Empathy is destroying us. Allow me to explain:
One of our most powerful, affective emotions is our ability to feel or relate to the condition of another. While emotions such as grief and guilt often lead to paralysis, empathy leads us to action. We witness the suffering of someone in our community, read an emotive Facebook post of a friend in need of help, or hear the pained cries of our child and are moved to act. (We donate money to a personal cancer fund, offer advice, and comfort our child.) Why? Because we, in part, are able to personally feel the experience of that person standing outside ourselves. We are hit by an emotional wave that is personal, and that wave pushes us forward.
And this is a beautiful human characteristic – a trait that evolution has bestowed upon us, this instinctive, emotional pull to help others by feeling their pain and suffering. It’s an emotion cognitive neuroscientists are currently researching, trying to understand how it works. For if we learn how empathy truly functions, perhaps we can evoke with greater regularity this beautiful, moral emotion.
However, this beautiful human characteristic – beneficial when the world is small, say a family or a village – has become a liability and, in some cases, a destructive force in our world.
In some ways, empathy is killing us.
by: William K. Barth on May 17th, 2013 | 9 Comments »
If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights (also for the Palestinians in the territories), then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished.
- Ehud Olmert, former prime minister of Israel
While international attention has shifted to the war in Syria, little media focus is given to the recent successful initiative at Blair House in Washington, D.C., between Secretary of State John Kerry and Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani on behalf of Arab League states. Sheikh Hamad agreed with Secretary Kerry to endorse the American backed proposal for a two-state solution that partitions Israel in order to create a new Palestinian state. As Arab state representatives retreated from their prior demands that Israel return to its pre-1967 borders, the Arab League initiative represents progress toward a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Graffiti marks the wall dividing the Palestinian city of Bethlehem from Israelis in the West Bank. Credit: Creative Commons/Montecruz Foto.
Currently, Israelis and Palestinians live interspersed together within non-contiguous borders. However, the problem with partition is that it divides the population based upon ethnic, racial, religious, or linguistic characteristics. Partition actions use types of profiling to assign people to states based upon their human characteristics. The use of profiling contradicts human rights because equal treatment requires that people be recognized as individuals irrespective of their ethnic, racial or religious identity. So, Israelis and Palestinians must reject obnoxious forms of human profiling should they agree on a partition plan. This poses a particular challenge for Israel because it is the homeland of the Jewish peoples who are themselves a persecuted religious group.
by: Andrew Lam on May 17th, 2013 | No Comments »
(Cross-posted from New America Media)
Self-immolation isn’t what it used to be.
This ultimate form of protest became global news in 1963 when the venerable monk Thich Quang Duc set himself ablaze in the middle of Saigon, Vietnam, protesting religious oppression. Doused in gasoline, the monk sat serenely in lotus position and lit a match. A bird of paradise thus blossomed and bloomed, and quickly charred his body.
The photographer Malcolm Browne captured Thich Quang Duc’s fiery renouncement of the mortal coil, the image quickly becoming an icon of the Vietnam War era. The term “self-immolation,” in fact, entered into common English usage after his death, which led to a coup d’etat that toppled the pro-Catholic Ngo Dinh Diem regime.
Once upon a time in America, drunkenness was cute. We smiled at the loveable town drunk. In Mayberry, USA – the fictional town of The Andy Griffith Show – Otis Campbell, the town drunk, would stumble into the jail, voluntarily enter a jail cell, and sleep off his inebriation. There was the period of the Rat Pack cool boozers where Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and others had a Las Vegas good time with a cigarette in one hand and a drink in the other. And then, there was George Carlin’s Hippy Dippy Weatherman who gave the impression that he had smoked just a little too much marijuana.
All the while in the real world, mothers were losing their children to automobile accidents caused by people driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. In 1980, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) started to change the culture. When Cindy Lightner’s 13-year-old daughter Cari was killed by a drunk driver in May of 1980, she decided to channel her grief into activism, and she turned Cari’s bedroom into an office.
Others joined her and the organization is now one of the most successful charities and social change organizations in the country. The history of MADD shows the kind of persistence it takes not only to change laws but to change a culture. Through the years MADD has worked for stronger laws against drunk driving, to raise the legal drinking age to 21, and for a federal .08 blood alcohol concentration (BAC) standard. It faced strong opposition from the liquor and hospitality lobbies. The organization was accused of wanting a return to Prohibition. Yet, while MADD continued to work on the legislative front, it also became a support network for families who had lost loved ones to drunk driving. Now, its mission has expanded to stop underage drinking. Its mission statement reads: “The mission of Mothers Against Drunk Driving is to stop drunk driving, support the victims of this violent crime and prevent underage drinking.” (http://www.madd.org/)
Yesterday I was interviewed by Alan Stahler on KVMR Radio about why I engaged in nonviolent direct action and was arrested at Beale last October. (You can listen to the Podcast below.) In the interview, Alan said, “Using drones must save American lives. What’s your objection to them?” My initial answer: “It may be that using drones save American lives, but there has to be a different way.”
The U.S. Drone Warfare Program is flouting the rule of law, killing thousands, terrorizing whole communities, and making enemies. There has to be a different way, a way that can lead to mutual concern and lasting security for people in the United States and others. There has to be a way that can lead to peace.
U.S. drones have killed thousands of people, mostly civilians, including hundreds of children. Yes, our drones go after alleged terrorists. We have kill lists, made up of individuals who have been approved by the president or the CIA for targeted killings. But our drones do not only go after particular individuals. The majority of U.S. drone attacks are “signature strikes” based on looser criteria. In some areas, any man of military age is considered a militant and a legitimate target.
Drone strikes often result in civilian casualties. Hundreds of children have been killed. Friends of mine who have traveled to regions under fire by drones describe an atmosphere of fear and terror, children having nightmares, people afraid to gather in groups, go to funerals, or send their children to school. Whole communities are being terrorized. We are not only causing great harm to people in the communities we target, but making enemies and creating a cycle of violence that may last for generations.
‘No money, no Swiss,’ the saying goes, and un-paid Swiss mercenaries could drop their unreliable employer at the drop of a hat. Switzerland was something of a military super-power in the 15th and 16th centuries, known for its hard-fighting mercenaries. They were guarding the French king, Louis XVI, at the time of the French Revolution, and were massacred on August 10, 1792, when the mob attacked the Tuileries Palace, although the king had already fled. The only left-over of this largely forgotten period are the Swiss guards for the Pope in the Vatican.
At the beginning of March, Switzerland was in the headlines of the media around the world, hailed in neighbouring France as a model: a rare event. The Swiss had just massively (67.9%) voted to limit top manager’s pay. It was called the ‘people’s initiative against fat-cat pay’. The measure requires that listed companies offer shareholders a binding vote on senior managers’ pay and appointments at each annual general meeting. The penalty for bosses who fail to comply is up to three years in jail or the forfeit of up to six years’ salary. ‘Switzerland’s penchant for direct democracy has trumped its tolerance for tycoons,’ said London-based ‘The Economist’.
by: Robert Cohen on May 15th, 2013 | 8 Comments »
On March 21, 2013, President Obama delivers a speech at the Jerusalem Convention Centre to the Israeli public. Credit: Creative Commons/Pete Souza.
“Put yourself in their shoes,” said President Obama. “Look at the world through their eyes.”
Good idea. And easily the best lines in his Jerusalem speech deliveredon 21st March.
Put yourself in their shoes.
It was a direct challenge to Jewish Israelis (and Diaspora Jews too).
Look at the world through their eyes.
But how hard is it to imagine the world of the Palestinian ‘other’?
Today – May 15 – marks the 65th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba – ‘Catastrophe’. The date follows one day after the anniversary of Israel’s Declaration of Independence in 1948. What better moment to take seriously the Obama shoe-swapping challenge.
Sometimes it is instructive to listen to what Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz says because his way of seeing the Israel-Palestinian conflict is typical of the thinking of both the Netanyahu government and its lobby here. I say “sometimes” because most of Dershowitz’s opinions can be found in a dozen other places — from AIPAC, the “major Jewish organizations,“neocon websites like Commentary, and in statements and tweets from the Israeli government itself.
But sometimes Dershowitz inadvertently provides solid insight into the mentality that continues to enable a 45-year occupation that, even Dershowitz admits, has proven so destructive to Israel.
Over 10,000 Israelis took to the streets of Tel Aviv this evening to protest new austerity measures in the country’s budget, echoing (and perhaps renewing) Israel’s historic social justice protests from two years ago.
Over 10,000 Israelis took to the streets on Saturday, May 11 to protest austerity measures. Photo by Haggai Matar.
Many activists who played a central role in those protests were involved in this evening’s renewed call for Israelis to march in the streets against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Yair Lapid and their budget, which proposes cuts in social welfare programs and raised taxes on lower- and middle-income workers.
by: Galina L. De Roeck on May 10th, 2013 | No Comments »
Tucsonans arrive in the International Airport of Tel-Aviv. Credit: Paul Afek.
Last November a group of us from Tucson, Arizona, went on a trip to Israel/Palestine. For the last four years I have been a member of a local Tikkun discussion group. Before that I had not known much about Zionism or the foundation of Israel, or the condition of the Palestinians. I became impressed with people who were assertively Jewish, but equally passionate about questioning the policies of the state of Israel. And so I became invested in learning about the Israel/Palestine situation, and when the occasion presented itself, I decided to undertake this trip, which brought together participants in the Jewish-Muslim Peace Walk of Tucson, members of the International Center for Peace and Justice, and our Tikkun discussion group.
The ancient religious aura of Jerusalem and the rest of “The Holy Land” can be felt everywhere. To enter the Holy Sepulcher which encloses Golgotha, the mountain where Jesus is said to have been crucified, and which was founded by Emperor Constantine in the fourth century, or to gaze at the magnificent Dome of the Rock, or to watch Orthodox Jews praying so fervently at the West Wall is to witness a place where people strive to touch the immaterial, where, perhaps, they long for immortality.