'. Life churns our circumstance continually, and it's a good bet you have the capacity to make friends, like most of us. I'm willing to bet you'd be a lot more helpful in a zombie scenario that you'd care to let on.
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        Sep 30 2011: The counter balancing is one of our animal instincts too.
        I'm just saying that ideals have very little effect of society.

        Christianism has such ideals, for instance, and has been going around for a couple millenia and supposedly influencing a big part of the world. Yet check out history and tell me if such great ideals made any difference.
        I'm guessing there's only fear of law enforcement keeping our society together. Without it, we'd soon get back to tribal wars.